Microsoft beats SOA drum with ESB guidelines

Microsoft has has not been as vocal as BEA and IBM in discussing a comprehensive SOA strategy to date

Heralding the most viable, "real-world" approach to building SOAs (service-oriented architectures), Microsoft  has unveiled new guidelines for partners to create an enterprise service bus (ESB).

Usually, BEA Systems and IBM beat the SOA drum the loudest, but Microsoft renamed its Business Process and Integration Conference for BizTalk partners, on this week, to  "SOA and Business Process Conference", with the aim of demonstrating that it too has a plan for helping customers build SOAs.

Microsoft has had its business process integration product BizTalk since 2000, but it has not been as vocal as competitors BEA and IBM in discussing a comprehensive SOA strategy. SOA is the next generation of enterprise software architectures, in which applications and services within the IT system are loosely coupled and able to be integrated piecemeal to form custom, or "composite," applications from various components across the enterprise.

Microsoft worked with partner Neudesic to provide sample code and documentation for using BizTalk Server to build an ESB, which Microsoft defines as a set of capabilities -- such as mediation, transformation and integration -- for connecting business processes and services throughout the organization, said Steven Martin, a Microsoft director of product management.

The company also unveiled a new adapter for Extensible Markup Language-based BizTalk that enables customers to connect the product more easily to IBM mainframe and AS/400 systems. The technology, called the BizTalk Adapter for Host Systems, is based on technologies available in Microsoft's Host Integration Server product, which the company has had for some time, Martin said.

John Devadoss, a Microsoft director of architecture, said it is still finding a lot of misconceptions about SOAs among its customers, who think they have to rearchitect their entire software infrastructure "from the top down" to build SOAs.

On the contrary, Microsoft believes that SOAs are more successful if there is a "real-world business driver" behind the architecture, he said.

"In the real world, the success stories we see are customers taking a pragmatic, middle-out approach," he said. "The only way to truly track to the needs of the business is to take small steps along the way. The mega projects are either big science projects that never get finished or they diverge from the needs of the business."