Microsoft brews enterprise Hailstorm

Despite lacking a clear business plan, Microsoft Corp. is preparing to release a new version of its .Net My Services infrastructure platform ahead of its expected deployment in the enterprise.

Microsoft delivered early versions of .Net My Services, formerly code-named Hailstorm, to developers at its October Tech Ed conference in Los Angeles. "Since then developers have told us they want these services enabled so that multiple operators can host and run them," said Adam Sohn, product manager for .Net platform strategy at Microsoft.

"The next step for us will be to give developers an updated version of the software," Sohn said. "We plan to do that sometime this spring."

However, Sohn admitted that Microsoft's approach to the market is still largely speculative, and commented that the focus is to see developers add value to and package up .Net My Service in compelling ways.

"We will certainly sell the infrastructure software to support this," Sohn said. "That is something we understand very well. We also plan to run data centers attached to MSN that offer these services." He added that working trials of the software are not expected to surface until late this year or early in 2003.

One of the problems Microsoft faces is finding real users for the services provided by the .Net My Services architecture, a sentiment expressed by one analyst who does not believe any will arrive soon.

"We are talking about services like messaging, calendar, and e-mail," said Rikki Kirzner, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I can't see customers, especially businesses, wanting to pay for these kinds of services that they can now get for free."

Meanwhile, Sohn again sought to dispel any remaining notions that these services were both intended just for consumers and that Microsoft would retain tight control.

"From the outset the idea was that enterprises could use this," he said.

Sohn said Microsoft has got the message and will not set itself up as the primary data center for .Net My Services. "We anticipate that ISPs, telcos, and enterprises will host the data and run these services for users," Sohn said.

.Net My Services will run only in the Windows environment, he added, but will support non-Microsoft access devices.

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