Doin’ the interplanetary tango

Enterprise Strategies

The Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) agenda is embodied in Jupiter, Microsoft Corp.’s latest amorphous code-named initiative. Jupiter is not a product, a bundle of products, or a set of technologies. Rather, Jupiter loosely codifies the cross-licensing that the WS-I was invented to foster. This isn’t standardization, it’s a multilateral cease-fire. The close timing of the Jupiter announcement and Sun Microsystems Inc.’s admission to the WS-I is a signal that all the important deals have already been inked.

Microsoft’s man on Jupiter, David Kiker, explained in an InfoWorld (U.S.) interview that Jupiter is a commitment by Microsoft to improve integration among Microsoft enterprise server applications. The use of standardized (read: cross-licensed) Web services protocols and representations will support integration with other vendors’ standardized software. Theoretically. According to Kiker, “Microsoft will not be providing customers with that kind of guidance.”

Such guidance will have to come from somewhere. Sun is building such business essentials as calendars, messaging, directories and Web and office productivity into Solaris. Each of Sun’s quarterly software updates will refresh the entire server stack and target Linux as well. Finally, SunONE (Open Net Environment) has a purpose, and that purpose is discretionary integration. If you choose to swap Sun’s Web server for Apache, Sun’s J2EE server for JBoss, or Sun’s directory server for Open Directory, you’ll not only have Sun’s blessing, but Sun’s help doing so.

Kiker told us that at the deployment level, Microsoft’s enterprise components will be wired together by solution integrators. You see, Microsoft’s list of Jupiter partners is top-heavy with consulting giants, outfits such as Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM Global Services. There is the meat of it: IBM’s enterprise software catalogue has always been a toolkit for Global Services; customers are not expected to set up their own applications. Microsoft traditionally specialized in selling solutions that businesses could set up themselves. Jupiter signals the sunset of that market-friendly strategy and the adoption of a more IBM-like attitude. Perhaps that was one of the terms of the WS-I treaty with IBM?

I asked Kiker how a business that can’t afford a big-name solution integrator would take advantage of Microsoft’s new enterprise services model. He cited an example in which a company used Excel to submit forms to a larger business partner for processing. In Kiker’s words, “The SMB [small-to-midsize-business] market is a space we know we need to innovate in.”

Funny, that’s always been the focus of Microsoft’s innovation, and Web services were supposed to foster partnership among businesses of all sizes. Now Sun, Apple, and the open-source community will have to take over Microsoft’s role as outlets for readily integrated solutions.

Tom Yager is technical director of the InfoWorld (U.S.) Test Center. Contact him