Microsoft: The next generation, Part II

Windows DNA by another name?Whenever it finally rolls out NGWS, Microsoft better get it right.

In the past, the company has done an abysmal job at articulating complex, all-encompassing architectures.

Witness its Windows Distributed interNetworking Architecture, aka Windows DNA. Microsoft describes Windows DNA as a "platform for building and deploying interoperable Web applications that get to market quickly -- from high-traffic e-commerce Web sites to corporate intranets to enterprise supply chain integration."

Windows DNA is really a catch-all name for Microsoft's middleware plumbing technologies that are embedded in Windows 2000 -- things like Internet Information Server, COM+, network load balancing, message queuing -- plus many of its back-end server products, including Exchange Server, SQL Server, SNA Server and BizTalk Server.

Throw in Visual Studio, and you've got Windows DNA, not to mention nearly Microsoft's entire product stable, minus the client.

Windows DNA isn't going away. Many expected NGWS to take the form of DNA revisited when Microsoft first floated the NGWS acronym in January.

Instead, sources say, DNA will underlie NGWS. But Microsoft has learned its lesson this time around. It is likely to attempt to freshen up its middleware story by talking less about the underlying plumbing and more about the software-as-services scenarios it will enable.

Despite all the fancy demos Microsoft will likely trot out on D-Day, NGWS, like Windows DNA, really is about middleware. Just as Microsoft promised to Internet-enable all its products at the 1995 Internet Strategy Day, it will commit to XML-enabling all of its future offerings at NGWS Day. For, without Web standards like XML, HTTP and the emerging Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Microsoft cannot erase the distinction between Web sites and application software, one of its stated goals for NGWS.

Microsoft execs have talked, in grand terms, about NGWS providing a completely new and improved client and server vision from Microsoft. In fact, say sources, NGWS won't really be about Windows at all, except to the extent that NGWS will -- surprise, surprise -- work best in a pure Windows environment.

Windows 2000 and its successor code-named Whistler are designed to include embedded middleware facilities like XML, COM+, IIS, message queuing, transaction processing and the like. But customers and partners will likely have to wait until Windows 2002/2003, the release code-named Blackcomb, to take advantage of the robust scalability and server-farm support that truly distributed computing scenarios require.

What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

Check out ZDNet's new Interactive Broadband Guide