Continuing the steady drumbeat of Web services announcements from major software vendors, Microsoft Corp. this week will unveil two versions of Visual Studio.Net aimed at helping enterprise customers start using Web services.
Microsofts announcement comes a week after IBM trumpeted the addition of support for Web services- friendly standards throughout its middleware. Similarly, Sun Microsystems Inc. is expected to use its JavaOne conference in San Francisco next month to promote its Web services platform, Sun ONE.
While the vendors battle, the developers being wooed can afford to remain agnostic. Most of the initiatives, including those from IBM, Microsoft and Sun, are anchored by common standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), Simple Object Access Protocol, and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration.
"Really, everybody is on the same page when it comes to connectivity and programming," said Randy Mowen, director of data management and e-business architecture for The Bekins Co., in Hillside, Ill. Mowen is using IBM products to build Web services such as shipment tracking.
"Web services is a major win for interoperability," said Tim Huckaby, president of InterKnowlogy LLC, who has been developing Web services using Microsoft products.
"Any integration we did in the past was painful," said Huckaby, in Carlsbad, Calif. "Times have changed dramatically, and things are much easier. If you want two [different systems to talk], Web services is the way to do it. It doesnt matter who exposes what on what platform."
While Huckaby said he believes some companies may choose Microsofts platform because Visual Studio.Net will make it easy to implement Web services, he added that companies that already have a major investment in one vendor will likely stick with that vendor for Web services.
As for Visual Studio.Net, a subset of the new versions will be available around the time of Microsofts TechEd conference in Atlanta next month. The subset is called Visual Studio.Net Professional Version.
The two versions of Visual Studio.Net include software modeling and database modeling features, support for Unified Modeling Language 1.2, templates and frameworks for building and deploying Web services, and customizable tools for testing the scalability and functionality of Web services.
The versions are geared toward enterprise customers "to help move them to the world of XML Web services," said Dan Hay, lead product manager for Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash. Visual Studio.Net Enterprise Architect and Visual Studio.Net Enterprise Developer wont be released until the end of the year. Microsoft has also partnered with dozens of third-party vendors to create tools for Web services. It will announce this week an expansion of its relationship with Rational Software Corp. to make available the e-business accelerators of the Cupertino, Calif., company within Visual Studio.Net.
Ronan Sorensen, director of strategic technology for e-business consultant Plural Inc., said .Net and Web services in general will succeed because of their ability to interoperate and their adherence to standards. "Developers can no longer be concerned about standard wars and whether they use COM [Component Object Model] or CORBA [Common Object Request Broker Architecture]," said Sorensen, in Bethesda, Md.