Eric Rudder, senior vice-president of servers and tools at Microsoft Corp., declined to nail down a time frame for Longhorn, the next major Windows release. But he was more forthcoming about some of the new technologies the company demonstrated at its Professional Developers Conference here. Excerpts from Computerworld’s interview with Rudder follow:
Microsoft demonstrated new technologies targeted for Longhorn, the next major Windows release. When will we see them, and how much of them are expected to make it into this release as opposed to a future version?
I think more important than exactly when is that we’ve gone out of our way to share our thinking with the community and get feedback early. We take a bit of a risk … but I think I’ve been clear with my team certainly (that) I’d absolutely run the risk of disclosing too much rather than disclosing too little.
I think we’re very sincere about getting all of this technology to market and the strategy we’ve identified as these waves of technology. We’re in the Windows 2003 wave now. People can start to take advantage of a lot of this technology today. People can write managed code apps. They can use C#. They can use VB.Net. They can write Web service solutions.
We absolutely will deliver Yukon, the next version of SQL Server, and Whidbey, the next version of Visual Studio, shortly. People have technology preview editions and can expect updates to that every couple of months until we get it out. On the road map, I showed that in the second half of 2004 for Whidbey and Yukon. We think of that as together in the same wave, and Longhorn some time after that.
Microsoft recently listed Longhorn for 2005 and beyond. Is 2005 still a possibility?
We’re more focused on building the right product with the right quality, and those things will determine our schedule.
Why did Microsoft choose to share so much information at this conference about products such as Longhorn that are so far out?
Because it helps us build better products. What better way to understand if we’re meeting customer needs and IT needs and developer needs than by giving them an early preview where they still can influence the product? Some of these things are in the design phase. They’re still at the point where we can actually change the implementation based on the feedback of the community.
A Gartner analyst characterized Indigo, the code name for communications technology for building advanced Web services, as an enterprise service bus. Do you agree?
We’ve showed (off) Indigo as the technology for our Web services runtime. I think people will build enterprise service bus strategies that encompass a variety of technologies, and hopefully it’s Web services-based. We can actually run over multiple transports. So you might choose to run it over TCP or HTTP or your other messaging strategies like MSMQ or Tibco. I think you’ll see a combination.
Does Indigo include message-oriented middleware?
I think Indigo is middleware in some sense.
Will Indigo be competitive to message-oriented middleware products?
It can be complementary. You can run a Web service on top of Tibco, and you can choose not to run it on top of Tibco. I believe that like anything else, new technology creates opportunity, and certainly the vendors in this space understand key messaging issues. They understand management of messaging. They understand how to look at queues, how to do reports, how to help lay out your messaging topology.
So in some sense, I think we’re increasing the understanding in the market of how important middleware is. To some extent, we’ll certainly ease the burden of IT costs by including some of the technology in Windows. And we’re all about delivering greater value to IT, so in that sense I think that some of those companies will need to increase the value that they offer. But the opportunity will be there. … I don’t think there’s anything special about this market than any other technology shift. It’s a tough industry. You need to adapt and move forward.
Indigo is targeted for Longhorn. Will you make Indigo available for Windows Server 2003?
If the reaction from customers is great and they want Web services technology on 2003, it’s definitely something we’ll consider.
What sort of impact will Indigo have on corporate IT?
Indigo is our Web services runtime. I would actually encourage them to think more about how Web services impacts what they do in IT and think, Are you going to keep your legacy assets in place and write a new Web service mapper in front of them? Are you going to go rewrite things to be Web service native? Are you going to look at your packaged software and upgrade to versions where Web services are supported natively?
So if you look at Siebel or SAP or PeopleSoft, you know they’re all going away from their proprietary interfaces, like BAPI or those types of interfaces, to a Web services interface. And I think you’ll see lots of enterprise software exposed as Web services, and I think there’s a very important role for you to play and you need to think, OK, how am I going to secure my Web services? Am I going to use WS-Security to do that? If so, what are my policies?
When I need to do transactions, I want to use WS-Transactions. How am I going to manage my services? How am I going to have my developers understand my Web services policies? So I’d sort of give that general characterization. If you’re in IT today doing architecture planning, you should understand what your Web services strategy is.
Do you think you’ll start building some BizTalk Server functionality into the Windows operating system?
I think that is possible. If you look at what we’ve done with SQL, where we have the Microsoft Database Engine for people to take advantage of on the desktop all the way up to SQL Enterprise Edition, I think you can certainly think of a BizTalk equivalent of a local rules engine running and the (information) agent coming to the forefront there.
Would it be in the Longhorn wave?
I think it would be in the Longhorn wave.
Will BizTalk’s orchestration technology be included?
I think so. I think we’d probably be driven primarily on the key workflow technologies and how to enable them. I think we’d work with the ISV community to figure what features they want in Longhorn around workflow and orchestration.
Would that change any of the plans for Jupiter, the upcoming suite that includes BizTalk Server, Content Management Server and Commerce Server?
No. I don’t think so.
CEO Steve Ballmer recently dropped a strong hint that you would make an acquisition in the area of XML Web services. Any thoughts on that?
I have spoken to Steve about this personally. I think we’re open-minded in this space. There’s nothing to announce now. … I think Steve’s comments were taken in a vein that he may not have expected.