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Microsoft unleashes Falcon

A Microsoft technology called Falcon could make messages more likely to survive during network downtime.

Microsoft's long-rumored effort to bring a message-oriented middleware technology to market is about to pay off.

The middleware, code-named Falcon, is now in beta testing at a handful of Windows NT sites, Microsoft said today. The Falcon technology will tie together enterprise applications on Windows 95, Windows NT, Unix, and mainframe operating systems. Falcon will provide a fault-tolerant architecture that enables messages to be queued, which makes them more likely to survive during network downtime.

Global corporations use message queueing in communicating with different sites. Messages between applications are saved and routed through queues, and can be resurrected in case of a power outage, for example.

Analysts said Microsoft's entry into the middleware arena may result in a consolidation of the market, as smaller players get pushed out by the Redmond, Washington-based behemoth.

Sally Cusack, an analyst with the Dennis, Massachusetts-based Standish Group said similar queuing products from IBM and Digital are targeted at the high end, far from Microsoft's comfort zone at the desktop. But Microsoft is increasingly focused on this market as a result of the rapid adoption of Windows NT within corporate networks.

Cusack added that it will not matter if the initial versions of Falcon are not on par with other middleware products. People will still buy Falcon because it will eventually become an industry standard due to the ubiquity of Microsoft, she explained.

But users should be wary. "I will be interested to see how Microsoft does in service and support for this stuff. This is not like selling a GUI," Cusack said.

Falcon will allow corporate developers to tie new and existing Windows applications to back-end transaction processing systems, so users on PC-based systems can update remote applications.

Falcon will also be integrated with ActiveX technologies and products, enabling the development of intranet applications. Microsoft is working with Level 8 Systems to integrate the NT-based Falcon technology with Unix systems and mainframes.

Microsoft has not announced pricing or a ship date for Falcon.