Microsoft Integration

It appears that CMPs Optimize magazine, directed at CIOs, is another venue interested in Microsoft Integration – especially given Microsofts Interoperability month. Keep an Open Eye has already commented about Microsoft Integration and Interoperability Month, so highlighting what was said at Optimize appears worthwhile on this most important topic.

The format at Optimize is a regular monthly feature called Square Off in which two IT executives take the Yes/Pro and No/Contra position. The question asked by Optimize editors was: Is Microsoft Integrating with Others ? The answer for the affirmative is provided by Mark Zielazinski, CIO, El Camino Hospital . His essential argument is:
“Microsoft has been stepping up its efforts to achieve a better level of interoperability and integration. Recent work by Redmond engineers has yielded a greater degree of integration among its own product lines. This is especially true in Microsofts Office suite, but the companys efforts to get its products to work together seamlessly are flowing into other product streams ….That said, its crucial for Microsoft to offer an even more integrated application approach in the future. The days of powerful workstations as the mainstay are fading, and enterprises like ours are moving toward a mobile-systems environment for our highly skilled knowledge workers. Well need robust product integration that allows a single device to access wireless or wired information anywhere, anytime. We hope Microsoft will continue to improve the integration of its products…”

In essence Marks argument is “as long as Microsoft integrates within in its own product line, I am a happy camper”. Although Mark mentions both Unix and As400 systems, apparently the Microsoft and/or third party tools to connect to those systems (XML ?, Web Services ? , ETL or some other combination, readers are not told what) are adequate. Mark is a perfect candidate for the Gates of Longhorn, a proprietary but everything runs best in Windows environ.

Now the contra position is being argued by Jeff Gould, CEO, Peerstone Research. Jeffs main argument goes like this:
“Is the leopard from Redmond changing its integration spots? No. And its not really trying to. Yes, Microsoft is diligently implementing the same alphabet soup of Web-services standards as every other software vendor. It has no choice. Web services and XML are now the mandatory public face that all applications must present in order to be admitted to the sandlot. As a result, its now a perfectly reasonable proposition to integrate enterprise applications built with Microsoft technology, such as .Net and SQL Server, and other technologies, such as J2EE, SAP ERP ….On the contrary, Microsoft is as committed as ever to developing a software stack for the enterprise server, built entirely from its own products. Its easy to see why. Customers persuaded to embrace such a stack would be unlikely ever to leave it.”
The crux of Jeffs argument is that interoperability is subservient to a goal of “everything must run best in the Windows stack”. Mark acknowledges the concern, dismisses its impact, and then downgrades it further by saying he really does not care as long Microsoft performs and integrates well in its own stack.

So really this was not a debate at all – with Mark saying all I am concerned about is the Microsoft stack. And really I am not concerned about Jeffs arguments because I am willing to pay the Microsoft premium for just good enough availability, reliability, security and integration.

Unfortunately for Mark he should be concerned about Microsofts stack given the following 3 festering problems baked in Redmond.
First, Microsoft has failed to deliver on a reliable and secure computing framework despite its .NET promises of 2000 and then re-dedication to Trustworthy Computing in 2002. The simple matter of fact is that Microsoft has failed to eat its own dogfood. From 2000 through to 2003, top executives at Microsoft have excused Office, Windows desktop and the whole Application Server line from using the .NET Framework with the consequence that over the past 3 years availability, reliability and especially security problems have persisted. This is particularly troublesome in security with an ever widening reign of terror from phishing through spam to trojans and virus attacks. And this situation will continue to fester until at least Longhorn into 2006-2007 for Microsoft shops. And even with Longhorn, it is not certain whether Microsoft will deliver the safe and robust Managed code or take on too many performance and features lapses through .NET Unmanaged Code and other loopholes – a practice that has been seen all too frequently from Redmond in the past with IIS, ActiveX in Internet Explorer, Windows desktop loopholes, and the general attitude that performance, usability, and new features always trump security, reliability, and interoperability.

Second, Microsoft (along with other major ISV players like IBM, Oracle, and others) continue to debate and dither and simply drop the ball on simple PKI and other security mechanisms essential to robust and secure mail, conferencing/collaboration, idenity management, messaging, and interoperation outside the Web Services domain. Every player, but especially Microsoft with Passport and Palladium, are perceived as having a hidden agenda in their “secure computing” proposals that are designed to tilt the playing field to their advantage. Meanwhile both the hackers and now organized crime are having a field day of increasingly ominous proportions and an emerging direct threat to distributed computing.

Third, Microsoft has a mess in its own development backyard and it simply has not been frank or candid with developers about how it is going to clean-up the hazardous materials. I am talking about the proliferation of scripting languages (at least five with JScript, VBScript, WSH, VBA/VSA with COM and .NET flavors and plus Perl); rival forms frameworks (again, at least five, with WinForms, WebForms, VBAForms, InfoPath Forms, plus old ASP Forms), three major and aging development frameworks with ATL, MFC, and COM plus at least a dozen data access frameworks from ADO through OLE/DB to RDO/MDA and the gods know what is lurking in the basement Unfortunately, Redmond lurches between draconian scorhed earth, everybody-must-convert-to-the-magic-bullet(currently XAML) and classic Monty Python Farce – not to worry – nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean know what I mean.

So Mark has every reason to be concerned that the Happy Monoculture of Windows One Best Way is really a teetering empire just on the tippy toes of control. Meanwhile the rest of us have to cope with working around Redmond. These workaround are very real in DHTML/CSS/DOM or getting Java to the PC desktop or trying to figure what XML and Web Services standards Microsoft is going to adhere to and which ones is it going to patent and/or bypass. And, in general , just how much fully Microsoft-supported interoperability will Redmond allow ?

Summary

So rather than being a Deadend Debate, Optimizes Square Off raised three fundamental questions. First, how many Windows-only loyalists like Mark Zielazinski are there out there ? Second, how long will they remain loyal to a Microsoft which has been terribly remiss in delivering robust reliable, scalable and secure computing for well over 15 years ? And finally how long will the IT community, which has seen the desktop depreciate in importance precisely because of Redmonds pitbull, zero-sum tactics, continue to accord to Microsoft the position of alpha dominant male – when in fact extended services, the mobile semi-attached user and the embedded processing worlds foster the new and emerging alphas ?

(c)JBSurveyer 2005