Return From VSLive

Reporter’s Notebook: Some might consider VSLive in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., a bit of foreplay for the major launch of SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 on Nov. 7 in San Francisco.

But hey, it was still fun.

During his keynote at VSLive Wednesday, Richard Turner, a product manager of Web services strategy at Microsoft, said the term SOA , or service-oriented architecture, is misused and overused, especially when it is splashed all over white papers and presentations from competitors.

“Service orientation is the industry’s biggest buzzword,” Turner proclaimed. “The term SOA is myth. If you read whitepapers from many of our competitors who shall remain nameless, or marketing and product releases from many of our competitors, you’ll see the term SOA liberally splashed across those articles.”

Of course, Turner went on to say that an SOA should be about how to build a distributed system and proceeded to show just that in two cool demos running Windows XP Home Media Edition on a PC.

One showed how users could employ Microsoft’s Windows Communication Foundation (formerly Indigo) to conduct a purchase; the other showed how one could monitor children’s viewing habits.

I’ve seen such whitepapers from IBM, BEA Systems and Oracle. The term SOA is in high abundance.

But what is the world coming to when a Microsoft official accuses other companies of hyping a technological approach? This from a representative of one of the largest marketing-driven companies in this history of business.

Is this just irony or a clever marketing ploy to steal rivals’ thunder while building up its own propaganda?

My guess is both.

There is precedent here. At Storage Decisions in New York last month, Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia presided over a roundtable after a launch of the company’s Data Protection Manager, a software application that provides near continuous data protection (CDP).

After the roundtable, Muglia told me the term CDP, a technological approach used to restore data to any point in time, is a misnomer.

This despite the fact that anyone and everyone who Microsoft competes with and/or partners with is latching onto CDP like it’s the next hit reality show.

“This moniker of CDP is somewhat of a misnomer at the moment, because nobody really provides the ability to restore from any point in time for files,” Muglia told

But he also said Microsoft could look to offer CDP vis-à-vis DPM in the future as the company builds out its storage offerings atop the Windows platform.

“CDP is more interesting in a transactional environment when you’re dealing with ongoing transactions,” Muglia explained. “As we bring DPM forward in the future and we look at backing up SQL, backing up Exchange, SharePoint … that concept is more relevant. ”

Okay, so what are we to take from this? That Microsoft disdains buzzwords? That industry buzzwords like SOA, CDP or ILM don’t have merit until Microsoft says customers are embracing them?

This has to be a clever marketing ploy to detract attention from other vendors, right?

With all due respect to the competition, Microsoft’s products will likely define and even drive both SOA and CDP at the end of the day.

What’s in a Name?

For a company with so many brilliant programming and business minds, it might come as a surprise that nomenclature is a key stumbling block.

During his keynote, Bill Baker, general manager of SQL Server Business Intelligence, showed that Microsoftees can be humble and self-deprecating, admitting that he was fortunate to go to a good college and that when he started his career at Microsoft 10 years ago, he found himself surrounded by incredibly smart people.

He noted that after 30 years of existence, Microsoft’s convoluted e-mail alias network can vex people trying to contact company employees.

Then again, maybe that’s the point. If you worked at a company that weathers as much scrutiny as it does praise and hands out large lawsuit settlements like Halloween candy, wouldn’t you want your e-mail to be as complicated as possible to figure out?

Still, he proudly announced that his e-mail has been changed, solving a long-time problem of people guessing incorrectly and sending e-mails to someone else at Microsoft with a similar name when they intend to e-mail the business intelligence guru.

But wait. It gets more interesting.

In describing how he and his SQL Server team spent a lot of time thinking up a name to describe integration services within SQL Server, he said a colleague offered up SQL Server Integration Services as an official title. And so it came to pass.

Baker wasn’t the only one grousing about the name game Microsoft plays.

In his keynote, Richard Turner lamented the fact that Indigo is now unfortunately named Windows Communications Foundation, citing the company’s propensity that the cooler the code-name is, the worse the real product name turns out to be.

Ducking Tumbleweeds

While demonstrations by exhibitors from small, startup hopefuls have impressed developers at past VSLive events, more than a few developers were heard to chortle over the scant number of companies showing off their wares downstairs.

One Microsoft developer, who refused to be identified once he learned I was a reporter, said that one of the reasons there were so few exhibitors was that Microsoft put most of them out of business by co-opting a technological approach, making it more efficient, and productizing it.

By way of example, he said a session that included Web Parts, Microsoft’s customizable components for corporate portals created with a digital dashboard, looks an awful lot like the DotNetNuke, an open source content management framework for creating Web applications.

The developer didn’t mind, though.

“Keeps me in a job,” he said, chuckling.

Did I mention a Microsoft developer said that? Ouch. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you code.

Clint Boulton is Senior Editor of

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