Microsoft Corp. still has a long way to go to meet its .Net aspirations, but the company has vision for the strategy nevertheless.
At an event here last week to discuss the 2-year-old initiative, Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said .Net is more about building applications on networks and on protocols than on developing services.
“.Net is software to connect information, people, systems and devices,” Gates said in his clearest definition yet of the software-as-a-service initiative.
But while Gates addressed the demand side of applications and the commoditization of the infrastructure by giving the infrastructure ready-made to application developers, there was little talk of critical enterprise issues such as scalability and transactions, attendees said.
Dave DeBona, technical consultant for a large retailer in Columbus, Ohio, said ignoring these areas is a mistake, as security and scalability are the most important issues.
John Rymer, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., said Microsoft still has many issues to confront.
“Theyre pushing Web services, but there are other areas of the system that they didnt talk about, [and] that was disappointing,” Rymer said. “They have to deal with backward compatibility with COM [Component Object Model]+ and COM. Theyre different object models and different programming models, and how those things are going to be used together is something I dont understand yet.”
: The Linux Threat”>
There was also little mention of the threat of Linux and other open-source technologies. This despite the fact that Covalent Technologies Inc. earlier in the week rolled out a server based on the open-source platform Apache 2.0 that lets developers create applications via ASP.Net that run on Apache systems.
In an interview, Charles Fitzgerald, general manager of Microsofts .Net platform strategies, said Linux is a threat “if we stand still. They take everything we do and implement that. The [open-source] Mono Project is a clone of what we handed over to [the European standards body] European Computer Manufacturers Association. You dont see any innovation or leadership coming out of that space.”
DeBona disagreed, saying Covalents announcement and the Mono Project give “some significant cross-platform implications that now become a part of the .Net world.”
Still, some analysts and customers agreed that Microsoft is on the right track. Gigas Rymer is impressed that Microsoft is using Web services technology in every aspect of its business. “What I also saw was very Microsoft,” he said. “A lot of applications they showed us were not about building transactional systems or big distributed environments. It was all about simplification. They used XML to make the environment very, very simple.”
DeBona said Microsofts moves to date are positive developments that will improve acceptance of .Net in environments where only Java is currently allowed. “If these plans work as promised, it should be a very bright future for .Net,” he said.
Microsoft executives also unveiled the much-delayed Release Candidate 1 of the Windows .Net Server family and other technical developments to come.
“We see this as the first product in the next wave of new applications because it has integrated the .Net Framework,” said Bob OBrien, group product manager for the Windows Server division. “Its integrated a whole set of new capabilities that developers can tap into and exploit today.”
On the server front, Microsoft is on the path to deliver the .Net Server family by years end, said Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsofts Platforms Group.
But Microsoft still has more infrastructure to build. A critical piece is under development and code-named Greenwich.
“Its a real-time communications environment that will be available on .Net Server,” Allchin said. “Greenwich is sort of the umbrella project that is really about looking at all of the real-time communication and collaboration capabilities going on in Microsoft.”
“Real-time communication and collaboration is the problem space that customers are looking for solutions [for],” he added. “Were working on what technologies we can package up and get to customers in Greenwich so we can solve some specific problems in the Windows .Net Server time frame. We havent completed the road map, but we should be in pretty good shape by early fall.”
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