Interview: Trying to make it look easy

Interview: Trying to make it look easy

Vic Gundotra, director of platform marketing at Microsoft, has been given the task of firing up the marketing for Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) and COM+, the key pieces of the company's ongoing development strategy. IDG senior editor Niall McKay sat down and talked with Gundotra about how Microsoft is trying to change with the timesIDG: What are the challenges that Microsoft developers will face in large-scale applications?

Gundotra: The problem will become the whole concept of scaling. In the course of a few months, things have totally changed. Three years ago, NetWare, with a thousand users, was enterprise. You didn't build a Visa transaction system on NetWare or Windows NT in those days. But on the PC platform, a thousand users was scale. The high watermark today is something totally different.

So the question becomes - how do you deal with scaling on a PC platform and scale to the million users a day from the Internet?

Another thing the Internet radically changed was the issue of deployment. We know how to install Lotus and Photoshop. Now there are problems with that install. There's the problem of DLL hell.

Visual Basic 5 springs to mind

VB 5 - how many VB-run DLLs do you have on your system? And trying to manage that is an issue. The Internet has introduced something that customers just loved, which I call JIT Install. The name's caught on internally at Microsoft, but the idea about never installing an application . . .

When I go to MS Investor, I don't have to install anything. You go to whatever the URL is and the application is there and it's always fresh. You never say: "Oh, this is an old version of the application so I have to update." They change it on the server, and boom, you get this fresh version, this JIT install, so customers have been enamoured by this approach.

So Web or enterprise - it's all the same?

That's exactly right. The interesting thing is which applications have ever met those requirements on the PC platform? What would be a world-class example of an application today on the PC platform that's scalable, that's deployable just in time, that works in the offline case, that's manageable, that's distributed? There are only a few you could think of. Lotus Notes is a good example of such an application. Microsoft Exchange is another good example. The Exchange client works on a laptop when you're disconnected. Connect back in and it continues to work. It's manageable, with a good manageable administer command - there are 50,000 people using Exchange.

There's a move going on. Hewlett-Packard has joined with Iona, and Sun has joined with Visigenic. There's a move to put an amount of CORBA into the OS so there are operating system-level calls. This is a similar strategy to yours.

Look, forget all the fancy terms for CORBA and COM (Component Object Model). The truth is with the Internet - what used to be the case was there was this belief that you could write applications the old way: you could buy these big, fancy middle-tier servers, pay $US50,000 for a CORBA server, and that ORB (object request broker) server would do all the connections and the scaling.

The truth of the matter is people have realised with the disconnected case - where people were using laptops in cafes - that all those things that we incorrectly believed could just reside on some expensive middle-tier server, is not the way it's going to happen. In fact, all the rich services of scalability, transaction, better be on that laptop for that person sitting in that cafe. Otherwise, it changes how you write the application. When people suddenly realised this - and this happened relatively recently, they wanted it all in the operating system. And let me tell you, that's one of Microsoft's strengths.

DCOM and Red tape may spare Redmond

by Michael Vizard

If you're Microsoft trying to fend off the Department of Justice, all you really need to do is play for time. We note that Microsoft will be devoting much of its US TechEd conference to touting the benefits of components.

Microsoft's Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) architecture for Windows NT 5.0 will provide the framework for the interchangeable future. As the role of components increases, the role of the operating system will be greatly reduced. Instead of blatantly locking in users with its OS, Microsoft will adopt a more subtle lock-in strategy based on middleware.

If Microsoft can get IT managers to widely adopt its component architecture throughout the next two years, settling the case with the DoJ should become a lot easier.

All the company really needs to do is stall the Justice Department long enough to get NT 5.0 out the door in sufficient quantities then pledge to everyone how the company has changed its ways.

So the real question is, will the coming shift to components technology make the current Microsoft suit moot, or is the Justice Department smart enough to expand its suit by looking down the road to see where Microsoft really wants to go?

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