Maybe Microsoft's SOA Position Isn't All That Bad?


I was struck by the uniform reactions to Microsoft's Hyper-V announcements this week and then its communications on its service-oriented architecture (SOA) progress. You'd be hard-pressed to find two hotter corners of IT, other than perhaps "green tech," and the general consensus appears to be that Microsoft gets the former surprisingly well and still completely misses the point on the latter.


Why? It may be a question of definition. It could be that Microsoft just doesn't get it -- "it" being SOA. Analysts felt like they got the message that SOA is essentially Web services integration, and took it as well as a piece of two-year-old news. The company has been accused of pursuing "MOA," or Microsoft-oriented architecture. Perhaps it is the prerogative of the behemoths to remain ever vigilant to opportunities to bring their vast resources together in ways that their lesser, more specialized competitors cannot.


But ZapThink's Ron Schmelzer is disappointed that Microsoft's deep understanding of developers' capabilities and needs continues to prevent the company from maximizing its potential to approach SOA as oblivious to platform or location.


In a guest piece on SearchSOA.com, Microsoft Director of Product Management, Microsoft Connected Systems Division, Burley Kawasaki, recently explained that:

SOA should not be technology driven -- it should be driven by the business needs of [the] organization. ... Our approach has certainly drawn both attention and criticism. The critics generally assert that the Microsoft SOA strategy revolves around Web services and lacks sophistication.

Kawasaki goes on to explain that, yes, Microsoft isn't afraid to keep saying that Web services are still key to service development. Hey, developers are interested in building applications more quickly. Got a problem with that? He spends equal time on the benefits to all other stakeholders, as well.


I think where the message breaks down might be this: Kawasaki stubbornly defines the purpose of SOA as exposing, composing and consuming in order to implement an agile business solution -- not to create reusable services. Microsoft's "Real-World SOA" approach is taking its cues from customers who want to apply SOA to their business processes and problems today, not create a brave, new world. Analysts don't like that. Even though they've never given credit to Microsoft for "innovating," they want it now, with SOA.


Could it happen? Clive Longbottom has a great piece on IT-Director.com that dives into what's going on with Microsoft and SOA and Microsoft and virtualization. He's frustrated, but hopeful that we could finally see something new:

By bringing SOA and virtualization together through Oslo, Microsoft can tie together two of the most important technologies happening in IT at the moment. Surely this is what organizations are looking for -- a means of creating dynamic composite application stacks, based on SOA functions, which can then be provisioned on dynamic application server stacks based on dynamic virtual images?

Consider also the similarity in the entry point for Microsoft's virtualization and SOA solutions: smaller businesses, not the enterprise. Microsoft, says ZDNet's Joe McKendrick:

... typically hasn't gone head-to-head against large enterprise vendors, especially with SOA. And my guess is that Microsoft doesn't even want to attempt to try to take away or eat into IBM or BEA/Oracle's huge SOA engagements. ... Microsoft intends to move into underserved and long-ignored markets with commodity-priced tools and work their way up from there.

And Jon Oltsik at News.com explains that Microsoft will use its OEM and channel connections to take the midmarket by storm with Hyper-V and associated management platforms. Failover and high availability features are lacking in this first version of Hyper-V, which makes it a lesser choice for enterprises, but a smart one for smaller companies focused on consolidation first