Microsoft Readies "Indigo" for Web Services

Company begins work on new .Net middleware, code-named Indigo, but it won't see the light of day until 2003.

Microsoft Corp. is building new Web-services middleware meant to take the Microsoft .Net platform to the next level. But the crux of that services infrastructure, code-named Indigo, is still two years away from delivery.

Indigo, according to sources recently briefed by Microsoft, is the middleware that will pro-vide some of the high-availability, distributed features that users and businesses will require in or-der to make Web services truly ubiquitous.

Microsoft is laboring to make its first software developer release of Indigo available to key partners by the third week of October, around the time of its annual Professional Developers Con-ference in Los Angeles, sources said. Microsoft is planning to build Indigo into a future version of Windows, possibly the release code-named Longhorn, by the spring of 2003, said sources.

Microsoft executives declined to comment in any way on Indigo.

Web Services, Round 2

Microsoft executives have told developers that Indigo is at the heart of Microsofts "Web Services 2" vision, sources said.

Microsoft plans to position Indigo as a head-to-head competitor with the Java 2 platform championed by Sun Microsystems Inc., BEA Systems Inc., IBM and Oracle Corp., sources said. Java 2 is a specification for the Java programming language, and the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which is a collection of libraries that runs on different computer systems and devices. Java 2 Enter-prise Edition (J2EE) is the specification for server and Web-based Java applications, providing ser-vices and protocols for building e-commerce and Web-services software.

The Microsoft-Sun wars are coming full circle, said Aberdeen Group analyst Dana Gardner. "There is Java, the language, and Java the platform," he said. "The Java platform was Suns attempt to run around Windows. And J2EE was a response to Microsofts integrated stack of products."

So now Microsoft is looking to do its own end-run around J2EE. Indigo will run on top of the current .Net software-as-a-service platform that Microsoft is devising, and will provide a foun-dation for the .Net runtime environment that Microsoft is building into its development tools and other products.

Indigo will provide .Net developers with a common naming, addressing, security, event and messaging platform that incorporates support for emerging web-services standards, such as XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI. SOAP is a protocol that facilitates web-services communication. WSDL enables common web-services description, and UDDI, a common way of syndicating and advertis-ing web services.

Microsofts consumer web services, known as .Net My Services (formerly code-named Hail-storm), will take advantage of the Indigo platform, as will Microsofts forthcoming business-centric web services, code-named Blizzard, sources said. Microsoft has made a few of its .Net My Services available already, such as its recently announced .Net Alerts service. Analysts said they dont expect Microsoft to publicly announce Blizzard until some time in 2002.

Web Services Wars Wage On

Microsoft, Sun, IBM, BEA and Oracle all are continuing to vie for leadership in the web ser-vices arena, each with its own platform. All of the vendors are claiming to have the most standards-compliant, cross-platform offerings, allowing developers to write once web services that will, at least in theory, run anywhere.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced beta one of its Visual J# .Net development tool. Vis-ual J# is based on an older version of the Java, the programming language, not the J2 platform. Under terms of its Java lawsuit settlement with Sun, Microsoft is prohibited from using the latest version of Java in its products. Hence, developers who work with the J# tool are not assured of cross-platform Java compatibility. Their applications will work within Microsofts .Net framework.

Microsoft is expected to go gold with its Visual Studio.Net tool suite this fall. The final ver-sion of Visual J# is expected by mid-2002. Microsoft will provide Visual Studio.Net buyers with a Visual J# coupon, enabling them to receive the J# tool once it is available, company executives have said.

Foley is a senior writer with Baseline Magazine.