Is Microsoft caving or positioning to pounce?

There's quite a bit of discussion on my colleagues' blog pages about what Microsoft is up to regarding its Linux stance. What exactly does Microsoft want out of its alliance with Novell?

There's quite a bit of discussion on my colleagues' blog pages about what Microsoft is up to regarding its Linux stance. What exactly does Microsoft want out of its alliance with Novell? Will it send in its lawyers out in an all-out war with Linux?

The same types of questions can be asked about Big Red's SOA and Web services strategy. Is Microsoft softening its stance, and reaching out to the rest of the industry in the name of interoperability, or is it sharpening its claws for an all-out assault here as well?

Consider two opinions on two recent developments:

Loek Bakker wonders out loud whether Microsoft has caved to the industry in its embrace of the enterprise service bus (ESB) concept, and questions whether the software giant fell "to its knees before the server/enterprise market," speculating that "once again this shows that Microsoft is not the company it used to be."

However, Ronan Bradley, looking at Microsoft's embrace of the Interop Vendor Alliance, speculates that this is another case of the vendor's steamroller strategy of embrace, extend, and extinguish.

Loek remarked while he doesn't always agree with what Microsoft does, he was disappointed to see it was caving into industry hype around ESBs. "One thing I always liked about Microsoft was their stance towards ESBs," which was not to talk about them, he said. Loek doesn't see a lot of long-term value in ESBs, equating them to a "one-day fly." He considered Microsoft "well ahead with the vision on ESBs, as they refused to join the ESB hype, by pointing out that many of the ESB functions were either provided by BizTalk, or incorporated in the new operating system Vista." He concludes that perhaps this is a tactical move meant to hedge its bets.

Ronan, however, sees more sinister intentions with Microsoft's SOA posturing. He observes that the Interop Vendor Alliance "appears to be about interoperability the Microsoft way: how to get your software to work better with Microsoft’s...  If you look at the Website right now, you will see a lot of case studies and solution descriptions about using Active Directory to manage non-Windows assets from Linux to Mac to Oracle to DB2. All of which sounds rather like a variation on the familiar Microsoft embrace, extend and extinguish strategy (as outlined in the US Department of Justice report on the browser wars)."

There has been plenty of talk from all corners of the industry that new approaches -- open source, Web 2.0, and SOA -- are rendering Microsoft's solutions as irrelevant. But this kind of talk has come up plenty of times over the past decade or so. Indeed, it appears the software giant has seen the SOA and ESB markets ripen to the point to where its ready for mass-market adoption.

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