Microsoft Stacks Up Its SOA Strategy: Q&A With Burley Kawasaki

At its annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver yesterday, Microsoft made a few moves to broaden the appeal of its SOA strategy, including the introduction of its SOA & Business Process Pack to be available in September.

The new bundle includes a handful of the company's bread-and-butter applications and tools including BizTalk Server 2006, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio Team System and Office SharePoint Server 2007. Along with this bundle, the company will also offer technical guidance to users, particularly those attempting their first SOA implementation.

Microsoft also announced a new Branch Edition of BizTalk R2 that helps users better integrate a variety of real-time business processes in branch offices or geographically remote areas with those occurring at a company's headquarters and/or in other remote locations.

I spoke with Burley Kawasaki, director of product management with Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, about the announcements and what they mean to Microsoft's SOA strategy.

How do these announcements move your SOA story forward?
In the past, we have talked about BizTalk Server R2 for supply chain scenarios and we think that is still a pretty untapped area. So we are supporting vertical market and supply chain standards like HIPPA, RosettaNet, Swift and HL7. Previously, we offered these on a standalone purchase basis as accelerators. But in order to remove some of the barriers to deploying these technologies, we are including it as part of the core BizTalk Server engine in both the Standard and Enterprise editions. This will help democratize the supply chain space, especially among the tier 2 and 3 [supply chain] companies that do not have the same level of IT resources as the larger suppliers.

What role will the Branch Edition of BizTalk Server play?
The Branch Edition SKU is targeted at intra-organizational deployments. People are certainly investing in SOA for their back office systems. But what is driving a lot of businesses is what is happening out at the edge -- whether that is a branch, divisional unit or a warehouse -- where real-time processes occur. Often, things that occur out there are out of synch with the core ERP systems in terms of working with the same data and processes. This [product] solves some of the last-mile problems to where you can now connect to real-time events happening on the shop floor and connect them to the corporate hub.

So essentially, the Branch Edition creates new market opportunities not available to you before.
That's right. This is pretty much white space. Today, you might accomplish this through a custom one-off solution. It also represents new market opportunities for our partners that are building solutions around this.

What is the thinking behind the SOA & Business Process Pack?
Well, we get a lot of questions from partners and users about what part of the Microsoft stack they should use for SOA projects, how to use them together and what the right scenarios are for doing a first [SOA] project. We are trying to codify our experience and create an integrated licensing offering where you can buy a single SKU and have all the software you need. But we are also including along with this guidance patterns and practices and reference implementations that show how to implement a first SOA project. We think this pack can be a platform for building Office-based composite apps on top of a SOA infrastructure including SharePoint, and use Visual Studio tools for modifying and building Office applications.

Talk about your plans to embed BizTalk inside third-party applications.
If you are an ISV building, say, a financial application, you do not want to have to build all the SOA-related infrastructure themselves, so we are giving them an option to resell our technology as part of their solution. It can be completely embedded in their applications so users wouldn't even see it. We think in the SOA space, ISVs will increasingly look to buy rather than build because it figures to be a basic part of their infrastructure.

Google Maps Gets Up Close and Personal
Hoping to make them more practical for everyday use, Google on Wednesday debuted a set of capabilities for Google Maps that allow users to personalize maps for a wide range of functions.

Called "My Maps," the new capability lets users draw on over 100 "mini-applications," created by third-party software developers, that users can place on top of Google maps. As of 6:00 last night, a new tab is now in place on http://maps.google.com that has links to the applications, which the company refers to as "mapplets."

For instance, one application now lets users watch YouTube videos based on where they're uploaded. Another application lets users link to well-known photographs in locations anywhere in the world via Google Maps.

The new technology also lets users overlay multiple applications on top of Google Maps in order to correlate geographic information. For example, someone looking to buy a house in a particular neighborhood could overlay, or collect, information on crime statistics in that neighborhood.

Google Tops SIIA's List of Biggest E-Commerce Developments of the Decade
Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the White House eCommerce Framework (I'm sure all of you have that date marked on your calendars), the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) put out its list of the top 10 developments that have registered the biggest impact on electronic commerce.

Heading the list is Google for the fundamental way it changed how people use the Internet.

Next was the broadband penetration of U.S.-based Internet users which reached 50 percent in mid-2004, signaling a change in how commerce was conducted online.

Third was eBay auctions, which demonstrated how the Internet could reach a national audience.

Fourth was Amazon.com for contributing to the popularity of online shopping.

Rounding out the top five was Google AdWords for becoming the predominant online advertising vehicle, now generating some $6.8 billion in overall revenues.

The second half of the top 10 includes the general evolution of open standards, starting with HTML 4.0 in 1997; the spread of Wi-Fi; the popularity of user-generated content; the role iTunes has played in legitimizing the digital music industry; and the popularity of the BlackBerry.

Do you think the SIIA left something off this list? Let me know at escannell@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Thoughts on Google and SaaS
After Google's purchase of e-mail security company Postini, Peter asked readers what they thought of Google Apps and Software as a Service (SaaS). Christopher doesn't think very highly of either:

You could perhaps pay me a large enough sum of money that I just might CONSIDER using Gmail or Google applications. How is one supposed to take seriously a company whose mission statement is "First, do no evil" and who fails to heed it at the first major press (China). It is nothing more than another greedy corporation which, despite certain attempts at being hip and modern, again fails to be either. I do not trust my data to be stored on any infrastructure other than my own. I am certainly disinclined to trust a corporation that keeps track of my Web surfing habits which it can then use for targeted advertising -- less of a service for free, more like a nuisance for free.

As for SaaS, I have argued since its inception that this is even worse than the confidence trick that Software Assurance has become. Although Microsoft's latest EULA leaves me in no doubt that the operating system is simply licensed for use, the fact of the matter is that I can use it whenever I wish, wherever I wish (provided that it is on the same hardware) for the rest of time. SaaS means that I no longer have that right and, what is worse, will be locked into an endless series of upgrades which I will be obliged to accept (or my service will be suspended). When one cedes control of access to data to someone else (however trustworthy), one may as well give them all the data and be done with it. SaaS as a business model is incompatible with any other form of licensing regime and will, if allowed, become the dominant income stream of Microsoft and produce more disgruntled IT workers than any other innovation which Microsoft has thrust upon an unsuspecting world. Should SaaS become the Microsoft way, I for one will either stick with XP or go native with Ubuntu.
-Christopher

Got something to add? Let us have it; leave a comment below or e-mail Ed at escannell@redmondmag.com.

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