Microsoft to Color Web Services Indigo

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-10-27

Microsoft to Color Web Services Indigo

LOS ANGELES—Although some are predicting that Microsoft Corp.s next-generation Longhorn operating system will be the star of Microsofts Professional Developers Conference (PDC) here, the real show-stealer looks to be the companys new Web services framework, codenamed Indigo.

Microsoft will unveil its Indigo strategy Monday morning at the PDC. The new scheme represents a significant change in direction for the software giant, in that it is acknowledging service-orientation and service-oriented programming as the wave of the future. And while Microsoft programmers will not be forced to hop on that wave, it will become the default way to program in the Microsoft environment.

With Indigo, Microsoft is moving from a primarily object-oriented development paradigm to a service-oriented one. In effect, Indigo takes many of the key processes by which Microsoft currently handles programming interfaces—including the Common Language Runtime (CLR) and its associated .Net APIs; the .Net Enterprise Services, which include the COM+-like technology; ASP.Net and .Net Remoting, and Microsoft Message Queuing (MSMQ)—and brings them all together into a single approach thats service-oriented, said sources close to Microsoft.

With Indigo Microsoft is promoting a new programming interface, or new code base for developers to write to, yet one that supports all the various component interfaces that make it up, sources said.

According to sources close to the company, the first beta of Indigo will not be available until the middle of next year, with actual delivery coming in the Longhorn timeframe of late 2005 or later.

In addition to delivering the new message and new technology, Microsoft will also be focusing on promoting the best practices and training required for developers to succeed in creating applications for the new service-oriented world, as programming to the Indigo APIs is essentially programming Web services.

Asked about the significance of the strategy, Ron Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, a Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm, said: "This is very exciting for us because weve been beating this SOA [service-oriented architecture] drum for a while now, and for Microsoft basically to say if you want to program on our software, the default way is to do it the service-oriented way. And if youre doing it some other way, thats the old fashioned way."

In essence, Indigo represents in inflection point in Microsofts development strategy. And, although it is early to be promoting a technology shift that will not likely take effect until 2006, this move is not unlike Microsofts efforts to promote developers to rally around other key Microsoft technologies such as Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Microsoft is leveraging its millions of developers to do service-oriented development.

Next page: Seeding the developer base.

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What Microsoft is doing is trying to seed the developer base to build applications for Indigo, sources said. These applications would then be ready concurrent with Longhorn.

According to Steven VanRoekel, Microsofts director of Web services, the company will be giving developers a roadmap of "where to go today to get to that next world of tomorrow."

VanRoekel described .Net Remoting, one component of Indigo, as an approach to do remote procedure calls against Windows applications. "It supports Web services and were on a strategic direction to Web servicize everything were doing," he added.

In addition, Microsoft is promoting a multiplatform vision through Indigo—multiplatform as in multi-Microsoft platform. The idea is that developers will be able to write a single code set in Indigo and it will be able to run on a variety of different user environments, such as mobile devices, remote access devices or distributed out to clients, sources close to Microsoft said. This is enabled by the Aspect-Oriented Programming (AOP) technology embedded in Indigo, sources said.

It has traditionally been difficult to bridge the code bases for PDAs, desktops and embedded environments and Indigo makes a step to cultivate such a multiplatform vision.

Meanwhile, Indigo also will feature some of Microsofts BizTalk functionality. BizTalks Web services and messaging functionality will be part of Indigo, sources said.

Microsofts plans with Indigo mirror that of other companies, such as IBM, which recently delivered a new version of its WebSphere Software Development Kit for Web Services, which competes with Microsofts Web Services Enhancements (WSE) and helps programmers write Web services. Indigo is a much bigger, bolder version of WSE, said a source close to Microsoft.

Angel Diaz, IBMs program director of Web services product management, Version 5.1 of its WebSphere Software Development Kit for Web Services (WSDK), which features support for all the latest major Web services standards as well as the Web Services Interoperability Organizations (WS-I) Basic Profile.

Rick Hightower, chief technology officer at Trivera Technologies LLC, a Medford Lakes, N.J., enterprise Java training company, said the latest version of the WSDK "directly competes with Microsofts Visual Studio .Net. Its very similar to Visual Studio .Net and its basically Javas answer to that."

Hightower said "IBM has raised the bar in the way it works with Web services," such as the way it embraces Universal Description, Discovery and Integration and is "more focused on interoperability," including integration with .Net clients.

Indeed, webMethods Inc.s recent acquisition of The Mind Electric Inc. is an attempt to create an SOA powerhouse of the likes of Indigo. The companys new chief technology officer, Graham Glass, is noted for his vision in this area. Though observers question whether the company can move swiftly enough to integrate all its tools and deliver on the vision.

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