Broadening Web Services

Microsoft's Indigo middleware will extend security and authentication.

Microsoft Corp. is developing new middleware that will allow developers to program Web services to run across globally distributed networks.

The middleware, code-named Indigo, will extend the security and authentication that is provided via Microsofts Passport in the current .Net architecture. To do it, Indigo will rely on the updated, Kerberos-based version of Passport, which the company is developing.

Still two years away from delivery, the software will also provide a layer of common naming, addressing, messaging, eventing and consistency services upon which Microsofts .Net run-time will reside, developers said.

The Redmond, Wash., software company is laboring to make the first software developer release of Indigo available to key corporate and software partners next week, around the time of the companys annual Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, sources said. Microsoft said it is planning to build Indigo into a future version of Windows, possibly the release code-named Longhorn, by the spring of 2003, sources said.

Microsoft will position Indigo as a head-to-head competitor with the Java 2 platform, backed by Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM, BEA Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp., among others. It will be the crux of the "Web services V2" strategy that Microsoft has begun championing, said developers who were briefed by Microsoft.

The Microsoft-Sun wars are coming full circle, said Aberdeen Group Inc. analyst Dana Gardner, in Boston. "There is Java the language and Java the platform. The Java platform was Suns attempt to run around Windows. And J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] was a response to Microsofts integrated stack of products."

Microsoft will likely incorporate elements of Indigo into future releases of its Windows clients, servers, Visual Studio tool suite and SQL Server database platform, sources said.

At the same time its pitching Indigo, Microsoft is also building out its collections of Web services for key constituencies. The forthcoming consumer, business and developer groupings of Web services will require Indigo to function fully.

The company has already announced its consumer Web services—.Net My Services, formerly code-named HailStorm. And Microsoft has begun delivering to key partners, such as eBay Inc., developer versions of offerings such as .Net Alerts.

But Microsoft is also briefing selected developers under nondisclosure about other Web services collections it is working to put in place. For example, the company is building a set of business-to-business services, code-named Blizzard, developer sources said, which are unlikely to be unveiled before next year.

A third collection of Microsoft- developed Web services, code-named Iris, will be aimed at developers, according to other sources who requested anonymity.

The Iris services, which ultimately will be built into the Indigo platform, will provide common Internet metrics for global application routing, application performance monitoring and geographic mapping data, the sources said. The Iris Web services are expected to be available concurrently with Indigo in the spring of 2003.

Microsoft officials declined to comment on Indigo, Blizzard or Iris.