In a keynote address, Paul Flessner, Microsoft's senior vice president of .net enterprise servers, outlined what Microsoft views as the three pillars of computing: application models, data unification and trustworthy computing. He then went on to make it clear that Microsoft feels that the foundations of this view are based on XML Web services.
He said, "In the relatively short time that businesses have been building and running XML Web services, it is clear that the benefits of this technology are numerous and bountiful, but there is still tremendous opportunity to innovate and continue to improve the experience and value for our customers."
After outlining the concepts, Microsoft moved on to show its commitment by revealing the growing role of XML in its products. It announced Exchange 2000 Server XML Web Services Toolkit for Microsoft .net, and released betas of SQL Server 2000 Notification Services and SQL Server CE 2.0 and two new versions of Commerce Server.
The toolkit allows developers to access the scheduling, contacts, workflow and messaging capabilities in Exchange from their own applications. This allows contextual collaboration to be included in these applications and spreads Exchange's information more broadly across an enterprise to unify disparate functions, especially where scheduling is concerned. The toolkit contains sample code, white papers and how-to videos alongside a self-paced training course in designing Web services.
Notification Services is based on personal subscriptions to information held in a SQL Server database. When an item such as a document changes, the subscribers are notified and can check what the changes mean to them. SQL Server CE offers a compact database around which applications for mobile devices can be developed.
Commerce Server is now available in Enterprise and Standard editions. It brings together the previous releases of Commerce Server and Site Server Commerce Edition and integrates with Visual Studio .net and Microsoft's .net Framework.
The Standard Edition is aimed at medium-sized businesses and offers catalogue management, personalisation and business analytics for £4,777 per CPU, with a limit of two CPUs.
The Enterprise Edition builds on this to offer more sophisticated analytics and greater performance and availability. This version is Windows 2000 Datacenter-certified and has an unlimited CPU price of £13,640 per CPU.
Microsoft's pillars of computing
At the moment, Web services are being used to integrate internal systems and connect them with partners and customers. Existing technologies are wrapped in a layer of XML Web services. In the future, these monolithic systems will be transformed into constituent, autonomous XML Web services.
XML provides a mechanism to bring structured and unstructured data together and, in turn, this will provide a basis for knowledge management - the ability to find any data, anywhere, in any format.
Systems should be safe, private and as constantly available as basic utilities like water and telecommunications. This can be done by making software and services inherently more secure and allowing customers to make clear and informed choices about their security and privacy.