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perspectives on open-source and web services

Friday, February 04, 2005


Microsoft is apparently on a new marketing push to tout their efforts towards interoperability. I thought it was mildly amusing to see the "Interoperates with..." list on their page, and its notable lack of anything Linux.

also interesting is the fact that in Gates's letter, he uses the tired old FUD tactic of claiming that because open-source systems CAN permutate, they will do so, and that it will only be bad for companies. the consequence he points out is the increased amount of work on implementing and testing the resulting disparate systems. but in this same letter, Gates goes on to explain how using XML Web Services "significantly reduces the cost and complexity of connecting disparate systems..."

so what do you get when using .NET to build web services? you won't get disparate systems. in fact, you get the Microsoft package, hook, line, and sinker. you'll be required to develop on Windows, your .NET web services will have to be deployed on Windows, and the .NET client apps you build will have to be running on a Windows box with a .NET framework installed. but that shouldn't be a problem, because all your client apps will only ever be running on Microsoft clients, right?

on the other hand, if you choose some kind of open-source platform, you face the risk of having continuous innovation, and improvement made available to you, to be adopted by you when you choose. furthermore, since we're talking about XML Web Services, XML is just text. which means that any system that understands text is interoperable with any other system that understands text, and the XML/Web Services method makes it straight-forward. so the open-source method gives you the freedom to choose a very specific kind of system, while still being interoperable with any other system.

I give credit to Microsoft for recognizing interoperability as a huge benefit to a system, but I think they're trying to convince everyone that because they've been involved with the Web Services standards for a long time, their interoperability platform is intrinsically better than others. and it's just not so. theirs uses XML Web Services, and any others can too. we're still just talking about text, and any platform out there can do the job.

well, maybe not an abacus.


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