Microsoft's new plans for e-business, IM

The software giant unveils new strategies for e-business servers and corporate instant messaging during its Microsoft Exchange Conference.

4 min read
Microsoft unveiled new strategies for e-business servers and corporate instant messaging during its Microsoft Exchange Conference in Anaheim, Calif., on Tuesday.

Microsoft's new offering for e-business--code-named Jupiter--is a comprehensive set of server operating systems for doing business on the Web. Jupiter will bring together three separately available Microsoft server products--BizTalk Server, Content Management Server and Commerce Server--into one package. Microsoft unveiled Content Management Server 2002 on Monday.

"Microsoft is mounting serious competition for IBM in e-business, and with forthcoming releases of .Net technology, the vision should turn into reality," AMR Research analyst Eric Austvold wrote in a brief Wednesday.

"Many users are predisposed to technologies from IBM, BEA Systems, and Sun Microsystems, but many have evaluated Microsoft's latest technologies, looking for better efficiency than they get from their J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition)-based technologies," he wrote. "Microsoft is continuing to make headway in the holy war of J2EE versus .Net."

Microsoft and Sun have locked horns over developing Extensible Markup Language (XML)-delivered Web services delivered through .Net or J2EE. Meta Group predicted that BEA and IBM would be the dominant players in the J2EE server market over the next 18 to 24 months.

With Jupiter, Microsoft is doing to e-business server software what it did to desktop productivity applications. Microsoft grabbed a share in the word processing market from leader WordPerfect in the early 1990s by bundling several products together. Microsoft cobbled together Word, Excel and PowerPoint to create Office, which sold for about the same price as WordPerfect or any of the three Microsoft products separately.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company appears to be doing the same thing on the server side by bringing the three separate products together as Jupiter.

"They'll be available (separately) until Jupiter ships," said Paul Flessner, senior vice president of .Net Servers. "We hope to decrease customers' TCO (total cost of ownership) by bringing the three products together as one." Regarding Jupiter's availability, "We just don't honestly--late '03, early '04," he added.

Microsoft plans to introduce Jupiter in two phases, with the first set of technologies on business process management and Web services. The second phase would focus on e-commerce features and managing online content.

Road to Greenwich
Microsoft's other big code-named project is Greenwich, through which the company hopes to deliver corporate-class communication, such as instant messaging. The software titan is positioning Greenwich as a real-time communications and collaboration opeerating system around which third-party developers and big businesses can create more sophisticated messaging, videoconferencing and Internet-based communications applications.

Greenwich is supposed to be integrated into Windows .Net Server 2003, which Microsoft is expected to formally launch early next year. Greenwich won't come until much later.

"Think of this as a feature of .Net Server that didn't make the ship schedule," said Katie Hunter, Greenwich product manager. "It will be delivered a little bit later, probably two quarters following."

Microsoft expects to deliver instant messaging first and build on other communications technologies later.

"At the infrastructure level we have things making sure that the interaction of the communications can be secure," unlike typical consumer IM, Hunter said. "So the IM you and I would have would be encrypted, very easily managed and conversations are logged and audible."

Microsoft has been pushing instant messaging for the corporate market since the company incorporated the technology into Windows XP. Dubbed Windows Messenger, the product delivers instant messaging over the Internet using Microsoft .Net servers or over corporate Intranets via Exchange Server.

Bob O'Brien, group product manager of the Windows .Net Server division, said moving the capabilities to the operating system from Exchange is necessary to extend the messaging capabilities for businesses.

"The path that we were on and the path most people in the industry are on today is more of a contained strategy," he said. "On Exchange you can do instant messaging within the firewall easily, but when you start to bridge that out beyond the firewall to connect businesses and people, that strategy is not as strong as it could be to corporate class."

In a report issued last week, Gartner analyst Mark Rasinko wrote that "during 2003, discussions of IT-enabled business change will start to center on the topic of time. A focus on time-based transformation will emerge because it meets the current needs for tight financial controls, clear justification of expenditure and transparent measures of value creation."

He identified a number of technologies that would be important for what he described as the real-time enterprise (RTE). "Many more timesaving technologies are being added, such as wireless data access, Web services and instant messaging," he wrote. "RTE offers a framework for leveraging and exploiting technological possibilities."