Web Services Sky Is Indigo

With the introduction of Indigo at its Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft shifts to a services-oriented architecture.

Microsoft Corp. introduced many new technologies at its Professional Developers Conference last week, but few are more of a departure for the company than a Web services infrastructure code-named Indigo.

Indigo is an SOA (service-oriented architecture) framework at the core of a new development and deployment paradigm in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. The effort is a move away from the companys bread-and-butter object-oriented paradigm, which is built around technologies such as OLE and Component Object Model+.

SOA development creates groups of federated programs that can interact with one another to solve business problems for customers, said John Shewchuk, Microsofts XML Web services architect, who spearheaded Indigo.

In an exclusive interview with eWEEK here at PDC, Shewchuk said he and a colleague conceived of Indigo while working on the next version of .Net Framework. Shewchuk said his team took its idea to Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer three years ago.

"Its been a pretty exciting project; its the kind of thing you build a startup around," Shewchuk said. "In fact, we asked, Should we do this at Microsoft, or should we go do a startup? And we went to talk to Bill and Steve, and they said, Do it here. And they said theyd make sure we got it done."

In a sense, "we did our own startup within Microsoft," Shewchuk said.

The project is the latest example of the Redmond, Wash., companys efforts to reach out and be more interoperable through an SOA. The company has been working closely with other companies, namely IBM, to craft a series of Web services protocols under the WS- (Web Services) moniker. Indigo is based largely on that work.

Regardless of the joint development work, some critics said Microsoft is up to its old tricks, promoting an integration strategy that causes more customer lock-in. "Microsoft is wrapping itself in the standards flag, but the fact is their Web services stuff is auto-generated for their own platforms and impenetrable for anyone elses without lots of hard work and expert attention," said a developer here who requested anonymity.

But others like what they see. "Indigo is actually a sign that Microsoft is moving away from lock-in because it will now be possible to develop Microsoft apps on the Microsoft platform to interact entirely via Web services," said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, in Cambridge, Mass.

Allan Vermeulen, vice president and chief technology officer at Amazon.com Inc., of Seattle, said Microsofts adherence to Web services is a key ingredient for Amazon. "Microsoft would rather have us all working on Windows," Vermeulen said, in an interview with eWEEK here last week. "But for us its irrelevant what were running in our data center. Our presence here [at PDC] is because we realize developers can build some great applications with Web services and Longhorn."