Can Microsoft evolve its DNA 2000 for the Web?

Microsoft Corp.\'s latest web development strategy is unlikely to persuade all enterprise users to bet the ranch on the technology, but for Microsoft customers, Windows DNA 2000 could be a big win.

Microsoft Corp.\'s latest web development strategy is unlikely to persuade all enterprise users to bet the ranch on the technology, but for Microsoft customers, Windows DNA 2000 could be a big win.

The Redmond, Wash., company last week announced plans to provide new tools, servers and services to simplify building e-commerce applications for the Web and Windows 2000, which is expected to ship later this year.

Products falling under Microsoft\'s updated Distributed Internet Application architecture um brella—Visual Studio 7.0, the new AppCenter Server and the BizTalk XML Server—will follow the Windows 2000 release and should ship by the middle of next year, officials said.

The linchpin in the strategy is not the products, but XML (Extensible Markup Language). The emerging Internet data transfer standard represents an important shift by Microsoft away from its proprietary COM (Component Object Model).

With XML support slated for all Microsoft products, developers will be able to choose how their applications process data, whether the software is running on Unix or Windows or was built with COM, CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) or Java.

\"Programming models need to inherently support XML; COM objects will interact through XML messages via HTTP,\" Paul Maritz, vice president of Microsoft\'s developer group, said at a press conference here last week.

The critical XML-based product in Microsoft\'s plans is the BizTalk Server, which enables XML-based messaging among applications and will allow Microsoft to enter the important middle ground between application servers and enterprise resource planning or legacy back-end systems. Companies often have to struggle with coding the connections between COM and Unix.

\"[BizTalk] is a big winner for those of us that are highly leveraged on the NT platform,\" said Jeff Block, CIO for Grip Inc., in San Diego. \"That opens up a realm that provides orders of magnitude of possibilities for us.\"

Grip owns SelectTeeTimes. com, an e-commerce site that enables golfers to schedule times on courses throughout the nation. Block said the company is developing a booking service for hotels, many of which are part of large corporations running different flavors of Unix on midrange computers.

\"XML is a saving grace for [Microsoft],\" said Joshua Walker, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. \"If Microsoft gets it right, and a lot of businesses use Internet middleware as the intercompany connectivity, then the EJB [Enterprise JavaBeans]/CORBA world doesn\'t seem so scary anymore.\"

However, Microsoft has already failed to impress many large enterprises, which have restricted Windows technology to the desktop or workgroup applications. In a survey, Forrester discovered that Fortune 1000 companies prefer CORBA 2-to-1 over COM.

\"We\'re accepting the fact that we may have COM environments in place, but those are restricted,\" said Matthew Brown, director of research and architecture for Lincoln National Reinsurance Co., a Fort Wayne, Ind., division of Lincoln National Corp. \"What we\'re really leery of is not being able to move off of the Wintel platform.\"

At last week\'s announcement, Maritz and Microsoft President Steve Ballmer touted DNA 2000 as necessary for companies to survive in the era of e-business. At least one user is waiting for Micro soft to deliver products before passing judgment on that claim.

\"For Microsoft\'s own survival, they have to make [Windows DNA 2000] happen,\" said Kaj Pedersen, vice president of engineering at Quote. com Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., which has built its financial services site on Windows platforms. \"The Internet has completely changed the rules of the game, and they can\'t stick with their old mission statement, which is basically a desktop in every home.\"

If successful, the new DNA could open opportunities for developers. Said Pedersen: \"The potential is huge for creating another market of developers who can go in and extract information in a very efficient way from the Web.\"

Windows DNA 2000 products

Due this year:

Windows 2000, core application services

Due next year:

Visual Studio 7.0

AppCenter Server

Next-generation Commerce Server

BizTalk XML Server

Host Integration Server (code-named Babylon)

SQL Server 8.0 (code-named Shiloh)