Microsoft Shifts Programming Model to Web

Microsoft has announced its goal for using the Web as a heterogeneous, decentralized development platform.

San Francisco -- In a move that signifies a fundamental shift away from Bill Gates’ famous vision of a PC on every desktop and toward Microsoft Corp.’s more recent mission statement of anytime-anywhere access to information, the company announced its goal for using the Web as a heterogeneous, decentralized development platform.

Microsoft president Steve Ballmer unveiled the Windows Distributed interNet Architecture (DNA) 2000, a strategy that prepares Windows 2000 operating systems, e-commerce and database products for what the company refers to as the third generation of Internet usage. In this third-generation use, the company envisions software being delivered as services and more customers building the infrastructure for online shopping and links to supply-chain partners.

To enable developers to carry out this vision, Microsoft is reworking a number of its tools and is planning to introduce new products that will follow the debut of Windows 2000.

At the center of the Windows DNA 2000 platform is Windows 2000. Other key products include SNA Server, Site Server Commerce Edition, BizTalk Server, SQL Server and the Visual Studio development system.

Providing more details on the plan was Paul Maritz, vice president of the developer group at Microsoft. "We are expanding the scope of platform services to span the set of services that come into place in this new Web services world," Maritz said.

Microsoft has a three phase plan to achieve this: build on existing tools, build better Web applications and create deep support for Web services.

The first phase includes restructuring products to include XML support, such as the next iteration of SQL Server -- which Ballmer referred to as SQL Server 2000 -- the forthcoming Visual Studio 7.0 and the release of a new Commerce Server, also referred to as Commerce Server 2000.

At the core of the Windows DNA 2000 platform is XML. The technology developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (www.w3c.org), of which Microsoft is a participant, enables the heterogeneous interoperability of data, components, business processes and applications over the Internet.

XML will enable services to describe their capabilities and allow other services, applications or devices on the Internet to invoke those capabilities.

"Just as TCP/IP, in retrospect, was a godsend for the industry, we think XML will be a godsend," Maritz said.

The second phase will cover the release of new products around the Windows DNA 2000 platform. For instance, Microsoft has been working for some time on a planned XML server called BizTalk Server and a new software integration server, code-named Babylon. BizTalk will beta this fall, but two of its components were announced along with Windows DNA 2000: the free downloadable BizTalk JumpStart Kit for developers and BizTalk.org, a library of BizTalk-compatible schemas.

Also in the works is AppCenter Server, which is designed to help administrators manage a farm of Web servers as if it were a single entity. The product can also be used to drill down on single servers to check performance and health of the systems, as well to aid with capacity planning.

Windows 2000 DNA server products will begin beta testing this year, with availability expected in the middle of next year.

The third phase of the strategy is to increase support for Web services. Microsoft, along with most organizations, agrees that it is highly unlikely that the entire spectrum of Web services will be built on one proprietary language. For that reason, the company is planning to make all of its operating systems and BackOffice products XML-enabled, and will evolve COM and COM+ to be more scalable and to interoperate in heterogeneous environments.

"People don't have to buy into our whole strategy for us to interoperate with them and them to interoperate with us," Maritz said.

In addition to the products, Web services -- dubbed megaservices -- play an important role in the Windows DNA 2000 architecture. Microsoft plans to use its MSN Web site to offer megaservices, technology components designed to aid in the customization of applications according to developer’s needs. The megaservices initially include Passport, an identification and payment technology for Internet use. Megaservices that Microsoft is planning for the future include the LinkExchange system for exchanging banner adds, the Hotmail and Instant Messenger communication technologies and Windows Update, which enables the electronic sending of software upgrades and patches.

The overall goal of the Windows DNA 2000 architecture is to provide developers with a consistent programming model on which to use handheld devices, personal computer software and Internet-based megaservices to work together in a single solution.

"The idea of your systems being able to follow you wherever you go is something we really believe in," Maritz said. "This means having the right piece of software and being able to put it in the right place at the right time."

Maritz acknowledged that this vision is not complete, but explained that companies forcing a finalized strategy at this point will most likely not get out the door in time and, therefore, will miss out on the emerging market.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg here," he said. "There will be many more announcements in the future."