Ed Scannell and Chris Kanaracus of Redmond Magazine just published a cover story entitled "Microsoft Does Have an SOA Strategy," which nicely outlines Big Red's strategy for moving its product lines into the SOA world. The lead says it all:
"Microsoft has never been inclined to play by the rules. For the past 32 years, the company has maintained the cocky pose of its legendary founder, Bill Gates, aggressively challenging entrenched technology standards -- even some its own customer base wants to see flourish side by side with Windows."
Microsoft isn't changing its tune with SOA, the authors say, noting that "Microsoft again appears to be crafting its own rules and vision. The company has so far declined to participate in certain key emerging industry standards relevant to SOA. It has a different perspective on what SOA is and a different approach for crystallizing its vision."
My colleague here at ZDNet, Dana Gardner, is quoted, observing that "Microsoft is primarily concerned with its [own] business strategy. It wants to continue to produce these fantastic profits but that runs counter to what many IT shops are focused on, which is cost-reduction, simplification, consolidation and modernization." In essence, if you are mainly a Microsoft shop and want to go to SOA, you either do it with Microsoft products or face time-and-money-consuming integration headaches.
A couple of thoughts here. What Microsoft appears to be doing, of course, goes completely against what SOA is supposed to be all about, which is the ability to deploy and run what you need based on what you need, unencumbered by the limitations of vendors' systems.
Microsoft's public pronouncements on SOA, on the other hand, have actually made a lot of sense -- the company talks about SOA being an incremental, build-ROI-as-you-go effort versus a galactic-scale transformation that other vendors eagerly promote. Who says the other vendors have the right approach? SOA is still too new and unproven to declare anyone's approach to be the right one.
But, as Dana and the article suggests, we could end up with a Microsoft tax levied on the mass market SOA as it emerges.
In the article, Microsoft tries to pooh-pooh any thoughts of monopolizing SOA implementations, noting that "all the basic building blocks of the company's services-oriented plan can be mixed and matched with a wide range of competing technologies," including the emerging class of fast-paced Web 2.0 apps. Steve Martin, director of product management for Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, acknowledges that "it was clear that if the services-oriented world was to coexist with the real world, we needed to move data efficiently around the organization in a way that was transport-agnostic. This is why we invested in Windows Communications Foundation [WCF]."
(Martin also made a very interesting observation -- that most SOA applications have a lifespan in the organizations of three to six months, versus custom applications living between six and 15 years in an organization.)
Dana elaborated more on his observations on Microsoft SOA in a posting here at ZDNet: that Microsoft’s SOA strategy amounts to "embrace and contract." He says that the software giant "wants to allow services-enablement using the newest (read: massive upgrades) Microsoft infrastructure to offer a modest embrace of heterogeneity. However, the high-level rationale for SOA is to make heterogeneity a long-term asset, rather than a liability. You should not have to massively upgrade to .NET Framework 3.0 (and tools, and server platforms, and runtimes) to leverage SOA."
Furthermore, Dana is nonplussed by Microsoft's assertion that "virtualizing a monolithic Windows application, so that it can be hosted (on Windows servers) and accessed via a browser as a service, allows it to '… be part of an SOA-like strategy.'”
The question is, then, will Big Red eventually come to dominate the mass-market SOA space, as it has with the desktop client and low-end server space? To understand where Microsoft is going with this, look at the history. As with past generations of technology, Microsoft is determined to bring SOA to the masses, but in its own shape and form.
The article's authors make a point that I have also made frequently at this blogsite as well (here and here) -- "Microsoft has a history of going after high-volume, low margin markets, and with SOA still a high-end, high-margin business, the company may simply be sitting and waiting for the commoditized market to materialize with the arrival of low-cost SOA-based tools and platforms." From there, it moves up the food chain.