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Indian ISV's rev up for .NET

Ever since Microsoft announced its Hailstorm and .NET initiatives, the developer community in India has been quite enthusiastic and eager to roll out applications for this platform. Already several ISVs have demonstrated proof-of-concept applications and services to show their state of readiness and capability

The final specifications for Microsoft's .NET platform have not yet been released, but already several Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) in India are showing proof-of-concept applications (prototypes) and beta versions of products/Web services for the .NET platform. Six local ISVs have already demonstrated applications/services at the launch of Hailstorm in India, in May 2001. Microsoft has acknowledged this talent and enthusiasm by investing an additional $75 mn (approx Rs 370 crore) into its India Development Center at Hyderabad. Much of this investment will go towards .NET development.

"More than 100 Indian companies have shown interest in .NET and are currently at some stage of development work for this platform," says Daniel Ingitaraj, Marketing Manager-.NET Servers & Developer Tools, Microsoft India. "Developer interest has grown tremendously since we first partnered with six big local firms, and we expect more companies to join in over the coming weeks and months."

Earlier this year Microsoft partnered with TCS, Mastek, Wipro, Infosys, Satyam, and NIIT. But that list has grown to include Aditi Technologies, Financial Technologies, Vortex Technologies, i-Flex Solutions, Plexus Technologies, Aztec and others.

"We recently partnered with some more companies to represent India in a worldwide .NET partnership programme dubbed First Wave," informs Ingitaraj. "We don't have any selection criteria for partners, but strongly consider things like domain knowledge, existing technology base, and overall understanding of and commitment to .NET."

The First Wave programme includes 70 companies from various countries, and has been created to help ISVs and customers develop solutions using Visual Studio.NET (VS.NET), the next version of Microsoft's developer suite.

.NET FRAMEWORK

Microsoft has worked with more than 200 companies, 20 universities and dozens of individuals reviewing and improving the .NET Framework architecture. Currently, over eight million individual developers are building business applications using VS.NET.

The .NET framework (the infrastructure for the overall .NET platform) is still in beta stage with the final specification expected in December this year. In fact, VS.NET is also in beta. In the meantime, ISVs have developed proof-of-concept applications (prototypes), or beta software with the final versions expected to ship sometime next year.

Local ISVs are very excited about .NET and are eagerly awaiting the final versions of .NET and VS.NET. Here's what one ISV had to say: "We started working on .NET from February 2001 and immediately recognized a great technology that can simplify information retrieval for end users--this is possible because of Web services," says Satya VVV, CEO, Vortex Technologies. "We decided to focus on the .NET platform after we realised that the features of this framework will ultimately result in lower cost and ease of use (of applications/services). We were able to complete our .NET projects because of coherent support from Microsoft India."

The buzz of .NET worker bees can also be heard at the Microsoft India Development Center in Hyderabad, which is doing something different. Microsoft has outsourced some development work to its team in Hyderabad, which is mainly involved in facilitating interoperability between Windows and other OS platforms (like Unix).

Besides development at Hyderabad, there are many ISV's around the country who have already developed applications or are currently working on .NET projects.

Here is an update on some key projects that puts India firmly on the map of .NET developers.

TCS

With three major products already on the .NET platform, TCS is serious considering additional projects, especially for international clients. It has already developed MasterCraft.Net, Web services based on Quartz, and Web services using Consult.

MasterCraft.Net (TCS' product for the developer community), is a component development framework to build enterprise-class distributed applications. TCS says this product can reduce cost of development, bring about dramatic improvements in productivity. Features include open integration, technology proofing and use of proven design patterns. MasterCraft supports a repository-driven, role-based development process and includes a modeling tool that supports UML, a GUI modeler for Rapid Application Development, a model aware object-oriented specification language for server-side programming, and a rule-base engine to customize business rules.

MasterCraft.Net will support generation of COM+ components in C# and C++, Data Manager layer in ADO.Net and ODBC, GUI generation using Winform (VB.Net) and Webform (ASP.Net)

"In future releases, MasterCraft will provide plug and play generation and assembly of applications using Web services," says R Ramanan, VP-Global Microsoft Relationship Manager, TCS. "The current UML modeling framework will be enhanced to support Business Process Modeling (BPM). A model based generative mechanism will be provided to generate XLANG schedules interpreted by Microsoft BizTalk Server."

Web services based on Quartz is a core banking solution, which has already been implemented at various institutions worldwide. TCS says it is developing various XML Web services over Quartz using .NET technology. Thus, the Quartz functionality can be used through any front-end, whether it is .NET, Java/JSP, Client-Server etc.

TCS is also developing a .NET front-end to enable one to use a Quartz Web service to transfer funds to an account via his/her WAP phone, desktop browser or even a PDA.

Web services using Consult (TCS' intelligent information retrieval product) provides information search/retrieval using 'inexact' techniques. Consult does not need exact inputs of required information but tolerates noise, misspelling, synonyms, acronyms, abbreviations and approximate quantitative information.

TCS is building Consult-based XML Web services for a variety of verticals such as banking and insurance. These Web services will help sharing information between business partners.

TCS is also involved with .NET development of applications/services for its clients.

For the Indian portal WebHealthCentre.com, it has developed Passport services (a first for any Indian portal). Initially, Online Doctor's Appointments, Online Health Directory and Online Lab Reports are some of the XML Web services being offered. In addition, TCS also has integrated its Hospital Management System (HMS) in the backend for the lab reports service. This service is loosely coupled-which means it can use data from both labs associated with hospitals using HMS and also from labs which have no HMS. The On-line Health Directory Service can be accessed via a Mobile or PDA to locate nearest doctors, blood banks etc.

TCS is also developing an Automotive Emission System (AES) for a leading company in the US. This is a B2B service over the Web for automobile companies that use emission control systems in their automobiles. AES will provide OEMs (like Ford Motors) and Canners (like Visteon) the capability to run various scenarios, place and track orders for AES samples on the company's website. The solution is built over Commerce Server 2000 and BizTalk Server 2000. The Web services are built using SOAP and XML.

Online Solo Front-end (in Norway): OSFE is the main channel application for receiving orders for a leading telecom company in Scandinavia. OSFE has Dealers Portal, OSFE User Services and OSFE Business Services to communicate with middleware. These Web services are built using ASP.Net, SOAP and XML. Similarly, the related components are developed using C#.

Mastek

Mastek has developed beta versions of two applications: Mastek-Billing.NET and eGoldmine. The former is a billing product designed to handle the complexities and variations of ASP and ISP billing. According to Mastek, Billing.NET is available in the form of Web services, enables flexible data transfers and allows end users to integrate their interfaces with other Web services.

eGoldmine is a sales and distribution management system that integrates information from warehouses, factories, and sales in the areas of stock, sales orders dispatch & invoicing, and collections & receivables.

Samar Gupta, a consultant from the technical cell group at Mastek says these products are in Beta 2 and Beta 1 respectively and final versions will roll out once the final specifications of .NET are available. "Meanwhile, Mastek is perfecting both products and also developing prototype applications for international clients," says Gupta.

Infosys Technologies

Developers at Infosys' .NET Centre of Excellence (COE) have developed two proof-of-concept applications for the Retailing and Financial service industries. These are the Order processing and Product Recall application and the Straight Through Processing product.

The Order processing and Product Recall application leverages Web services, mobile devices and seamless multi-channel integration. It showcases the benefits of data synchronization, automation of key business processes and perishable foods retail value chain integration in driving business efficiencies and customer satisfaction.

The Straight Through Processing application has been built as a part of the solution for securities trading using the .NET Framework, XML Web services, Windows Service and Windows Applications. The automation of Securities Trading (also known as Straight Through Processing) is showcased with the .NET technology.

"The application implements some stages in Straight Through Processing (STP), which is a step forward to reduce the settlement period from current T+3 to T+1. The STP process comprises of client (Investment Manager and Broker) interaction with back office (Stock Exchange)," says Subu Goparaju, Head-SETLabs and Associate VP, Infosys Technologies.

NIIT

NIIT has developed the AskAnExpert Web Service, which is designed to provide Helpdesk functionality to multiple sites on various topics. When used by subscriber websites or corporate networks, AskAnExpert allows users to post queries on the subscriber sites. The queries are routed to the concerned personnel based on the topic/subject of the query, availability, expertise level, workload of the helpdesk personnel and the subscription model of the Web service. Mail notification goes to the user when his query is answered.

NIIT is currently working on eProcurement.Net. It enables organizations to set up private or public marketplaces for MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) items to address enterprise-wide purchasing needs of their users. It supports catalogue and non-catalogue based buying, workflow for approvals, tax calculations, dynamic pricing, and multi-level organizational hierarchy for both buyers and suppliers. It uses XML, SOAP, Commerce Server 2000, BizTalk Server 2000 and Hailstorm Web services to achieve the same.

"The conceptualization for AskAnExpert happened in March and this product was launched in June," informs Harita Gupta, Divisional Head, E-com Centre of Competence, NIIT. "This product was showcased during the Hailstorm preview event held at Bangalore in April this year. The development of eProcurement.Net is in the last phase and we hope to launch this product in October 2001. We are working on some Web Services Solutions and Frameworks for Financial Services, Insurance, Banking, Retail and Transport verticals. These Web Services are in various phases of implementation and will be available by December."

Financial Technologies

FT says its NeT.net Internet trading engine has been deployed in over 80 percent of the top Indian e-Broking portals. The Engine has been re-architected for the .NET platform using Visual Studio.Net Beta 2. The product extensively uses XML and Web services to fetch and render data at the browser front-end.

i-Flex Solutions

i-Flex has developed a Web-based service named ComEX as proof-of-concept application for Commodity Exchanges. i-Flex says ComEX will enable buyers and sellers of commodities to transact online in a highly secure, scalable and available environment using the .Net platform. Using the solution and the platform, i-Flex can assist existing exchanges to create or extend services for commodity exchange.

The two main functional aspects of the solution are Online Tendering and Online Order Matching. In Online Tendering, registered traders place requests to buy/sell a commodity and the system accepts bids from other traders against that request. When a request expires, the bids received are processed either manually by the initiator of the request or by the Winner Robot, to create orders. Bidders can use the services of a 'Bid-automation Robot' to automatically improve their bids when other traders place counter bids.

In Online Order Matching, registered traders place orders to buy/sell a commodity. The orders placed are processed by the system to match the orders and create deals.

"We are actively working with some of our existing clients to plan and migrate their existing applications, as well as new applications to Microsoft's .NET platform," says Vikram Gupta, Head-E-Solutions, i-Flex solutions.

Aditi Technologies

The Bangalore-based Aditi Technologies is working on the beta version of an application code-named PowerPortal.net.

"The PowerPortal suite is for enterprises who are looking to rapidly set up a portal comprising B2B commerce, information exchange, and content management capabilities," says Rajesh Thachil, Head I.S. & Microsoft Practice. "The functionality offered by PowerPortal is not specific to any specific vertical. However it would add value to mid-size enterprises that either do a lot of B2B trading with suppliers (manufacturing) or are information-oriented (news agencies, financial information services etc)."

The application comprises three modules that offer related sets of functionality. The PowerCommerce module is built on the Commerce Server 2000 platform and allows firms to rapidly configure their application into B2C, B2B Private or Global exchanges using prebuilt frameworks. The PowerDocuments module is built on the Microsoft Sharepoint Portal Server and provides features for sharing documents across the enterprise. The InfoExchange module is built using the BizTalk Server platform and allows real-time, XML-based exchange of all kinds of organizational information.

The final version of PowerPortal is expected by December 2001.

Aditi has also developed Collaborative Solutions using Exchange Server 2000 and an Internal Document Management application for the Aditi Intranet.

"Aditi Technologies has worked with Microsoft to develop the first internally deployed application using Exchange 2000 and the Web Store. Aditi also created a collaborative application on the same platform for CDS Consulting Services in Japan," informs Thachil.

The Internal Document Management application uses SharePoint Portal Server from the .NET family of products. The application provides advanced functionality for information sharing, document routing/workflow and powerful search capabilities to locate the right documents.

Vortex Technologies

The Hyderabad-based Vortex Technologies has completed two products namely SofTrack.Net and PowerTrack.Net. The former is a software project management tool, which focuses on software metrics and measurements to successfully manage the project. The key feature of SofTrack is metrics and measurements, which is a neglected area in many organizations. "CMM level 4 requires objective measurement of processes, but unfortunately, many software organizations use man hours for process measurement," says Satya VVV, CEO Vortex Technologies.

SofTrack.Net facilitates interactive planning among team members. It gives every process owner the freedom to plan on his own, within his process. SofTrack also brings in the management expertise required to manage component-based enterprise applications that are different from traditional business applications in many ways. Traditional top down organizational structures and linear, step-by-step development strategies were well suited to monolithic, self-contained, stand-alone systems. In contrast, the distributed nature of component-based systems lends itself better to the model of small cooperative self empowered teams and a more cyclical iterative development process.

Vortex's other application, PowerTrack.NET will be offered as an end-user service in the ASP model. Here the end users are from the construction industry and they may not have the necessary infrastructure/technical expertise to maintain the necessary hardware and software to effectively use the application.

"We haven't undertaken any external projects yet but will pursue the same once the final release of Visual Studio .NET is available," says Satya.

Wipro Infotech

Although Wipro hasn't developed any products on the .NET platform, it claims to be among the first in Asia to have built user-centric XML-based Web services for Microsoft's Hailstorm.

Wipro is currently developing proof-of-concept applications/services for wholesale banking; for a travel portal; collaboration & conferencing; dealer-distributor integration solutions; an employee self-service portal.

"The proof-of-concepts are expected by the end of October," informs Monish Mishra, Business Development Manager, Wipro Infotech. "Besides this we are in the proposal stage for three or four projects concerned with the.NET framework--primarily Web services and Biztalk-based projects."

Satyam Computer Services

Satyam has developed Health Online, a healthcare solution that enables physicians to discharge their daily chores efficiently, thereby saving time and effort spent on the administrative aspects of healthcare. Health Online is a Web-based solution that lets a physician access all the information and resources required to treat a patient.

Third party applications from hospitals, test labs, and health insurance providers, that are distributed across the Internet, are seamlessly integrated using Hailstorm and Web services technology,

Plexus Technologies

Plexus conducted a proof of concept project for ClickForSteel.com, wherein it ported the existing solution (in ASP and ActiveX) to the .NET platform. The project had two aspects-front-end and back-end. The front-end was implemented using ASPX scripting and encapsulated all the rendering logistics. The back-end was implemented using Web services.

Plexus is currently pursuing projects for the Government of Maharashtra and Godrej Sara Lee. Both projects are in the proposal stage.

The former project calls for the creation of a government website containing general information, and specific guidelines for all sub-departments to follow. Plexus plans to build guidelines across the site by allowing the departments to create and share Web services from individual deployments.

For Godrej Sara Lee, the project requires the implementation of an intranet environment for internal users and external entities to access information. Plexus plans to build this intranet using .NET technologies.

More Information
Microsoft India Development Center
www.microsoft.com/india/indiadev

Microsoft E-commerce site
www.microsoft.com/INDIA/ECOMMERCE/

GotDotNet
www.gotdotnet.com

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