Last year about this time, I spoke with Gartner Research Director Frank Kenney about Microsoft's ranking as a challenger in Gartner's Integrated SOA Governance Magic Quadrant. Microsoft, he explained, has its own vision for SOA governance and a tool to fit its own vision. This made it a bit hard to classify.
He also confided that Gartner anticipated an intriguing SOA solution from Microsoft, but it couldn't quite peg the Redmond company's broader vision for SOA.
Oh, what a difference a year can make. Just ask my daughter, who grew at least three inches. Or President Barack Obama. Or Microsoft, which this year moved into the leader space in numerous SOA-related Gartner magic quadrants.
Microsoft ranked as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Application Infrastructure for Back-End Application Integration Projects,
the Magic Quadrant for Application Infrastructure for SOA Composite Application Projects and the Magic Quadrant for New Systematic Service-Oriented Business Application Projects.
Microsoft was already listed as a leader in the 2007 second quarter Application Infrastructure for Back-End Application Integration Projects MG, but in the other two magic quadrants, Microsoft had previously ranked as a "challenger."
Although it has nothing to do with SOA, Microsoft was also listed as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems, but that wasn't a change from 2007.
All those MQ (magic quadrant) reports are a mouthful, I know. The practice is a bit controversial, and yet, vendors, most companies and, yes, tech journalists, do pay attention. If you'd like to read more about the reports, Gartner offers an explanation of the Magic Quadrant approach-and CNET has the obligatory spoof.
Microsoft's Steven Martin, senior director of Developer Platform Product Management, was pretty pleased with the news, at least if his press release quote is any indication:
"We believe that these reports validate the depth of our offering in these spaces. In our opinion, Microsoft's position in these Magic Quadrants shows that we are delivering a leading-edge platform for service orientation and integration. Customers are leveraging the strong technical performance and low cost of ownership of the Microsoft Application Platform, and are seeing immediate business results. Factor in the flexibility and choice we are now offering with our software-plus-services strategy, and we are providing a truly differentiated set of solutions."
Coming off the heels of the announcement, Eric Koch, a chief technologist and SOA blogger at IT Toolbox, offered an excellent assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Microsoft's offerings.
He observed that, as is typical of Microsoft, it had "incrementally added features and functions to their many product offerings."
The glue behind it all is SOA, Koch pointed out.
In Koch's opinion, the application platform's two key strengths are value and ease of use. For instance, Microsoft's Visual Studio and the .NET framework make it easy for developers to build and consume Web services.
Of course, this is what Microsoft has always excelled at: Take something complicated and make it so simple that you can be certified to do it in a few weeks or months of classes. And, typically, it's much cheaper than solutions from other vendors.
Which brings us to what Koch said is the chief weakness with Microsoft's offerings, particularly when compared to a Java development environment: scalability.
But, Koch contended, scalability can often be much ado about nothing. Overall, he was glad Microsoft is making headway in the SOA space:
"The majority of SOA projects I work on are still Java based running on IBM or Oracle application servers - or pure-play vendors like TIBCO. But it is nice to see Microsoft make such progress. We need competitors, innovation and interoperability in the shrinking software market."