Microsoft's fuzzy (but oh-so typical) ESB stance

Lately, there's been a flurry of activity and announcements in the ESB (enterprise service bus) space. Every vendor is now an ESB vendor.

Lately, there's been a flurry of activity and announcements in the ESB (enterprise service bus) space. Every vendor is now an ESB vendor.

However, true to its style, Microsoft doesn't seem to have hopped on the ESB bandwagon. What's Big Red have in mind for this budding market space?

Infoworld's Paul Krill parsed through a position paper that the company recently published, which essentially states that Microsoft is positioning its BizTalk Server integration and process server and its planned Indigo Web services technology (now called WCF, or Windows Communication Foundation) as its defacto ESB solution. WCF will be included in the upcoming Windows Vista operating system, as well as in updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

I asked RedMonk's James Governor for his take on what Microsoft is trying to do -- or not do -- here. His thoughts: "Microsoft really doesn't like using other vendors’ categories. They like to define the terms of the debate, and are not prepared to try and sell to an RFP oriented towards someone else’s technology." Governor also goes on to observe that the software giant won't even use the term SOA- preferring simply, "Service Orientation."

Microsoft won't treat ESB as a standalone product, but "customers looking to purchase an ESB will find that Microsoft offers a significant superset of ESB functionality," according to the position paper. In a related interview that appears in the InfoWorld article, Scott Woodgate, group product manager in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft and a co-author of the position paper, said that "We don't believe that customers will benefit significantly from the ESB products." Microsoft believes the ESB concept is too ambiguous. Instead, "BizTalk Server 2004 enables decoupled integration with a range of systems, including MQSeries, SAP systems, and Web services... BizTalk Server provides for all the capabilities of traditional ESBs," Microsoft said in its paper.

To which Governor asks: "What the heck is a traditional ESB?"

So, fuzzy logic gets applied to a fuzzy concept. Sounds like Microsoft is taking a wait-and-see approach before pinning a new label on its product.