Microsoft's .Net platform for Web services has been criticised because of the company's long-term stand against Java and its use of proprietary services. Even Microsoft's much vaunted Active Directory services technology, a foundation of the Windows 2000 server platform, now appears less significant in light of the .Net vision.
Gary Pugh, Oracle's director of product marketing for iPlatform, said that, ultimately, the choice of developer platform for Web services depends on what technology the developer is comfortable using.
He said it was unlikely that a Java developer would look at Microsoft's C#. "If there is no Java support in the .Net platform, developers will turn to a platform where they can use Java," he added.
For someone who is used to Oracle products, that platform would be Oracle 9i, said Pugh, adding that Oracle is planning to extend its Jdeveloper tool with a 9i version geared towards Java development for Web services. "We see a huge opportunity [for Oracle] if Microsoft is disenfranchising the Java community," he said.
Peter Joseph, Novell's director of corporate strategy, was also critical of Microsoft's mission to focus on .Net as a development platform. Web services need an architecture that the developer can use, he said, adding that the downside of .Net is that it lacks a developer platform.
In Novell's vision, the company's eDirectory directory services platform and DirXML interface tool can be used to publish existing applications as Web services.
With so much attention on the raw technology behind Web services, it is hard to see the real business benefit behind SAP's decision to use Sun's J2EE platform. Ovum analyst Gary Barnett said the main difference between the Sun and Microsoft approaches was that "Microsoft appears to be moving up the food chain".
Barnett said that while Sun was concentrating on the architecture, Microsoft was offering a platform through BCentral, its portal for small to medium-sized enterprises, which could in future deliver applications as Web services.
He said the biggest business benefit of Web services would be realised when internal processes are Web-based. "Web services [provide] a very good way to develop a service-oriented architecture [within businesses] where all key business processes are delivered as Web services."
Barnett cited PeopleSoft's ERP package as one example. He said PeopleSoft had an application-programming interface that allowed the application to receive an XML document. This is one step away from a Web service-based business process, he said.
After a week in the Web services spotlight, SAP now appears to be taking a softer line and said it would support both J2EE and .Net.
The company stressed that Java was being used internally at SAP. Nevertheless, SAP's forthcoming Web application server, due to be unveiled on 6 November, offers SAP developers both its existing ABAP proprietary programming language and J2EE.