Hailstorm Already Stirring Tempest

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-03-26 Print this article Print

In pledging conformance to open standards and protocols, Microsoft Corp. said all the right things with the launch here last week of HailStorm

In pledging conformance to open standards and protocols, Microsoft Corp. said all the right things with the launch here last week of HailStorm, the software makers building blocks initiative for Web services.

But, potential users of the platform are skeptical about the companys commitment to openness, pointing to Java as an example of how Microsoft broke previous interoperability promises.

HailStorm, which uses the Redmond, Wash., companys Passport technology for authentication, will enable interaction with applications and services connected to the Internet, including address books and instant messages. Production is slated for next year.

Skeptics charge that the HailStorm initiative is just another way of developers being forced to commit to Microsoft technology. "Its always been their history with embrace and extend to have a little bit of it open but to hold onto the main portion," said John Terris, a Microsoft developer and senior programmer with Kendall Placement Group Inc., in St. Louis.

"I can see the same thing [as happened with Java] happening here," Terris said. "They may release something for other platforms, but it wont work the same. If youre strictly a Microsoft shop, itll work great for you. But if youre a non-Microsoft shop, it either wont be as stable or as fast."

Microsoft officials maintain that there can be no lock-in because HailStorm is based on open standards such as Extensible Markup Language and Simple Object Access Protocol. By using those standards, Web services can run on any platform or any device.

"HailStorm is not focused on making these services accessible by Windows above anything else," said Brian Arbogast, vice president of Microsofts personal services division, at the HailStorm rollout. Arbogast said the company has a vested interest in making Windows the best platform for HailStorm, but, he added, "The way these services will get ubiquitous usage is through open protocols and open access."

What is troubling to some developers is that HailStorm schema for now will remain Microsofts intellectual property. "Microsoft is saying, We are open, yet theyre keeping a certain portion of what theyre proposing proprietary," said John LeBrecage, a developer and consultant in Vienna, Va. "[The initiative] seems to be all right for people who are very rah-rah Microsoft, but its not OK for people who ... dont necessarily want to use [its platform]."

Microsoft officials said some HailStorm schema will be put into the public domain. Some partners and competitors are giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, saying Microsoft may live up to its promises, if only because the market demands it.

"Microsoft has not led by example in this regard in the past," said Carl Ledbetter, chief technology officer of Novell Inc., in Provo, Utah. "But I think they are coming to the realization that this cannot be the way to proceed in the future."

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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