Heading into the Cloud
Web Services will evolve as it meets the real world.
- By Dian Schaffhauser
I ate dinner last night, listening to my sweetheart rant about the vulnerabilities
of Passport—and about how we could never, ever really trust our data to
a company like Microsoft. I tried to pay attention, but my mind was elsewhere,
in a hotel off Central Park in New York City sometime in the late ’80s.
Ashton-Tate, Microsoft and Sybase were making an announcement regarding
the joint development and marketing of “SQL Server,” an RDBMS designed
after the client/server model that would run on the OS/2 platform. Up
to that point, the concept of client/server was a vague idea whose manifestation
would be months—really, years—in the making. Members of the press and
analysts in attendance were put on teams headed by technology experts
who patiently explained the concepts behind client/server. It was mind-boggling
and seemed fraught with flaws. Didn’t it take too much control away from
the user? How could it possibly compete with other major applications
already in use? We users would have to change the way we worked and the
way we thought about our data.
Now it’s happening all over again. But the model is Web services.
Microsoft’s approach, .NET, consists of three layers. The .NET framework
implements standards such as XML, SOAP and UDDI as capabilities within
its products and development tools. .NET enterprise servers supply the
core features for creating Web services. And .NET services such as Passport
and .NET My Services deliver these new capabilities to the user.
Those integrated activities we think of as our applications, currently
delivered to us on our PCs or across servers, will give way to a services
model in which functionality comes to us through the Internet “cloud.”
Eventually, we and our enterprises will buy into it because those functions
will be enhanced with purpose and value along their routes.
In brief, .NET is the next step in the human effort to create digital
entities of ourselves and our business activities.
Of course, as Gary Hein of The Burton Group wrote in his report on the
subject, “Much of .NET in particular—and the whole Web services model
in general—remains unproven and will undoubtedly evolve as its current
theories meet the practice of real-world deployment.”
But just as Microsoft owns all of the client experience and much of the
server side—after a decade and a half of working at it—we can presume
it will do all in its power to wield Web services. Microsoft will find
a way through our concerns about privacy, pricing, security and reliability.
And it’s a good thing that Microsoft has finally learned to talk to the
Feds, because it’ll have to tromp on trails blazed by those companies
in financial services and healthcare, which are accustomed to governmental
oversight and regulation.
I don’t think IBM, Sun or others stand a chance. You’d be well advised
to learn all you can now, while the concepts are still new and shiny.
It’ll make a difference to you and your work—if not this year, then in
2003, 2004 or 2005.
Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.