Microsoft Corp. has an ambitious plan for its next generation of business applications, code-named Project Green, which will be built on a single code base. Tami Reller, the Redmond, Wash., companys corporate vice president for Business Solutions, sat down for an exclusive interview with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at Microsofts Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans this month to discuss the project.
My understanding of Green is that the suite of applications will be based on a global code base, with the middleware layer the Microsoft Business Framework, which builds on top of .Net Framework. Is that correct, and how does the current set of business applications fit into Green?
What you described Green as is correct. Its entirely new scenarios being built on the Microsoft Business Framework. What were doing with our current generation of products is we are using elements of the .Net Framework and elements of the Business Framework to write very interesting scenarios around those products. Our recently released Business Portal is a classic example. It gives broad access to information in our ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems, and its based on the Business Framework. There are some common elements being used across the system.
What are Greens exact components and time frames? Can you be specific?
Green used to be this umbrella that included MBS [Microsoft Business Solutions] and the applications. So, now that MBS has moved to Visual Studio, much of the confusion has been around that. Version 1 of the Business Framework is what the Business Portal is based on, so thats where the confusion is. Yes, there have also been some date slips; we also moved the team from Business Framework to Visual Studio, and so there needs to be synchronization with "Whidby" [the next release of Visual Studio .Net], and there needs to be synchronization with "Longhorn." So those are the two reasons for the confusion.
Customers seem unsure about what Project Green will mean for their current products. Will they be completely rewritten and rebranded, and what sort of migration issues will they face?
They care about what the future of their current applications is, and that should absolutely not be a concern. We have guaranteed that we will continue to enhance and support all current products until at least 2013. We also have a program known as Transformational Assurance, which essentially ensures that those customers who stay current on their enhancement programs will get Green when they want it. These two elements are designed to give customers great flexibility.
If youre going to innovate and support existing applications for at least seven years after the first version of Green is released, are you already thinking about how to get customers to upgrade?
A lot depends on the customers mentality about it. We get that customers may have just bought a new system two years before. So we get that trying to convince that customer to make a large move within five years is not realistic. Full visibility is also very important. They need to see the applications. But midmarket customers are very reliant on the opinions of their partners, and so a key tipping point will be when partners are fully educated on Green.
When are you going to start that education process?
Its just too early. Weve done some with a small group of ISVs, since they need more lead time, but with Green we will keep good visibility for the partners to understand. We have started a lot of feedback sessions, so there are partners who have seen the solution for feedback. But it will be a few years before we want partners to get engaged in training. Also, customers are less focused on the exact time frame and more on whether its innovation and how easy it is to move to. When you start listening to that, you do different things.
Do you worry about unwillingness of users to undertake the pain around any sort of major upgrade?
We try to make sure that our customers are on an enhancement program, similar to Software Assurance, as you know it, so that they automatically get the enhancements and then get them implemented.