says .Net is a framework for distributing Web services.
But what exactly is .Net and how will consumers or businesses
benefit from Web services? We caught up with Michael
W. Platt to find out. Platt is presently working on
the Microsoft .Net Enterprise Architecture Strategy
as part of the .Net Platform Strategy Architecture Group.
He is directly responsible for .Net technical architecture.
by Brian Pereira
has been much confusion about what .Net is all about.
What's the long and short definition?
.Net is a number of different things. At one end, it's
used as a brand and at the other end it's a specific
piece of technology. As a brand and in terms of functionality,
it's all about connectivity, how you connect applications
It's not just a framework for distributing services
(via the Web), but also for using the services.
I believe people will first start using .Net technologies
inside a firewall (within a corporate network), then
use it outside (on the Internet).
From a usage point of view, .Net is all about the use
of services, both inside and outside the corporate network.
It is all about connecting pieces of functionality.
As an architecture, it has a number of elements and
When you look at Web services, these are actually using
a message parsing paradigm. Architecting a services-based
system is similar; it's a message parsing systemtechnology
that has been around for quite a while.
You connect the service using messaging. Of course this
is underpinned by standards like XML, SOAP, HTTPs, WSDL,
So .Net is all about building functional Web services,
and anyone can use Web services. It's all about connectivity
to functional services.
What kind of useful Web services are available today?
We see a lot of Web services happening inside an organization.
People are building Web services for their customer
At Microsoft for instance, we use Siebel CRM for our
customer database and we built a front-end for it. And
we package this as Web services. Now we can also integrate
it with our SAP systems. This is an example of Web services.
So a Web service allows you to integrate systems and
Another possible application is integration of an individual's
banking services. Like aggregating all credit card billing
A customer may want to integrate information for all
his products selected from different divisionsWeb
services makes this possible.
The first application of Web services will be within
organizationsfor integrating their information.
What is Microsoft's roadmap for developing .Net and
getting the world to use Web services? What kind of
.Net products and services exist today?
All our products will soon be based on .Net and
XML Web services. It will be some time before all our
products will be written in C#. That doesn't mean existing
products that are not written in C# can't be used for
Web services today. We are committed to moving all our
products to .Net and it will take some time. But most
of them support .Net today, in some form or the other.
Similarly .Net server, i.e. Windows will have support
for XML as part of the operating system. Moving forward
we will provide more .Net functionality in each product.
.Net and Web services are being used today in many prominent
organizations. For instance the Australian government
uses it. They take big pieces of government functionality
(business licenses for instance), and they provide those
as Web services, so other government firms can connect
More companies will leverage on Web services to integrate
information from different services and provide it as
a value add. In banking, Citibank is presenting some
services through Web services. There are companies like
Reuters which are using this to provide financial services.
It can also be used for tying up trading systems in
the stock exchange.
In India we have quite a few companies who worked on
Web services. The first one is CoOptions Technologies
Limited, a company which is trying to empower the rural
women of Andhra Pradesh. CoOptions developed 'Mahila
Spurthi.' for the women's self help groups in rural
areas. The project aims to facilitate bank transactions
and lending records, communication with different agencies,
like government offices (PHC, Police Station, etc);
dissemination of information to users via IDACs(Information
Dissemination and Acquisition Centers) and performance
reviews of all the groups that transact business at
The second example is Financial Technologies. They are
using Web services for a foreign exchange trading platform.
This is a complete end-to-end platform built on Microsoft
technologies. Their FXDirect service extensively uses
and relies on the .Net Framework, such as Visual Studio.NET,
.NET Remoting, COM+ components, Windows 2000 Server
to deliver mission-critical performance.
There are other Web services platforms. What would
you like to see common among these different
There are actually three things here. IBM WebSphere
is a productthey have a product and a set of services.
They are thinking of using Services Oriented Architecture
(SOA); Sun has Services on Demand (SOD), and we've got
.Net XML Web services. They all work towards the same
One thing I would like to see at the architecture level,
is all of them using the same terminology. We are all
providing the same functionality, so why not have the
same terminology? There are no standards for terminology
so customers get very confused.
But how will the various services and systems talk
to each other?
We believe that XML Web services is a standard for integration
of services. But XML Web services doesn't tell you how
to do messaging between those systems. It doesn't tell
you how to do security between those systems. We have
come to a point where we see that there are a whole
lot of other things that are needed for a big company
to deploy these services.
That's where WS-I (Web Services Interoperability) comes
in. It encompasses all of thissecurity, transactions,
process support, integration support etc. And WS-I has
specs for each aspect, for instance a WS-Security spec,
WS-Transactional spec, WS-Messaging spec, a discovery
(Ed: The WS-I or Web Services Interoperability organization
is an open, industry organization chartered to promote
Web services interoperability across platforms, operating
systems, and programming languages. For more information
log on to www.ws-i.org).
XML Web services is going to be the way of connecting,
in terms of functionality. WS-I is a mechanism to support
all these additional things like processes, security,
We believe in open standards for protocols so that we
can connect other systems using XML Web services, to
provide a complete end-to-end solution. We are going
to provide the ability for Active Directory to connect
to the WS security spec. So Active Directory security
becomes part of a much larger security system.
We don't believe there's going to be one security system
for everyone to use. Everyone should have the ability
to devise their own security system, but these should
all work together. We believe we should have federated
systems where possible.
Whatever happened to .Net My services? What about Hailstorm?
My Services talked about our vision in the consumer
space. But we didn't differentiate between vision and
what was possible and practical today. We are still
working on the plumbing (the technology) for My Services.
We used it as a vision, but the market place wasn't
ready for this. It's still some time away from the product
stage. Hailstorm is the code name for My Services.
Pereira can be reached at email@example.com