Friday, November 11, 2005

Evaluating Superplatforms / The Google Threat

In a comment on my The future of the ESB market posting, Matt Gunter asked a couple of questions. The first question is:

I am curious what your latest thoughts are about the relative value of .NET vs. J2EE "superplatforms"

Can they be fairly evaluated due to their radically different degrees of openness, standards support, and ability to leverage the value of open source-style collaboration?

These features are just some of the many features that should be considered when evaluating a superplatform. Personally I don't think that there are such radically different degrees of openness and standards support between the superplatforms. All superplatforms "embrace and extend" industry standards. .NET is built on an ISO standard. The Java platforms are built on JCP standards. All superplatforms provide excellent support for the stable bits of the web services framework (SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, WS-Security, and WS-I BP). Likewise, all superplatforms add their own proprietary bits that pretty much lock you into the platform. Users can avoid using these proprietary bits, but then they pass up some of the unique value-add of using the superplatform in the first place. If that's the goal, then I suggest using JBoss rather than one of the superplatforms.

There is one important difference between the Microsoft and the other superplatforms -- .NET doesn't support Java, and therefore doesn't support the plethora of popular open source rebel frameworks out there, like Struts, Spring, and Hibernate. Likewise, the Java-based superplatforms don't support the .NET languages, and therefore don't support the plethora of .NET frameworks out there. Microsoft supplies a tremendous number of built-in frameworks, and there's a vibrant ecosystem of both open source and commercial add-on frameworks.

One way of looking at the situation is that the open source community had to developed a bunch of rebel frameworks for Java mostly because the J2EE standard doesn't provide a reasonable set of built-in frameworks. Very few .NET users complain about how inadequate ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Avalon, and Indigo are. I don't know anyone that thinks that JSP/servlets is adequate without something like Struts, or that think that EJB CMP is a stellar piece of engineering.

Openness, standards support, and ability to leverage the value of open source-style collaboration are important considerations, but just as important are things like:
  • ease of use
  • completeness of solution
  • cohesiveness of the environment
  • integration with user productivity applications (e.g., Office)
  • integration with collaboration services
  • price
Platform selection is dependent on a number of factors and is strongly influenced by an organization's corporate principles. Every company has a slightly different position on a wide set of issues, e.g.:
  • how do you feel about open source?
  • are you risk takers or risk averse?
  • Do you prefer to buy from a sinlge vendor or cobble together a best of breed solution?
  • Do you tend to build or buy?
And now on to Matt's second question:
The same trends that are propelling Google seem to be working against Microsoft. Do these same trends not affect the longer-term prospects for "superplatforms"?
I agree that Google is a tremendous force to be reckoned with, and Google may very well emerge as the first in the next generation of superplatform vendors. But of all the current crop of superplatform vendors, I think Microsoft is best positioned to compete with Google. Microsoft is the only superplatform vendor that has any type of focus on the consumer marketplace. And Microsoft has already proven that it has the ability to make a massive mid-course change (embracing the Internet in the late '90s). I have a lot of confidence that Microsoft will remain in the game.

As for the other superplatform vendors, I don't think they realize yet that Google is a threat to them.


Matt Gunter said...

While I see the potential for Google to be a super platform, that is not the primary trend of "google-ization" that I see.

I view google as having a deep understanding of the value of the Internet and an ability to monetize that value. This has led them to change the economics in search and online advertising. With gmail and some of their other svcs, they also are demonstrating their ability to provide consumers superior alternatives to microsoft core functionality at zero cost.

This sharp axe of google and others( like mozilla and open office) chopping into the core of microsoft's consumer and collaboration apps, will increasingly be felt in microsoft shops and fragment the current status-quo.

This is just one example of microsofts' vulnerability to maintaining and delivering a cohesive platform. The more they try to offer cohesion, the less flexible their solution becomes. Isn't it this goal of cohesion that is the root-cause of their endless security bugs, their inability to maintain ship schedules, and even their lawsuits with Sun and the US Gov't?

Aside from this glaring risk, how does Msft's psuedo-standardization help it respond to other sources of innovation, besides google?

If you consider the potential affect of innovations in the following:
utility computing, virtualization, software licensing/distribution, usage models, and especially leaps in chip technology (e.g. niagara)
Couldn't they all end the illusion of safety offered by microsoft's cohesion and "standardization-without-competition" strategy.

Perhaps, the "cohesive" and "stable" notion of a superplatform creates a poor model to start from. How can so large a technology domain not breakup under its own weight?

Do you really think Microsoft can navigate around all of these risks at the same time and stay competitive, or are they fighting the last war?

Matt Gunter said...

I wanted to boil down my previous thoughts a little more......

The lack of options and alternatives within the microsoft "superplatform" could become their achille's heal when customers try to capitalize on various innovative shifts in the IT landscape.


Mallik said...

Microsoft has been traditionally a software products company.
What Google is doing is selling MS like products as a service. You don't need to install products with google and pay for use.
Google has entered into enterprise software market of portal,product information management and business analytics with services offerings of google portal , Google Base and Google Analytics. So are they challanging IBM, SAP & Oracle?
is the market moving towards application service provider model?

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