Contrary to reports that Microsoft has abandoned its HailStorm technology, company officials have revealed plans to embed components of the XML schema and data-access technology throughout its .Net application, server, and client stack.
The software giant is combining HailStorm services, a unified storage system, and collaborative SharePoint services toward the goal of building a universal canvas infrastructure across multiple product groups.
Executives speaking at Microsoft Fusion 2002 in Los Angeles last week explained that SharePoint 2.0 will boast improved collaboration capabilities and will have close technical ties to XML-based Office 11, which is due mid-2003.
"You will see [a common approach to] XML schemas and XML methods for accessing the information that we want to pull together," said Gordon Mangione, vice president in charge of the SQL Server database at Microsoft.
"[To me] the universal canvas really means the ability to have both data structures converge around XML across the functionality that was represented in those application categories," said Jeff Raikes, group vice president of productivity and business services at Microsoft.
At its .Net update briefing for media and financial analysts this week in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft will detail the collaboration capabilities being baked into its .Net infrastructure.
SharePoint 2.0 will also include a new version of Small Business Server -- code-named Bobcat -- and SharePoint Team Services 2.0.
"What we're doing with .Net server is, ... [we're] integrating the SharePoint Team Services capability as a foundation for this kind of collaborative routine work, and that's going to begin with SharePoint Team Services 2.0," Raikes said.
Microsoft plans to use SharePoint 2.0 as a core technology to deliver "information workers" additional collaborative capabilities.
"I think it's very important that we think of what we do in the Office world as a smart client for plugging in to SharePoint Team Services," Raikes said.
Microsoft is also working to extend its client environment with the peer-services capabilities of Groove, according to industry sources.
The collaboration efforts contrast with Microsoft's decision in April to abandon its centralized .Net My Services initiative and focus on its Passport authentication service instead in an effort to move to a federated identity management model.
Microsoft also announced last week it will support SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), signaling that it will work more closely with the Liberty Alliance, IBM, and Sun to develop a common approach to federated ID management.
But some analysts are wary.
"These organizations need to ensure that different authentication and SSO [single sign-on] systems interoperate," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis. "[One] problem is that Microsoft is pushing the alternative technology," he added.
The move to stitch the HailStorm architecture into the client/server software stack fits with the overall expansion of the .Net Framework, said Dana Gardner, an analyst at Boston-based Aberdeen Group.
"Are we calling it HailStorm going forward? No. We're calling it Web services and .Net," Microsoft's Mangione said. "But a lot of the thinking around schemas, how you get multiple objects -- frankly, there was, in some cases, overlap with other parts of the company. We were heading down a path of developing multiple ways to access [and store] data, multiple ways to store a contact. And that didn't make sense."
Steve Gillmor, Tom Sullivan, and Ed Scannell contributed to this article.