Is Microsoft slow to the punch on SOA, or just waiting for the right moment?

Is Microsoft poised to strike on SOA, or weighed down by its legacy?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Judith Hurwitz, who has been following the Microsoft market for some time now, says the software giant has been slow on the uptake of opportunities such as service oriented architecture, mainly because its traditional home turf has been on the programmer and client side of the equation, versus the enterprise aspect.

Is Microsoft poised to strike, or weighed down by its legacy?

Microsoft has been at a crossroads as of late, and Judith and other analysts say the vendor needs to increase its efforts to evolve its business away from desktop operating systems and software and toward enterprise computing.

Judith points to five key areas of opportunity for Microsoft, which include virtualization, on-demand software, and SOA. However, the vendor won't be able to effectively embrace these opportunities overnight. "The transition towards power on the enterprise side is complicated for Microsoft," she writes. "The challenges facing Microsoft is how to make the transition from its traditional role as champion and leader of the programmer to a leader in the next generation of distributed computing infrastructure. If Microsoft can make this transition in a coherent way it could emerge in an extremely powerful position."

Regarding SOA, Judith observed that "Microsoft has been slow to get on the SOA bandwagon... But it is starting to make some progress as it readies its registry/repository," a new offering that will be built on top of SQL server and will include a UDDI version 3 service registry. However, she also states that Microsoft has a ways to go with SOA:

"While Microsoft has many of the building blocks it needs to create a Service Oriented Architecture strategy, the company still has a way to go. This is especially true in how the company creates a SOA framework so that customers know how to leverage its technology to move through the life cycle. Microsoft is beginning to talk a lot about business process including putting a common foundation for service interoperability by supporting key standards such as WS* and its own Windows Communications Foundation services."

Microsoft's challenge, Judith states, is that while Microsoft has all the right pieces for promoting SOA, it still needs to integrate these parts "into a cohesive architectural foundation that customers can understand and work with." Plus, "Microsoft still lacks the in-depth business knowledge that customers are looking for. It relies on its integration partners to provide the industry knowledge."

One thing I've said frequently at this blogsite (e.g., here and here) is that Microsoft has been slow to embrace SOA because the sweet spot of the market has been with large enterprises looking for customized solutions and approaches. Microsoft's business philosophy -- which has served it well over the decades -- is to jump on opportunities as they approach the mass commodity market, then build up into the enterprise from there.

Microsoft typically hasn't gone head-to-head against large enterprise vendors, especially with SOA. And my guess is that Microsoft doesn't even want to attempt to try to take away or eat into IBM or BEA/Oracle's huge SOA engagements. It's not worth it -- at least not yet. Instead, Microsoft intends to move into underserved and long-ignored markets with commodity-priced tools and work their way up from there. Microsoft is more interested in getting SOA into Joe's Shower Curtain Ring Company right now -- the big companies will come later.

SOA has begin to show signs of being embraced by the next tier of companies, which typically don't the budgets and resources as the forward deployers. If Microsoft's going to move full-force into SOA, this is the time.

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