08.10.07

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Looking Beyond OOXML to Find Monopoly Abuse in SOA (Updated)

Posted in Europe, IBM, Interoperability, Microsoft, Protocol, Servers, Standard, Windows at 1:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It is worth starting off with a quick reminder.

The reason why the blog has revolved a lot around OOXML recently is well illustrated and demonstrated by this image which I created using the GNU Image Manipulation Program. We are dealing with a ‘puppet state’ scenario that affects not only document standards. It affects patents and the FUD they generate as well (see this cartoon with commentary).

The following article discusses OOXML, but it is focused on the fight over standards — a fight that primarily involves giants like Microsoft and IBM (Sun Microsystems as well, particularly in the case of documents). The article talks about Windows-only SOA protocols. It pretty much aligns with China’s description of OOXML (academics took a look at it and reported back last week). OOXML only works properly on Windows/Office because the written specification has many obscure ‘extensions’. OOXML is, in practice, tied to the environment that it runs on, which is not surprising given that OOXML is a ‘history lesson’, not anything that ever evolved elegantly. It is a non-standard, so ubiquity is the only thing driving its use and pushing for acceptance (as in “you will comply“).

OOXML is just one element among a large stack of deadly lock-ins. They are lined up in Ecma like cannonballs. It’s all about Windows and all about Office, Exchange, IIS, and so forth. Let’s turn our attention to similar issues that Microsoft is gradually introducing in the world of SOA. From the article:

Mills provided further contrast between IBM and Microsoft, saying that, in SOA, IBM takes vertical approaches to automation around inventory management and transaction control, and makes these horizontal processes.

“We want to be frictionless in transactions as we rethink business-processes models,” said Mills. “Transaction integrity requires sustained access flow, and Microsoft doesn’t do that. Microsoft is about passing messages from one Windows-based system to another, not about involving the transaction function.

This is not exactly news. This information has made the rounds for a while and it drew a lot of criticism. Here are a couple of examples, starting with Dana Gardner:

Microsoft absent from open standards movement around SOA

Now, a new series of SOA standards is headed to OASIS, ones that could create a whole market segment around SOA common programmatic principles, but Microsoft is nowhere in sight. The absence of Microsoft from the Service Component Architecture (SCA), and its sibling Service Data Objects (SDO), definitions process can mean one thing: Microsoft will pursue its proprietary approach of baking pseudo-SOA into its operating system stack as long as it can.

From John Newton:

Microsoft needs REST

Yaron Goland defended his Microsoft colleague, Dare Objasanjo, as a poor sitting duck. He justifies the decision to scrap APP as tactical and not strategic. He states: “We considered this option but the changes needed to make APP work for our scenarios were so fundamental that it wasn’t clear if the resulting protocol would still be APP… I also have to admit that I was deathly afraid of the political implications of Microsoft messing around with APP.” According to Goland, “we couldn’t figure out how to use APP without putting an unacceptable implementation and performance burden on both our customers and ourselves.”

The implications for this APP vs. Web3S debate can potentially be enormous. Just as we are on the brink of creating simple architectures that are interoperable using simple standards, the industry risks splitting into separate, incompatible camps again. It is probably no coincidence that we have Microsoft on one side and Google, IBM and Sun on the other. This will be a fundamental problem for enterprise customers if Microsoft extends this strategy into any REST architectures that it introduces into the enterprise. Any enterprise systems that expose their data using APP, which is likely in the near future, will be incompatible with any Microsoft system that expose their data with Web3S.

Is anyone surprised by this? A quick look at the Halloween memos reveals Microsoft’s mode of thinking.

By the way, if you are by any chance trying to figure out Microsoft’s policy toward standards, particularly in the context of ODF-EOXML, that same Microsoft page is revelatory, Microsoft’s answer to what the memo meant when it said that Microsoft could extend standard protocols so as to deny Linux “entry into the market”:

Q: The first document talked about extending standard protocols as a way to “deny OSS projects entry into the market.” What does this mean?

A: To better serve customers, Microsoft needs to innovate above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to deliver advanced functionality to users. An example of this is adding transactional support for DTC over HTTP. This would be a value-add and would in no way break the standard or undermine the concept of standards, of which Microsoft is a significant supporter. Yet it would allow us to solve a class of problems in value chain integration for our Web-based customers that are not solved by any public standard today. Microsoft recognizes that customers are not served by implementations that are different without adding value; we therefore support standards as the foundation on which further innovation can be based.

It is rather sad that Microsoft descends to such filthy tactics. Instead of marketing and introducing superior products, Microsoft strives to sabotage progress of its rival by breaking interoperability (if not the products themselves). This isn’t just happening on the desktop (OOXML) and in the server room (SOA). Microsoft also threatens to hijack the Web, so be very careful.

An industry coalition that has represented competitors of Microsoft in European markets before the European Commission stepped up its public relations offensive this morning, this time accusing Microsoft of scheming to upset HTML’s place in the fabric of the Internet with XAML, an XML-based layout lexicon for network applications.

For this reason, some large companies (IBM included) wanted Windows Vista to be made illegal in Europe. Of course, they never got their way. Microsoft can do anything it wants, especially in America where it has partial control over the government. The government itself is willing to travel overseas to defend Microsoft aboard (as we have already witnesses in the past).

Update: here is another new rant about Microsoft’s SOA strategy.

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