Casting a Wider .Net

Microsoft's Neil Charney outlines the company's work on Web services.

On June 22, 2000, Microsoft Corp. announced a new strategy and vision for the company known as .Net, which it claimed would completely change the way companies use the Internet and transform Microsofts business. Neil Charney, the director of Microsofts Platform Strategy Group, talked to eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli last week about how far the company has come with its .Net and Web services vision, what this means for customers, and what Microsofts future vision for .Net and Web services involves.

When Microsoft launched its .Net initiative and vision three years ago, company officials talked about the proliferation of Web services. While many companies are experimenting with Web services, they still cite problems with application integration and say standards are lacking. Where are we with the evolution of Web services at this time?

We have made huge progress on the basic Web service infrastructure and interoperability: XML, SOAP, UDDI, WISDL. But on top of that were a set of specifications that would really enable a secure, reliable and transacted Web services. From an industry perspective, an incredible amount has taken place since we first launched .Net three years ago, when the concept of Web services was uncommon and misunderstood. A lot of our work over the past few years was communicating this new paradigm in computing and the other was delivering standards that would make this new computing model possible. Weve come a long way as an industry in embracing this model of computing and delivering the necessary pieces and protocols that are there.

But we still have a long way to go.

I think the place where the attention is now focused is around the vertical implementations or schemas. Vertical industries are evaluating and adopting Web services as a model, whether its the automotive or pharmaceutical industry, and understanding how those industries can implement this model is where a lot of the work on the standards process side is going. When we talk about customer implementation, there is no question that from an IT perspective, integration is the No. 1 concern. It has been estimated that for every $1 people spend on software, they spend between $8 and $20 on getting that software integrated. So, finding a solution to the integration challenge has been a primary focus for our customers. The adoption of Web services goes specifically to address that challenge.

Analysts and customers still maintain that Web services standards are lacking for delivering data over unreliable networks, securing data in transit, and for monitoring and controlling transactions. They also say ever-shifting Web standards is a big impediment to their adoption of Web services. Do you agree with this?

I disagree. We have really delivered a set of standards and protocols, and Microsoft has focused on architecture to make sure they work together. When we write the specifications, we make sure its engineered for simplicity, ease of use and functionality as well as making sure it meets the needs of the customer. When you look at the specs around reliability, transactions and security, a lot of thought went into ensuring these met the demands of the industry.

The whole idea behind Web services and XML is extensibility and the ability to innovate. The industry and customers have been clear and aligning around the common definition of SOAP, XML, UDDI and WISDL. Customers want the implementations to talk to one another, so when you see the vendors aligning around those key standards and protocols, thats a key benefit for customers as they dont have to do that integration following the purchase of a product. If you look back from where we were three years ago, its been incredible progress. But, is there more work to do? Absolutely. Users need to know how Web services will impact what theyre doing but also the opportunities it creates. Now that the basic plumbing architecture is out there, the vertical industries can now start to build on top of those.