The Roadmap to Software + Services

The Roadmap to Software + Services

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Yesterday, we disclosed our approach to business services and the framework for how these services will come to market. You can read the press release here. This is a topic I am very passionate about and have spoken on in many customer and public forums for just under a year.  ”Services” are a great conversation and depending on who you talk with can mean different things.  Putting aside traditional outsourced services, from a software services perspective the conversation varies depending on whom you speak with. When we talk with a start-up company the conversation is often around using Services to build a mash-up to be offered via Software as a Service (SaaS), and maybe the company call itself a Web 2.0 company to gain VC funding.  If we talk with an enterprise company the conversation is often around Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), using an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to build a composite application.  In both cases the conversation is really around how you leverage software delivered over the wire as a service (as opposed to attached to a client or server) whether it’s behind the firewall, over the firewall or across the internet.   In the end “services” provide many opportunities for consumers and business alike, but also require thought on how to best leverage, especially for businesses that have existing investments in data and applications.

Microsoft has made significant bets in services starting in the mid 1990’s.  Beyond our consumer portal offerings Microsoft made some core technology bets on XML, SOAP and other standards that allow our products and platforms to enable and support a service-based environment.  Based on those early investments today customers can leverage services (via Services Oriented Architecture) within their environments, or take advantage of new Web-based service offerings like Forefront Security, or Xbox Live, because the fundamentals for a service based world are in place.   The fact that Office, and Sharepoint and InfoPath and SQL and BizTalk and Visual Studio and .NET all work so well together for the creation and consumption of services is because of these bets.  These investments stretch across all our products and technologies and provide the fabric for the support of a variety of services. 

Once we get into a conversation on services, it’s often helpful to have a conversation around a taxonomy for services as not all services are created equal.  There are of course the core platform technologies like XML, SOAP, HTTP, etc. the provide the fabric across the products and some core foundation offerings like IIS and Silverlight that just allow the platform to support core service functionality.  Above that there are three core types of services...Building Block, Attach and Finished services.  

Building Block Services are those services a developer would use in the creation of applications that would save them time.  In many ways they are like the Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) but in this case for services.  As part yesterday’s news, we announced an update to BizTalk Services which enables developers to more rapidly and cost-effectively build composite applications and open up new opportunities for businesses.  We are steadily evolving and building innovation into BizTalk Services with the great feedback we receive from enterprises to startups. Keep it coming.  To get more information on these services check out http://biztalk.net.

 

Attached Services provide additional functionality for on premise offerings, like Forefront Security email filtering for exchange or Xbox Live for Xbox.  They take something you already have and make it better, with Windows Update being another example. 

Finished Services are services that you use to replace something you have today with a service offering equivalent, so hosted email or hosted CRM are good examples.   As part of the announcement we outlined some of the work going on around Microsoft Online, such as online services offerings for enterprises with more than 5000 seats. We have moved this offering out of the incubation phase and are making it more broadly available.  The services include Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft Office SharePoint Online and Microsoft Office Communications Online and will be delivered through Microsoft and our partners.

This taxonomy is useful in terms of how to think of service types and what might be useful for each individual or organization.  In the end for most mid-size and large organizations the ultimate answer will be some blend of their existing software and date and various service offerings of all the different types. There is no one answer for every company but rather we will all go through a collective learning as we evolve.    

The key with technology transformations is they never come as quickly as the pundits predict and the software + services world truly is an evolution for most people.  For those customers that have limited on-premise investments in infrastructure or applications today services can provide an opportunity to more quickly provide business capabilities.  For those organizations with existing investment how to balance existing investments in code and data with new opportunities that services provide is just another layer of consideration for the IT and Development professionals.  The beauty is there is no “right” answer but rather a strategy for each individual or business that best suits their needs.  Our goal at Microsoft is to provide the choices and frameworks to help people make intelligent decisions, while we, along with the industry, continue to make investments to help people take advantage of these new capabilities.  Stay tuned for more on this topic as we roll out more service offerings for developers and IT professionals over the next year. 

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