Next Big Thing

 
 
By eweek  |  Posted 2004-03-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Id like to get your thoughts on what the next big thing for programmers will be. I think the big thing happening right now is the revolution that XML and Web services have generated, where even if software is running on a different machine somewhere else on the globe and even running in a completely different environment, we now have this structured way of describing information and exchanging information.
So, we can think of almost any piece of software out there running on another machine as almost like a subroutine, or we can go out and call it and get its capabilities. And thats a real mindset change, to think, OK, the information is structured and we model the schema, were very explicit about the format of the information. And any code thats anywhere that can manipulate this information, I can call it to do work for me. That is the biggest single thing.
And its a necessary advance. Some of the things people thought would happen when we got bit connectivity, Internet connectivity, actually needed this higher level of how software could talk to software before it could be real, like e-commerce. If all you have is presentation, HTML pages, you cant really do complex transactions. You cant track the state. You can do a consumer thing where somebody says I want that, I want to order it. But until software on the buyers side and software on the sellers side can talk to each other, then the dream of e-commerce is only partially realized. And so, you know, Web services sort of had to be invented for these key applications. And the beauty of the architecture in terms of letting you talk not just to big servers but also to PCs and also to phones or whatever else comes along, because the runtime can be very simple, its very exciting. Are you going to continue to lead the way in the standardization of Web services with IBM, or are you going to kind of take it the rest of the way on your own?
The only way that Web services applications will get to critical mass is if the customers can see that IBM and Microsoft and others have really come up with a set of protocols that not only look good on paper but actually have been tested between the products, and theyre actually at quite a rich level of capability, like the lower-level Internet protocols themselves. And so its super important strategically to us, and I think to IBM and to others as well, to complete the rich Web-service protocols. The ones that are to get concluded this year include the ReliableMessaging, the security and the transactions. In fact, theyre very close to being done. Weve had a lot of what we call inter-op fests. Like the one you and [IBM senior vice president] Steve Mills did in New York last year? Well, he and I did a big event. That was a very big thing late last year. But even since then, without Steve or I, thereve been these inter-op fests. Other vendors besides IBM and Microsoft come in with their code to test against our code, and were really very concrete about, OK, is the specification clear about this piece, now lets get that to be very clear. The inter-op fests have gone very well. And so its a pretty exciting thing that theres a matching set of protocols—for the low-level connectivity its the Internet protocols, for high-level connectivity were going to have better protocols than even homogeneous systems have had between each other. I mean things like reliable messaging in the past, you had to buy all sorts of extensive middleware and learn it and configure it. Here, native, essentially in every copy of Windows, were going to have those capabilities. Next page: Taking sides on Web services standards.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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