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Microsoft Application Platform Leadership Highlighted by Analysts in Hot Growth Areas


People are at the heart of every successful business. They make great things happen every day by connecting with employees, customers and suppliers, and making the right decisions at the right times. Certainly, software plays a critical role in helping people communicate, collaborate, and understand their business. However, IT and Development Teams are often saddled with the costs of “keeping the lights on” instead of being able to capitalize on new opportunities to advance their organizations. How can IT better align with the business needs?

PressPass spoke with Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s general manager of Application Platform Marketing, to get a better understanding of today’s IT challenges and what the Application Platform team is doing to address those needs.

PressPass: What has been happening with the Application Platform group this year?

Guggenheimer: This has been an exciting year as we continue to innovate on new strategies and offerings. I am proud of the progress we’ve made and how our strides with the Microsoft Application Platform helped make it easier for people to engage technology to drive real business results.

Our recent quarterly earnings report showcased Microsoft’s Application Platform products as a key contributor to the sustained growth of the Server and Tools business unit. In fact, this quarter marked the fifth year of double-digit growth for Server and Tools with 15 percent year-over-year revenue growth. But it’s not really about our growth, it’s about laying a foundation on which our customers and partners can innovate to meet their business needs.

Consequently, we’re very excited about what’s considered the most important enterprise launch in the history of Microsoft: the launch on Feb. 27, 2008 of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Working together, these products will provide a secure and reliable enterprise platform, the foundation for the next generation of Web-based service applications, virtualization and business intelligence.

PressPass: What is the Microsoft Application Platform and how does it help customers innovate?

Guggenheimer: Simply put, Microsoft’s Application Platform is a suite of products and technologies designed to help customers build, run and manage dynamic business applications. It encompasses key capabilities such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business processes, user experience, business intelligence (BI), data management and development tools. Through the .NET framework and key Application Platform products such as SQL Server, Visual Studio, Windows Server, SharePoint Server and BizTalk Server, we help customers realize the benefits of a more dynamic and agile IT environment. We touched on this topic recently at our TechEd Conference, and resources on this subject are available online.

The analyst community is really starting to report on our progress. Gartner placed us in the Leaders Quadrant for application infrastructure in a recent Magic Quadrant report. (“Magic Quadrant for Application Infrastructure, 2Q07,”1 June 2007, Simon Hayward, Massimo Pezzini, Jess Thompson, Yefim V. Natis)

Similarly, a recent independent report, the Forrester Wave, notes that “Microsoft is a Leader in Forrester’s evaluation of application server platforms, due to the strong and mature development, deployment, management, and interoperability features of its Windows Server platform, which is based on .NET.”

(“Microsoft Is A Leader In Application Server Platforms”, Forrester Research, Inc., July 2007)

We have been steadily innovating and delivering product updates to market. It is rewarding to work closely with the analyst community and earn their support for our efforts and results.

PressPass: You mentioned that BI is a key Microsoft Application Platform capability. What sort of investments is Microsoft making in this area?

Guggenheimer: Microsoft recently host thousands of customers at its first annual Business Intelligence Conference, which was a big success. BI is a top area of investment for our customers and for Microsoft, and we remain focused on bringing BI and performance management to every desktop, maximizing decision support and superior performance management across the enterprise. During the past year, we announced the acquisition of technologies from Dundas Data Visualization, Inc., and SoftArtisans. Combined with SQL Server Reporting Services, SoftArtisan’s OfficeWriter technology will enable business users to author and consume managed reports in Microsoft Office applications. Furthermore, the acquisition of Dundas’ Data Visualization products will enable employees to create information-rich reports and charts from within SQL Server Reporting Services. BI is data driven, and products such as SQL Server lay the foundation with delivery where users want it such as Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Excell Services, Office SharePoint Server and Office PerformancePoint Server 2007.

And as part of our extensible application platform, Microsoft’s partners are able to easily integrate those capabilities with other business applications and systems.

PressPass: SOA is certainly a hot industry topic as well. What sort of investments is Microsoft making in this area?

Guggenheimer: SOA is great approach to addressing today’s challenges and that’s why many of our technologies embrace service-orientation by design. Our investment really started more than seven years ago with the introduction of the .NET platform, setting the course for the real-world approach to SOA that we embrace today. At that time in our history, we set the bar for native Web service-based platforms built from the ground up. Our focus on SOA has not slowed. We’re continuing to deliver on this “real-world” approach with such tools as the SOA & Business Process Pack, enabling customers to purchase all the necessary components for SOA projects in an easy, affordable and integrated way. The SOA & Business Process Pack will be released this September with BizTalk Server 2006 R2.

The release to manufacturing of the .NET Framework 3.5 later this year is also a pay-off in our investment in SOA. The .NET Framework 3.5 builds on the user experience, communications and workflow advances, and includes capabilities for better integration with data, as well as standards-based Web services support.

PressPass: Can you explain what SOA and the .NET Framework mean for developers?

Guggenheimer: The .NET Framework enables developers to build applications that have visually compelling user experiences, seamless communication across technology boundaries, and the ability to support a wide range of business processes. A key element of this is of course SOA. The .NET Framework is a key enabler of SOA capabilities for our customers and is integrated across our server, middleware and client platforms to provide developers an end to end development environment and runtime.

Furthermore, John Rymer from Forrester wrote, “The .NET Framework 3.0 already contains the core concepts of services, service orchestration, and state management.” Rymer also wrote that Microsoft has “set the pace” in terms of ease of development, and noted the company “is ahead in the transition to SOA and digital business architecture.” (“Trends 2006-007 Application Server Platforms, Scaling Web Apps While Paving the Way for SOA“, Forrester Research, Inc., October, 2006)

To satisfy ourselves that we are providing the best tools possible for the developer community, we recently benchmarked the performance of .NET relative to other industry alternatives. The results speak for themselves and can be viewed on MSDN in the .NET StockTrader Sample Application.

For us, the real test is whether or not developers truly enjoy working with our technologies. A separate Forrester report also notes that in a recent survey of North American and European Enterprises, .NET is one of the two most commonly used development platform in the industry.(“The Forrester Wave™: Application Server Platforms, Q3 2007, Forrester Research, Inc., July 2007).

Additionally, our data shows that Visual Studio, built on the .NET Framework, is being used by more than five million developers worldwide. You can conclude that we’re putting the right tools in the hands of developers to really help them build high performing, next-gen applications.

PressPass: What do you mean by next-gen applications?

Guggenheimer: When we say next-generation applications, we think of applications that deliver the flexibility enabled by SOA and that embrace Web 2.0 capabilities. These applications draw upon data sources from across the company, and we help bring them together via Web services, ultimately enabling composition in new and value-added ways, resulting in a rich, user-centric experience. To help developers and designer collaborate on these next-gen and user-focused apps, we recently introduced new technology through Silverlight. As you may know, Silverlight is our cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET-based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web. The types of applications that Silverlight makes possible are just stunning – we showcased a lot of great examples at MIX and introduced Popfly, a Silverlight-based application a few weeks after that. We also announced a release candidate of Silverlight 1.0 last week and will have a lot more news about Silverlight in the coming months that we think the community will be excited about. We look forward to the next-gen innovations the community will build using this technology.

PressPass: As you mentioned, the analyst community has started to recognize the momentum that Microsoft’s Application Platform has generated. What reaction are you getting from customers and partners?

Guggenheimer: It’s been an honor to see how partners and customers have used our products to address the challenges they face. Microsoft has a long history of being a leader in the industry, providing innovative and cost-effective IT solutions, but we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today were it not for the feedback that customers and partners share from their experiences and expertise.

It’s this sort of feedback that we consider in identifying where to invest in the Application Platform. Analyst firms have cited the growth and the value of Microsoft’s Application Platform, and I have to assume that such recognition is a result of customer and partner contributions.

PressPass: It sounds like listening to customers and partners is essential to delivering great tools and technology for building platform solutions. How does Microsoft plan to communicate with its community more transparently?

Guggenheimer: We absolutely consider the feedback from both customers and partners to be an irreplaceable key to our success. Later this summer we’ll be launching a new blog, which will provide a forum for sharing and discussing ideas related to how IT can provide greater business value, help employees be more productive, and enable companies to be more agile. We’ve also created an e-mail alias to which partners and customers can send their suggestions for topics to discuss in the blog.

Our intent is that this be an opportunity for our customers, partners, and the community at large to take part in this conversation because these challenges certainly aren’t unique to any one company, partner or vendor. Hopefully people will take us up on our offer.


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