Microsofts Fitzgerald: Web Services Over the Hump

Interview: Microsoft's general manager of platform strategies speaks on company's odd-couple Web-services relationship with IBM, standards and more.

Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft Corp.s general manager of platform strategies, is considered one of the companys top "big picture" thinkers. Fitzgerald, who focuses on Windows and .Net and bringing together all of Microsofts complementary technologies such as XML and Web services into a unified infrastructure, spoke with eWEEK Senior Writer Darryl K. Taft earlier this month about issues ranging from the Redmond, Wash., companys odd-couple Web-services relationship with IBM to standards to Microsofts platform strategies.

eWEEK: Do you think the current Web services standards are adequate?

Fitzgerald: The baseline standards are there; theyre in place, they work. I mean SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] and WSDL [Web Services Definition Language] and UDDI [Universal Description, Discovery and Integration]. There are obviously some higher-level capabilities that are evolving and theyre evolving quite rapidly. You look at things like WS-Security and WS-Transaction, BPEL [Business Process Execution Language], those things are on a very rapid trajectory and youve got a lot of people involved in that process. At the same time, youve got a coherent approach where people arent saying heres a security standard and heres a transaction standard and we only care about transactions so we didnt think about security. We and a couple other companies are really focused on the holistic view of the architecture and making sure all the different pieces work together. But I feel really good about the trajectory of that next wave of Web services standards that builds on the baseline SOAP and other protocols.

eWEEK: One of those other companies is IBM. You are working closely with them. Whats it like working with a company that is one of your primary competitors?

Fitzgerald: Its that old computer industry "coopetition" model where were going to work together on the protocols and the standards and drive the [interoperability], and then were going to compete like crazy from a product perspective. And well compete with IBM all day long. From a software perspective, were a high-volume, low-cost mass-market company. The biggest challenge with IBM is just trying to restrain their desire to inflict complexity on people. A cynic would say the more complex it is, the more consultants they sell downstream. So thats one of the areas where we go back and forth with them—where they always want to have a special case for some system that shipped two decades ago, and were much more focused on having an architecture as opposed to a random pile of stuff. And the more complex it is, the more busloads of consultants they can sell to sort it out. So we have different priorities. We are first and foremost about building great software. They are more about services.