Microsoft interoperability plan rings hollow

Despite the many interoperability options coming out of Redmond in recent months, Microsoft product plans are proving that its favorite interoperability is that between Windows NT Servers. Microsoft officials said they have no plans to port COM+, the next version of its Component Object Model (COM), to Unix. That means the much-touted COM+ system services, key to NT 5.0, will not be available on other platforms.

Despite the many interoperability options coming out of Redmond in recent months, Microsoft product plans are proving that its favorite interoperability is that between Windows NT Servers.

Microsoft officials said they have no plans to port COM+, the next version of its Component Object Model (COM), to Unix. That means the much-touted COM+ system services, key to NT 5.0, will not be available on other platforms.

"We have no plans for COM+ on Unix at this time," Joe Maloney, platform marketing group manager at Microsoft, said last week at the Professional Developers Conference, in Denver. "We haven't ported Microsoft Transaction Server [MTS] to Unix [and MTS is part of COM+]. The interoperability is there with COM."

The results are multiple Microsoft bridging strategies that fall short of the pure interoperability that has been promised by rivals.

"That leaves them with a positioning where interoperability is primarily through bridges," said Phil Costa, an analyst at the Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Mass. "It would be hard to say they are an interoperability vendor. I would say that stretches `interoperability.'"

Robert De Cardenas, a systems network coordinator who runs an NT-Novell-Unix shop at the Florida State Supreme Court in Tallahassee, said his interoperability comes from his Novell software.

"They are probably only skin deep as far as interoperability goes," De Cardenas said of Microsoft. "But even though our interop is not as full and rich as I would like it to be, I guess I'm glad it's there on some level to begin with."

Microsoft's argument is that the alternatives -- CORBA and Enterprise JavaBeans -- make up a splintered camp that is unable to offer the universality of Windows, Maloney said.

Officials at Iona Technologies, a leading maker of COM-CORBA bridges, stated that Microsoft's middleware integration services are primarily designed to integrate within the Windows and COM sphere of influence.

"[Microsoft doesn't] have any plans to port their stuff, it's still proprietary. They will not make the services available on other platforms. So that's where CORBA comes in, and that's why we are trying to make our services interoperate with theirs," said Lean Doody, product manager for Iona's OrbixComet, a COM-CORBA bridge.

Iona plans to update OrbixComet within a few months of the release of NT 5.0, sometime in 1999, so that it will support COM+ and MTS. Both COM and COM+ should bridge seamlessly because they are both based on the Distributed COM wire protocol, Doody said.

Microsoft's interoperability arsenal comprises an expensive effort to port COM to Sun Solaris; third-party COM-CORBA bridges; Extensible Markup Language support in NT 5.0; OLE DB and ODBC; and Microsoft Services for Unix, due out this month.

"Microsoft supplies only as much interoperability as they need to keep NT a viable solution," said Anne Thomas, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston.

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at www.microsoft.com. Iona Technologies Inc., in Dublin, Ireland, can be reached at www.iona.com.

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