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Microsoft's SOA strategy: wait and see?

What is Microsoft's thinking regarding SOA? To many, it seems as though Big Red isn't talking about SOA enough, unlike Big Blue, which talks about nothing but.

What is Microsoft's thinking regarding SOA? To many, it seems as though Big Red isn't talking about SOA enough, unlike Big Blue, which talks about nothing but. Microsoft seems to place more emphasis on its traditional home turf, operating systems and productivity applications.

Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions writes this insightful piece on whether Microsoft may be missing the SOA bus, or has something else in mind. Last week in this blogsite, we explored Microsoft's wait-and-see ESB strategy. That is, if you're looking for an ESB in Microsoft, look no further than BizTalk Server. But BizTalk will still be around for other roles just in case ESBs crash and burn.

There rarely are grand SOA-related announcements coming out of Redmond. That's not to say Microsoft isn't involved. Web services and SOA support and functionality are built into the Windows OS, .NET Framework, and Visual Studio.NET IDE.  Microsoft seems to want to blow its horn about other things. As a matter of fact, Microsoft has a whole cadre of evangelists and technologists that are very, very involved in Web services standards formulation and interoperability initiatives with other systems. (Check out Microsoft's SOA site here and interoperability site here.)

A few years back, when the Department of Justice was breathing down Microsoft's neck, an analyst speculated that the vendor's .NET strategy was actually a ".DOJ strategy" -- moving Microsoft's business up into the middleware stack in case it was forced to break up into separate OS and applications companies.

Similarly, Gardner says, SOA also appears to be more a matter of convenience in case the market shifts underneath Microsoft's business -- the vendor "seems to want to relegate SOA as on-ramps and off-ramps to Windows Connected Systems, which use Web services standards, WS-* principally, to offer interoperability, but not broad integration to other IT assets. If you want to do B2B, Microsoft expects you'll use Windows/.NET-based services for that. For Microsoft, SOA is a means to Windows everywhere, and not an end unto itself."

Microsoft built its success by following the mass market, and this is not where SOA is yet. Every product Microsoft has ever launched has been tuned for mass market adoption, not for pioneering to early adopters. The mass market is still exploring XML and Web services, and many are doing so within the .NET Framework. At this time, that's the sweet spot of the market -- just where Microsoft wants to be, and has been since 1981.