CrossNodes Briefing: Microsoft .NET and Web Services - Page 2

 By Gerald Williams
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Seeking Standards
Microsoft, as it did with Windows, wants to establish .NET as a standard. The company publicly stated that .NET would shape the company's direction in the near future, and the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) recently accepted Microsoft's C# and the .NET Framework as standards.

Microsoft continued its push to establish .NET as a standard platform when it joined with Hewlett-Packard, IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle, Accenture, Fujitsu, Intel, and SAP AG to form the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WSIO). The vendors hope to extend interoperability by defining the use of XML, SOAP, Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI). The consortium plans to develop test plans to ensure that software developers' programs will communicate with the .NET Framework.

An Unsure Market
Creating applications that share data and resources is not new. The Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) represents an early effort to establish that type of transparency. EDI allowed companies to share data by establishing forms-handling and data format standards. Unfortunately, most companies found EDI was too problematic and expensive to adopt. It was difficult to get companies to implement changes, and in some cases, the standards did not support all the functions that companies needed to share.

Microsoft .NET and the web services market face a similar challenge. Many IT managers like the concept, but development projects remain testing grounds. Within the web services market, it also remains unclear whether IT managers and software developers will adopt Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) from Sun or if they will migrate to Microsoft .NET. Microsoft enjoys an edge with the installed base of Windows software and its applications suites, but it must overcome some hurdles before it can define the web services market. In an effort to address the Java market, Microsoft also released Jump, which converts Java applications to Microsoft .NET applications. Some observers note that this implies that Microsoft is more interested in Windows platform development as opposed to offering true interoperability.

The concepts of interoperability and platform independence intrigue IT managers. Microsoft .NET promotes this independence through its .NET Framework, and this component would need to reside on each workstation. Microsoft already released CE .Net, a scaled-down OS for hand-held devices, and the .NET Framework is reportedly being ported to Unix and Macintosh OS X systems. Some IT managers view Microsoft .NET as an extension of the company's effort to control the desktop. Microsoft already owns the dominant market position with its Windows operating software, but some IT managers prefer a more open solution that gives them the ability to customize and distribute software without paying license fees. Sun ONE will appeal more to those IT managers.

Further, many companies worry about the security implications of allowing software agents to access data and launch applications. To achieve this, the data and the programs will need to identify themselves across the network, which potentially opens the applications and data to unauthorized users. The vendors respond aggressively when researchers identify potential problems, but it seems as though several holes exist in the programs. This will limit IT managers' and software developers' enthusiasm for the new technology.

This article was originally published on Feb 19, 2002
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