Foley on Microsoft

Does Live Mesh Have a Business Future?

Microsoft's reticence notwithstanding, many people are excited about what Live Mesh can offer.

Since Microsoft took the wraps off its Live Mesh collaboration and synchronization platform in late April, the Redmondians still have said next-to-nothing about how it might be used by consumers or business users.

I don't interpret the silence as Microsoft having no plans on that front. A collaboration and sync platform definitely has a place in the corporate world -- a fact Microsoft archrival IBM already has proven by putting REST interfaces on MQ, CICS, DB2 and various Lotus products and exposing the resulting data feeds to customers. If that weren't proof enough that there are business uses for the services Live Mesh will deliver, an entirely different business unit at Microsoft has been building yet another sync platform -- the Microsoft Synchronization Framework -- which is 100 percent business-focused. (Why Microsoft didn't use the Sync Framework as the foundation for Live Mesh, instead of building the Live Mesh platform from scratch, is beyond me.)

Because Microsoft execs are so convinced that the "consumerization of IT" is not just a fad, but a future trend, Microsoft has focused on rolling out some of its latest and greatest tech advances in the form of consumer products and services first. And Live Mesh's most enthusiastic backer -- Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie -- is one of Microsoft's biggest cheerleaders for consumer-centric tech. Consequently, Microsoft has been downplaying how and when Live Mesh could find a home with business users. Instead, when pressed for examples, Live Mesh officials fall back on examples, such as corporate users being able to integrate things like their e-mail, mobile phones and calendaring when working from home.

Enterprise Application
In spite of their reticence to talk business specifics, members of the Live Mesh team have batted around a few ideas of how Live Mesh might be applied in enterprise scenarios. Jeff Hansen, general manager of Microsoft's Live Services Marketing, explains that Microsoft sees four areas that a business-focused Live Mesh could help address:

  • The Web-ification of existing business apps/assets
  • The federation of Web services
  • The connection of existing "stuff" in your data center to Live Mesh; for example, pushing news feeds, documents and other data through the Mesh engine
  • The offline access of Web-centric business apps, via the Mesh Operating Environment (MOE)

"Think about Live Mesh by workload, with workloads being synchronization, storage, identity, directory and news," Hansen says. "On the enterprise side, you could use different workloads" when building or retrofitting an app to take advantage of Live Mesh, he adds.

Customer Salivation
Microsoft isn't the only one noodling. Some customers are already salivating over what kinds of new capabilities Live Mesh could allow them to add to their solutions. I found a poster to one computer-aided design (CAD) blog, SolidSmack.com, speculating on how Live Mesh might affect the CAD market. Poster "Josh" said he could see Live Mesh helping customers run CAD and related programs on any device, sync CAD data across multiple devices and locations, and enable access to CAD data anywhere, either online or offline.

"For example, SolidWorks could very well be tied into Mesh that syncs your data to other secured computers where people are working on the same projects, while live information and communication about the design process is happening right before your eyes," Josh posted.

Microsoft, from what I can tell, would likely direct SolidWorks and its users toward its Sync Framework, rather than Live Mesh, to deliver on these business goals. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft positions its two different sync and collaboration technologies as it begins to move beyond the overly simplified "Live Mesh is for consumers" and "Sync Framework is for business" distinctions that exist now.

What about you? See any Live Mesh business scenarios you're dying to test-drive in your companies?

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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