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Does Microsoft get SOA?

Microsoft's decision to stand apart from the rest of the SOA crowd has led to questions of whether it is build systems to deliver enterprise-level service-orientation or tools to deliver departmental Web services.

It may sound odd to assert that Microsoft might have something to prove in the world of software, but in the case of service-oriented architecture it may be true. This week we at will be looking into some of the latest analyst research that suggests Microsoft's .NET initiative is lagging behind Java when it comes to SOA development.

Java tends to benefit from having multiple big backers pushing it forward as well as major open source foundations like Eclipse and Apache. There's always something new popping up in the Java universe like Spring Web services or BPEL4People. If you're pursuing SOA, the news coming out of the Java camp is constant. The barrage is impossible to ignore.

Not surprisingly, Sun Microsystems has been able to ride the Java-based SOA wave to boost its standing in the software community. Seemingly it is a tide that lifts all boats.

It also feeds into the service-oriented requirements of interoperability and agility. You can do a whole lot of mixing and matching inside the Java cloud. Microsoft, for the most part, is the .NET cloud. It creates a perception of lock-in even if the lock-in is no worse.

Plus, SOA isn't a developer initiative. I'll quote Burton Group's Anne Thomas Manes: "SOA is an enterprise architecture style, not an application architecture style."

Business executives, IT executives/managers and senior enterprise architects should be the people steering the SOA bus, not the developers. What Java vendors have done, perceptually speaking, is create the appearance of interoperability and agility. You can argue whether that's an illusion, but it certainly looks like a massive group all pulling in the same direction, which is what those highly placed folks in user companies are demanding.

There are those who find Microsoft's stubborn independence admirable. Certainly it can't be accused of jumping on bandwagons barreling into blind alleys. Yet the good folks in Redmond do face a fairly regular dose of skepticism when it comes to making software that will work in a service-oriented fashion at the enterprise level. The knock has been that Microsoft is too developer-focused and that service-orientation for Microsoft has been a gambit to import users onto the .NET platform.

Maverick status in the SOA universe seems to be accorded to those who find ways of being more open and more easily distributed. Microsoft is battling the perception it stands at the rear of the SOA movement rather than at the front, pursuing the minimum amount of openness and distribution. That perception may not be fair, but Redmond has chosen to stand apart from the crowd that daily pronounces "We're open. We get SOA." Microsoft has to find of way of proclaiming "We're open too and we get SOA every bit as well as they do."

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