Team Players

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-09-08 Print this article Print


Team Players

The trio then began to put together a team, pursuing talent both inside and outside Microsoft.

The group that began as three now consists of hundreds of people.

Early on, Wahbe sought out Steven Lucco and Oliver Sharp. The three had met when they were doing graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1996, Microsoft acquired the startup the three had formed out of Berkeley called Colusa Software, which had developed some innovative virtual machine technology. Sun Microsystems had just released Java, in 1995, and Microsoft was beginning to take a lot of heat as being proprietary when Java's VM technology offered a "write once, run anywhere" promise.

Lucco and Sharp said they would do two years at Microsoft and then go back to startups. Wahbe stayed on at Microsoft, later bringing Lucco and Sharp back into the Redmond fold to work on what was established as an incubation effort under Eric Rudder, Microsoft senior vice president, Technical Strategy.

When the CSD team first started in the summer of 2000, "we really tried to have a very open mind about the way in which we would help the industry build these distributed applications," said Wahbe. "It wasn't clear that would be a software play, whether that would be a services play."

All the pieces for a "cloud" environment existed back then, and the Microsoft CSD team-along with other teams in the organization-was thinking about the concept.

Indeed, at that time, Microsoft was considering what an on-demand play might look like.

The team began looking at content delivery network providers such as Akamai. Wahbe said Microsoft at the time was starting to think not only about putting content out on the edge, but also about putting more and more of the functionality of its Web sites out on the edge-both for reliability and latency.

Wahbe and company built their plans on the then-emerging Web services phenomenon, and teamed with IBM to develop a core Web services stack of standard protocols that became known as the WS stack. On this foundation, Microsoft launched Indigo, the code name for Windows Communication Foundation.

Indigo became the communications fabric-the flexible framework for Microsoft's service-oriented vision for enabling a broader distributed computing ecosystem, he added.

Indigo had another significant influence on Microsoft, according to Lucco: It made the company more open with its focus on Web services interoperability.

Meanwhile, with the Indigo substrate in place, Microsoft began to look at how to better enable developers to build applications for the broad distributed computing system the company envisioned driving. The potential scale and complexity of the systems meant Microsoft would have to help lessen the burden on developers.

What's more, the company hoped to empower more people to build applications, not just hard-core developers.

"We aren't done until your mom can build a distributed application," said Sharp, a general manager in CSD.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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