Just got back from endless travel.  I have not been posting while away, seems like I've been really really busy.  I got to visit some great people and fun places in a whirlwind tour.   Bill, Clare, Rob, and friends hosted me in Ireland, where we met with the IrishDev group and with a couple of groups of customers;  I met up with Gisli in Iceland and met with customers there;  Andreas hosted me in Vienna, where we met with customers and partners.  I also got to meet Harald, Mario and the rest of the team there.  Also Dik hosted me in the Netherlands.   Previously, Karen hosted me in Toronto and we met with some banking customers, and had a nice dinner with Scott Howlett and some other colleagues.   Most recently, it has been NYC for an open forum on SOA, and DC to visit with a customer, and this week was more customers in Chicago, with KevinDave, and a bunch of others for the Microsoft Regional Architect Forum. 

The topic, in every case: interop, mostly between Java and .NET, and SOA.

What did I learn while on this tour?  Among many other things:

  • .NET/Java interop is top of mind, almost universally.  Yes, everyone is talking about it, and some people are even succeeding at doing it.  By and large though, the possibilities, benefits, best practices, and pitfalls are not very well understood by most developers.  It's still a specialty, a niche.
  • Interop is useless without proper architecture.  For many people, the plumbing or engineering is not the hard part.  It is the architecture - in other words, just where and how do I use these pipes that are available to me?  And another really hard part is the soft stuff - the people and organizational issues.  How do we get the business units to collaborate productively?   How do we do ROI justification for SOA and interop initiatives?  etc.
  • The number of people within Microsoft who have come from "the other side" is large and growing.  For example, Robert Burke in Ireland was a dev lead in a Java shop before becoming the DE.  Andreas was an independent developer working primarily in WebSphere; now he is an AE for MS.  Karen previously worked at Sun.  Dik was previously at HP/Bluestone.  Dave is a CICS/Mainframe guy.   And I am also an "import" - having come to Microsoft after 4 years with IBM Software Group. or was it 8?  Hard to say. 

The take-away:  Microsoft sees that interop is critical for the success of our customers, and we're not letting go of it. We're bringing in outside talent.  We're devoting lots of people and energy to finding out what is necessary, what customers want, and planning our R&D  investments accordingly.  We're also letting people know about all the good stuff that is possible today.

Toward that end, Microsoft will also be at JavaOne 2005, talking about, what else?  Interop.  I'll be there, as will many of my esteemed colleagues. (Funny)

more soon, I promise. xx oo