Microsoft's SOA catch-up draws faint praise

Project Oslo kicks off as Microsoft makes a raft of announcements to boost its stake in service-led architectures.

Microsoft has moved to boost its credibility in the service oriented architecture (SOA) market by extending its middleware range.

But critics have said the company's SOA credentials still lack openness, and that its latest moves, taken in combination with previous announcements, risk confusing customers.

The vendor is adding SOA functionality to its upcoming BizTalk Server 6, as well as SOA support to .Net Framework 4. In addition, Visual Studio .Net 10 will feature new application life-cycle management elements.

Microsoft said its latest innovations, which it has grouped under the banner of 'Project Oslo', help users avoid the complexity often associated with SOA deployments.

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But independent analysts have said that while Microsoft has now caught up to some extent with other companies setting the SOA pace, like IBM, it is still missing the spirit of the trend by continuing to use closed standards and proprietary interfaces. They have criticised Microsoft's latest moves as meaning little for enterprises with a multi-vendor heterogeneous architecture.

"Many customers are challenged to realize the promise of SOA given today's complexities," said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, at the announcement of the latest moves. "The combination of our current software-plus-services approach and the new wave of Oslo technologies will enable IT to deliver high-impact business solutions."

Microsoft said Oslo will be incorporated in actual Microsoft products at the beginning of 2009, and will eventually provide things like a universal editor for displaying, navigating and querying models in any domain, a repository for storing the models, and an Internet Services Bus that provides cross-boundary and cross-platform process services that Microsoft will host in the Internet cloud.

"Much of what Microsoft is discussing this week under the Oslo label is a reprise of the 'Dynamic IT' concept that the company began promoting in June," said Dwight Davis, vice president with analyst company Ovum. "Dynamic IT, in turn, borrowed heavily from Microsoft's earlier, model-based Dynamic Systems Initiative and from the Software-plus-Services theme that Microsoft has been promoting for a couple of years."

He said that while Oslo represents a step forward in clarifying Microsoft's plans for service enablement and process-led, model-driven development, it remains 'very much an aspirational roadmap at this point': "Furthermore, Microsoft risks confusing customers and partners by failing to draw clear lines between its current Oslo vision and the services and model-driven initiatives that have preceded it, including the Dynamic Systems Initiative and Dynamic IT."

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