As Microsoft faces increasing competition from SAAS providers such as Salesforce.com and companies offering computing in the cloud, such as Google, the Redmond, Wash., software maker is shifting its strategy to meet these challenges head-on.
Indeed, Microsoft previously defined its vision for SOA (service-oriented architecture) and software plus services, "so the next logical step is to roll out some services," said Steven Martin, director of product management in Microsofts Connected Systems Division.
Microsoft will roll out its new BizTalk Services April 24, Martin said. The services represent hosted versions of technology created in the CSD unit, Martin said.
The BizTalk offerings include Identity Services, which provide authentication, access control and federated identity based on the WS-Trust specification. In addition, new Relay Services facilitate traversal and bridging of physical networks, enabling high-fidelity interconnection between cooperating systems for cross-organizational messaging behind firewalls.
An Internet Service Bus provides a simple publish-and-subscribe message bus. And Workflow Services let developers design applications graphically by drawing flowcharts, and they provide a hosted instance of Windows Workflow Foundation, Martin said.
Instead of offering one option or another, Microsoft offers users a choice of either or both if they wish. For instance, with its BizTalk Server software and new server offerings, Microsoft frees users from the choice of "either-or," as in thick or thin client, on-site or off-site, control or unrestrained, and customized or generic, Martin said.
Moreover, application designers can now leverage these new Microsoft services rather than investing time and resources in designing, building, testing and operating such services themselves.
John Shewchuck, a Microsoft distinguished engineer in the CSD unit who helped build the services, said Identity Services, available at identity.biztalk.net, offer "federated identity management up in the cloud." Moreover, they represent "a significant reduction to the economic barriers to entry on creating a service for access control," Shewchuck said.
Much of the new services technology is based on Microsofts WCF (Windows Communication Foundation), Shewchuck said. Identity Services, in particular, use early versions of technology going into the next generation of Microsofts Active Directory, he said.
Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Twenty-six New York, a New York-based business solutions provider, said he agreed with Microsofts strategy of augmenting its software offerings with services.
As an analogy, Brust said: "PDAs are great, and so are cell phones. But they replace devices that didnt work as easily or as well, [such as] Day-Timers and pay phones. They dont seek to replace the PC and its desktop apps. Rather, they act as satellite devices—accessories, if you will."