Getting corporate IT systems to talk to each other for e-business is still difficult but Microsoft claims it can change all that.
The promise comes in the form of Microsoft.NET, the strategy announcement elaborated on at Tech Ed in Auckland last week.
While some attendees at the three-day technical briefing were keen to hear .NET details, others IT managers spoken to be Computerworld think it too futuristic to be immediately useful.
The information services general manager at Auckland's Sky City casino, Damian Swaffield, says given Microsoft’s market dominance, it’s necessary to understand its position regarding e-commerce.
“It's so prevalent that you have to pay attention to its strategy. Netscape has already come out with strong announcements such as iPlanet and IBM has come to market with some fairly clear strategies in that area. Microsoft is only now coming out with its pitch.
“We really want to know what leadership and guidance it can offer. We work with Microsoft standards internally so we would consider things very carefully before we would move away from them.”
But the MIS manager at Ports of Auckland, Roger Fogo, is sceptical about the sheer volume of "Net" plans pouring forth from the vendor community.
“You start to get shell-shocked with all these Net announcements. I suspect that it [Microsoft] is right but it's not at the top of my list.”
Foodstuffs DP manager Des Tindall is another who feels he can wait to learn about Microsoft.NET.
“It seems a long way into the future so I prefer to wait until it’s a reality. Microsoft's been talking about BizTalk for the past 12 months and that hasn’t really materialised.”
The MIS manager at Lion Nathan, Darryl Warren, is less wary, however, seeing promise in the strategy.
“If we don’t pick the right tools then trying to deliver services to the varying platforms on the Web will be a challenge.
"Today 99% of what’s there is delivered on a browser. In two to three years time it might be 50% browser while the other 50% could be PDAs, WAP devices or even Internet TV.
"Suddenly we’ll have all these methods of delivery that we’ll have to cope with and from what I understand, Microsoft.NET will address that. XML has a great future and BizTalk is a framework through which we can deliver that.”
Warren is right in that integration and interoperability are the problems Microsoft.NET is intended to solve. It’s an XML-based framework and tools for developing Windows applications that can share Web services with software built in other languages and operating systems over the Web.
A Microsoft keynote speaker at Tech Ed, Redmond-based software architect Pat Helland, insists that the first .NET wave has already hit.
“The first stage of .Net is tools to do XML and ways to publish XML schema. In the last year we have introduced a lot of capability and add-ins for SQL Server and Visual Studio to be able to create XML code today."
Helland says wave two will come in the next six months with the release of server applications such as SQL Server 2000 and BizTalk Server 2000. And the strategy won't be exclusive to Windows, he says.
”There will be legacy systems -- MVS, Unix, AS/400s and so forth -- that we’ll have to talk to.
“As soon as XML was ratified by the W3C we [Microsoft] got into it. XML solves something that Java doesn’t. Java is about portability and XML is about interoperability."