Barney's Rubble

Ozzie's Dream

Software Plus Services slowly emerges out of the ether.

We've all heard of software. And we've heard of services, and Web services and Software as a Service. And you've probably been bombarded with hype about service orientation and service enablement.

But Microsoft, having not invented any of these terms, has its own phraseology -- Software Plus Services. Knowing we'd be forced to use this phrase again and again, our copy desk (let's call her Wendy) had to come up with a standard way of writing this, and grappled mightily with whether to use the + sign or spell out the word.

This digression aside, Software+Services (should we plunge you straight into acronym hell by calling it S+S?) is being pushed, promoted and promulgated by Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie.

Redmond (i.e. Ray) is finally putting meat on the services bones by laying out its grand scheme. Here's the quick and dirty on the new multilayer architecture: It all starts with Global Foundation Services. Forget about the word services and think about the hardware that supports services. Microsoft's already hard at work building and buying massive data centers, but it has a long way to go to match Google's acres of Linux server farms.

On top of this lies Cloud Infrastructure Services. This includes a lot of the features that Microsoft currently offers enterprises, such as deployment and load balancing.

Resting on top of this cloud is Live Platform Services. Like the cloud, these are application services for which Microsoft currently has enterprise counterparts, such as identity management.

At the highest layer are the things that Microsoft perhaps knows best -- the apps themselves. These apps include things Microsoft has done for years -- Web surfing, collaboration, spreadsheets and word processing -- and hopefully things Redmond gurus haven't even thought of yet. It's this top layer that one can either buy on a subscription basis or use for free -- as long as you don't mind a few ads along the way.

Software written to the four-layer Microsoft model can run as a pure service from either Microsoft or another provider, or as client software plus Web services (here Microsoft gets to charge you twice).

Now let's ask the tough questions. While it might be based on things Microsoft has done in the past, this is an entirely new approach. Being so different and so complex, there's a real possibility it will fail. (Does anyone remember Cairo?) Redmond could also have trouble convincing developers to embrace this new architecture. And Microsoft has no monopoly in the cloud. As we move to pure services, Microsoft has less and less to leverage.

So far, Microsoft's services push is mixed. I use Windows Live Hotmail, and besides having a name clunkier than a Yugo drivetrain, it's slow, non-intuitive and sometimes unpredictable.

Others aren't as bad. In fact, we found that many Microsoft services, like its toolbar and some mapping, equal or exceed those of Google.

Do you care about services? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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