Jul 19, 2010

Microsoft Demonstrates Component Thinking

Loraine Lawson over at the IT Business Edge Integration blog discusses Microsoft’s entry into the MDM space in her most recent post.  She notes that:

“I was also intrigued to learn that the whole thing is API-based. Why does that matter? As Hayler explains, it allows ISVs to build apps on top of MDS. That's a good thing, since the description of MDS sounds pretty bare-bones at this point. The idea seems to be that ISVs will be able to build on better user interfaces and create support for things like version comparison, which, oddly, it does not provide out of the box.”

I was surprised at this bit of thinking.  It’s always nice when a vendor product provides ways of extending it’s functionality.  It’s occasionally useful for enterprise IT shops, and often useful for niche vendor’s or ISV’s looking for opportunities to extend a major vendor’s product(s).  But that’s some old school thinking.

Since the early days of COM (Microsoft’s Common Object Model), followed by COM+ and ActiveX, Microsoft has been exposing component level capabilities of their products.  Thus, not only could their products be used for their primary purpose, but they could be leveraged to provide modular capabilities to other applications.

Take a look here…  This is a presentation slide showing the object palette of the BPM tool from Acentn, Agilepoint:


It’s a little hard to see (click for larger image), but notice the Microsoft exposed functionality – Exchange server can be used to create meetings, appointments, and read them later (calendar engine), Excel can be used to read data, write data, and perform calculations (calculation engine), Active Directory can be directly accessed to manage a user base (user management engine), and Sharepoint + Infopath can be access to generate a variety of automated portal functions.  Even Word can be used as a print engine.

So when Microsoft says their MDM tool is exposing it’s functionality via an API layer (SOA based I hope), my thought is how I’ll be able to orchestrate that functionality into business solutions I’m architecting, and how well they’ll fit various BPM processes being created.

Extending the application is nice, decomposing the application into function modules (with an easy to access open standards SOAP API) is Service Oriented Architecture.  In this area Microsoft’s thinking is way ahead of the competition.