Microsoft: Get ready for XML Web services

"Plan around XML-based Web services," said Neil Charney, director of the company's .Net Developer Solutions Group, during a keynote speech.

Companies should make sure that their developers are getting up to speed on this new technology, and before making IT purchases they should investigate how the products they are thinking about buying support XML-based Web services, Charney said.

XML is at the heart of Microsoft's .Net distributed-computing platform, which Microsoft introduced in mid-2000 and upon which the vendor is basing its current and future product development. The .Net platform is being designed to allow for the creation and provision of XML-based Web services that will be available and accessible from a broad variety of devices, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones and PCs.

The goal, ultimately, is to create a computing universe in which there is less "friction" between disparate systems and more interoperability, allowing an easier exchange of data, Charney said. "You can't tell your clients and business partners which systems to use," he said.

XML Web services are "reusable pieces of software" that interact over a network using standards such as XML and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and which can be combined and used in conjunction with other applications, according Microsoft.

"You need any-to-any integration" between applications, devices, operating systems and servers to function in this new phase of the digital economy, Charney said.

Microsoft is now building new products designed for XML-based computing and also retooling existing products to fit into the .Net architecture, including development tools, servers and operating-system software, Charney said.

".Net is about creating a seamless experience where your information follows you ... and where the technology recedes to the background and the experience comes to the foreground," he said in an interview after the speech. "It's technology catching up to our expectations."

He acknowledged that hearing Microsoft preach the interoperability gospel may seem unlikely.

"This may sound like a completely different message from Microsoft, but we understand that the way to solve the integration problem is something that needs to be based on open standards, and that's what XML Web services are," he said.

Once users realise that XML solves interoperability problems, vendors will have no choice but to pay attention to XML, he said.

"From the customer and developer point of views, the frustration over the last several years battling industry proprietary standards has been exhausting. ... and vendors will be chosen based on their support for XML-based services," Charney said.

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