RealTime IT News

Microsoft Unveils E-Business Game Plan

Microsoft officials announced Tuesday the first phase of their Web services suite for the e-business, dubbed project Jupiter, scheduled for release late next year.

Jupiter, according to one Microsoft official, was created to address the problems created by legacy and proprietary e-business applications found throughout the enterprise, which the official called "overly complex."

Instead, business customers incorporating Jupiter into their networks will use Microsoft's proprietary software for e-business front-office and back-office support, with .Net and Office integration environments available for developers and employees.

Phase I of the Jupiter release centers around in-house development, including tools for automation processes, workflow analysis, developer integration and Business Process Execution Language for Web services (BPEL4WS).

Microsoft was unavailable for comment on its extensible markup language (XML) support in a standardized Web services arena. The Redmond, Wash., software giant has its own proprietary XML-based protocol for Web services communications: simple object access protocol (SOAP).

The protocol was developed despite widespread industry support for another Web services protocol -- extensible business XML (ebXML), developed by Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) -- created by Micosoft rivals Sun Microsystems and IBM . Only recently was SOAP accepted into the ebXML Messaging Specification fold, as an attachment technology, so that companies using different protocols could communicate.

Jupiter phase II (expected to launch in 2004) brings e-business productivity tools to the forefront, with Web site analytics, customer personalization options, e-commerce services and content management.

In its release Tuesday, officials said companies throughout the world are moving away from stand-alone e-business applications and moving towards integrated packages that incorporate every level of the business, from the developers to the marketing specialist to human resources personnel and executive vice presidents.

"In unifying our best-of-breed applications, we are both simplifying the complexity of our customers' infrastructure and providing them with a comprehensive, standards- based solution to connect, analyze and react to the information, people and processes that make up the extended enterprise," said David Kiker, Microsoft general manager of e-business servers, at a trade show Tuesday.

Officials said they are still working out pricing and licensing plans for its Jupiter services.

Assuming Microsoft is modeling its Jupiter suite around SOAP, the product should boost interest in Web services for bricks-and-clicks corporations looking for an all-in-one Web application for e-business. According to an InfoWorld report, Gartner analysts gave SOAP, as a standard, a "strong positive" rating -- the highest among competing protocols.

The "thumbs up" critique comes mainly, said Larry Perlstein, because of broad vendor support and its relative ease of use compared to the others.