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Microsoft targets integration among .Net servers

Oct 08, 20025 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging AppsMicrosoft

Anaheim, Calif. – Microsoft Tuesday opened its annual Microsoft Exchange Conference with a message of reducing complexity highlighted by the introduction of a project to integrate its trio of business servers and a new programming mechanism for building applications using Exchange.

The opening keynote, delivered by Paul Flessner, senior vice president for the .Net Enterprise Servers, focused on tighter connections between Microsoft’s enterprise servers, applications, desktops and mobile devices in an effort to reduce complexity and the cost of owning and operating Microsoft software.

Microsoft has some 13 products in its .Net server lineup, and users have been somewhat perplexed about how to tie those all together and integrate them with desktop applications and mobile devices.

“Connecting [the platform] is a good story, but we’ll have to see how much it costs for users to pull this off,” says Raymond Cassidy, manager for sales administration with the Bermuda Department of Tourism. “Microsoft’s approach is always buy a bigger hammer, and I think they are starting to get the notion that having a bigger hammer is not always the best thing.”

But Flessner said Microsoft will make it easier for users to deploy and own its products.

“We are trying hard to flatten out the complexity through a better” integration of our products, he said. “We are not claiming victory, but we are spending a lot of time on this.”

He said the evidence is in a project code-named “Jupiter” that will bring together Commerce Server, Content Management Server and BizTalk Server. The project will develop over the next 18 months and is designed to tie together the servers’ now separate functions around business process workflow, management and security, interoperability with legacy systems through standards, and integration with Visual Studio.Net and Office.  

“Jupiter is an attempt to reduce the number of .Net servers and make an attractive price point,” says Dana Gardner, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group.

But Gardner adds that users recognize in today’s economic climate that the best way to save money is not to upgrade. “The best total cost of ownership is to stay put as long as you are running fine.”

Microsoft’s challenge will be to convince users that spending money will save money.

Jupiter will be delivered in two phases. The first, in the second half of next year, will focus on process automation, workflow, integrating developer tools and support for emerging standards such as the Business Process Execution Language for Web Services, which is being developed by Microsoft, IBM and BEA. The second phase, set for the first half of 2004, will focus on adding content management and commerce features and integrating with Office.

Microsoft has yet to determine how Jupiter will be sold, but says it will not be a bundle and will offer a migration path for users deploying the current versions of the three servers.

Flessner also announced a new managed application programming interface for Exchange called XSO. The API is intended to allow developers to use the collaboration features of Exchange, such as calendaring, without having to build their applications on top of the server.

Flessner showed a demo of a Web-based travel application adding entries to a user’s calendar in Outlook such as departure and return times for a flight after it had been booked. The connection is made through XSO.

The API is the first evidence of how Microsoft would like to offer Exchange services to its .Net platform. The tougher step, however, will be to develop full-fledged Web services interfaces without the need for an API.

Flessner also touched on the forthcoming real-time collaboration features, code-named Greenwich, being added to Windows.Net Server.

Greenwich is Microsoft’s attempt to pull instant messaging, voice, videoconferencing, and distance learning support into its base OS. But Flessner quickly glossed over Greenwich, perhaps indicating that the technology is not as far along as Microsoft would like. It is expected to ship sometime in the second quarter of next year as an add-on to Windows.Net Server 2003.

“The fact that we are making this a part of the infrastructure that you can depend on is a statement of direction,” said Flessner. “This is a big investment area for Microsoft.”

Flessner also spent a fair amount of time reviewing advancements that are coming in Windows.Net Server, such as new storage APIs, and in the next version of Exchange, code-named Titanium. He also highlighted new features in Outlook 11 that improve performance and enhance the user interface.

Flessner introduced a collection of integration services for mobile devices and applications from AT&T Wireless, Accenture and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

Flessner, who didn’t spend much time talking about Web services directly, did say that Microsoft has no backup plan in the event Web services fail to reach their potential for integrating systems.

“We are not hedging our bets on Web services,” he said.