LOS ANGELES – The company best known for proprietary software is stressing an open standards approach to Web services and overall interoperability with other IT systems.

Business pressures are putting pressure on IT departments – it’s virtually impossible to run an IT department based

on technology from a single vendor, executives told the Microsoft Professional Developer conference.

“”Competition today is more fierce that it’s ever been and it’s only going to get harder. . . You’re going to look at 2003 as the good old days,”” said Scott Garvey, Microsoft’s director of platform strategy, during a Sunday preview of conference events.

Not only do shops have to integrate systems from various vendors, they have to deal with the technology that partners and customers prefer, he said.

“”It’s not Java versus C-sharp anymore. Deal with it, it’s both,”” said Garvey.

Garvey claimed that the number of Visual Studio developers has exceeded that of Java, but “”the take-home message is they’re both going to be out there . . . We have to understand that.””

He also noted that benchmark performance is no longer enough to differentiate a vendor. Microsoft and Unix are virtually tied in TPC benchmark performance on the server side, according to Garvey, with one topping the other every few months. The onus now is on return on investment (ROI) and how much each transaction costs a company rather than how quickly it can be performed.

Microsoft’s director of platform strategy (Web services) Steven VanRoekel stressed that the company will support customers through the vagaries of standards changes in XML and other languages that are used to support Web services.

He described Microsoft’s approach to standards as: “”Let’s get this specification down, let’s get feedback . . . then let’s take it to a standards body and it will come out the other side pretty fast.

“”When it’s a mainline product, we will declare it done from our perspective.””

The goal is for Web services, as conceived by Microsoft as .Net, is to become “”pervasive and an afterthought”” like features such as copy and paste are today, he added.

Toronto’s Pearson Airport is using a Web services interface to control air conditioning and lighting based on a plane’s arrival and departure time, he said.

Microsoft is also aiming to simplify its approach to security. There have been problems, admitted Amy Carroll, security business unit director, and customers have let the company know. Carroll said a common complaint is, “”‘You guys have made it too hard to lock a Microsoft enterprise down.’””

The number of patches that the company released was getting out of control, so Microsoft has moved to a monthly release schedule, said Carroll. The first patch package came out Oct. 15.

Microsoft has also committed to reduce its number of patch installers from eight to two (one for the kernel, one for the applications). In a related initiative, the company is striving to get patches down to a more manageable size and is aiming for 80 per cent smaller patches by May 2004. The reduction will be achieved by targeting very specific code problems, said Carroll.

The focus of Microsoft’s security is its XP operating system. The company has nothing new to tell Windows 2000 users, but a review of the OS is underway, said Carroll. She said, however, that notebook users that are still running 2000 should get onto XP as soon as possible in order to shore up security.

“”We see we still have a lot of work to do and that’s why we’re here,”” she said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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