SOS for Hailstorm

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-07-02 Print this article Print

Microsoft calls on developers to help build Web services

In a change of course, Microsoft Corp. wants interested parties to propose new Web services based on its HailStorm platform and then collaborate with the Redmond, Wash., software company in the creation and deployment of these services.

But theres a caveat: Microsoft has not guaranteed that this technology and intellectual property will be shared by all parties. Thats got some third-party vendors and developers less than enthusiastic about the companys trial collaborative SDP (Shared Development Process), which is designed for the next wave of extended HailStorm Web services.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced the SDP at the companys TechEd conference in Atlanta recently, saying this would be a broad framework for industry participation, cooperation and feedback on key technology initiatives at Microsoft and across the industry.

The first SDP project would be the definition of an extended set of HailStorm Web services, Gates said, calling for industry participation in the process. At its core, HailStorm is a user-centric set of Extensible Markup Language Web services being built by Microsoft, giving users access to their data regardless of device, platform or application.

HailStorm uses Microsofts Passport technology for authentication and will allow interaction with applications and services connected to the Internet, including address books and instant messages. Users will be charged fees, depending on the services and usage level. Production for the first core 12 services is earmarked for next year.

But an executive summary of a Microsoft white paper on SDP that refers to the new extended Web services as Type 2 projects states the following: "Type 2 projects can be thought of as projects where Microsoft and industry partners create technology on top of Microsoft platforms, where the end result is a common technology implementation.

"In some cases, the new technology may be shared among participants. Type 2 projects will tend to create peer relationships between partners, often sharing some rights in the intellectual property that is created."

But Charles Fitzgerald, director of the Platform Strategies Group at Microsoft, maintained that on those projects where the participants come together and work from scratch on defining the schema, the participants would collectively own that schema and the intellectual property associated with it.

Odi Kozmatos, vice president of research and development at Xceed Software Inc. in Longvevil, Quebec, said he needed far more information on the proposal. "But it sounds to me like Microsoft thinks it may have missed some important Web services with its initial 12 core HailStorm offerings and wants us to tell them what these are and to work on them for them," Kozmatos said.

Gartner Inc. analyst Mark Driver, based in Minnesota, agreed.

"People simply distrust them due to their past behaviors," Driver said. "If it works, it will be the dawn of a new day for Microsoft. If not, it will effectively shut them out of the Web services market."

Microsofts Fitzgerald said the company had called for new extended HailStorm Web service proposals. He envisioned services like myMusic, myPictures and myMovies falling into this category.

Once the process closes in a few weeks, Microsoft will select a short list of four to six, at which point interested parties could participate in the process.

"But we are a commercial company and are in the business of making money. There will be a nominal participation cost of several thousand dollars, and participants will have to contribute engineering resources and attend meetings," Fitzgerald said.

Developers and third-party vendors are skeptical, saying the financial and other requirements would be onerous for smaller companies and result in their exclusion from the process.

"Everyone is scared to death of the HailStorm initiative, especially with the recent security alert about the overflow bug [affecting Windows] NT 4.0 and the beta version of XP," said John Terris, a Microsoft developer and senior programmer with Kendall Placement Group Inc., in St. Louis. "Microsoft wants to hold all of our data, but they cant even secure their own operating systems."

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


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