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IBM chides Microsoft over SOA

Big Blue claims Microsoft leans too hard on Windows-oriented, proprietary standards for its service-oriented architecture.

IBM has criticized Microsoft over its approach to service-oriented architecture, saying the software giant offers a "lightweight messaging infrastructure."

Service-oriented architecture, or SOA, links business applications to provide services. By creating an architecture where applications communicate with each other, using protocols including Extensible Markup Language (XML), the aim is to enhance business processes. SOA requires open standards to link applications. These can be produced by third-party vendors or in-house.

IBM said on Monday that Microsoft's approach to SOA was stymied by its emphasis on linking Microsoft-compatible processes.

"We're doing all platforms, all applications," IBM Software Group executive Steven Mills told ZDNet UK. "We're integrating everything. Microsoft is trying to provide connectivity capabilities for those that are running on Windows platforms. That's a profound difference."

"Their perspective is how to make Windows environments connect, as long as you're using Microsoft technology. Our view is: how do you make every environment connect whether you are using Microsoft or anyone else's technology," Mills said.

Mills claimed there is a "big difference" between IBM and Microsoft's approaches, saying that, in contrast to Microsoft, IBM uses open standards for XML and Web services.

XML is used in SOA to describe both the data in the applications and the metadata necessary for the interaction between the applications.

Is Microsoft's OOXML still proprietary?
Microsoft and IBM have tussled over XML standards. Microsoft favors Office Open XML (OOXML), which was originally developed in-house at Microsoft.

Microsoft wants OOXML to be accepted as an ISO standard. It insists that OOXML, having gained certification from standards organization Ecma International, is now an Ecma concern, and no longer a proprietary standard.

Microsoft is one of the major technology players that participate in Ecma, along with IBM. IBM, however, uses and favors OpenDocument Format (ODF), an ISO-certified, open-source standard. The ODF Alliance and many in the open-source community argue that OOXML is proprietary.

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.

"SOA is not just about the message-passing architecture, which is why Microsoft SOA is significantly different from IBM," he added. "The (Microsoft Developer Network) mechanism is a lightweight messaging infrastructure in a message-based environment, whereas IBM delivers a fully functioning infrastructure."

Microsoft was unvailable to comment at the time of writing.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.