Next Stop Greenwich Village

The conspiracy crowd always has plenty of material to work with, especially when Microsoft Corp. throws a party such as .Net Insecurity Day. Carefully hidden in a sea of disclaimers, goals, aspirations, and promises of standards and trust was one nugget of new information, an initiative code named Greenwich.

In his .NID keynote, Bill Gates brought up Greenwich in a roundabout way. First, he explained why HailStorm had to go back into the shop. I've edited from BillSpeak for clarity: "We needed a very strong connection between our 'Yukon' database strategy -- how we're extending the database with XML capabilities to the core -- to tie those kind of store extensions and the other standards around XML query into how we did the .Net My Services."

Technical translation: HailStorm was started before XML query and other important XML Web services standards were or will be finished. So Mark Lucovsky and his team had to "roll their own" XML technologies, which now need to be replaced. Political translation: Ownership is now transferred to the Yukon team, whose mission is ultimately to converge Exchange and SQL Server into a unified storage model in the operating system, owned by Windows chief Jim Allchin. Lucovsky is reassigned "somewhere in storage." Brrrrr.

"I keep talking about federation," Gates continues. "And it's based on this tenet of our strategy that everything we do should be common between how it works on a rich client that works offline; how it works on a server where a corporation can come in and license the software and run that themselves; and how it works on a service where somebody who doesn't want to run that server can connect into Microsoft and one of our partners, and under some sort of economic structure, most likely a subscription type structure, have access to the capabilities of that service running out in the Internet."

A classic Microsoft play -- you can pay us now, or pay us later, or pay one of our partners now who will pay us later. How does it work? Bill goes to the videotape: "What we announced recently is what we call 'TrustBridge,' where you can take that internal Active Directory and say, 'OK, if I want to share these identities outside the company, how can I use this WS [Web services]-security protocol to, say, take the Intel Active Directory implementation and the Microsoft one and exchange that information?' ""That's the corporate-to-corporate case, where you can have a corporate-to-Passport case or any other system as well," Bill nods to the Liberty Alliance. "We're testing it with our partners in WS-Security to make sure that the interoperability works very well there. And so that for the first time goes from the inside authentication to what parts of that you want to expose to the outside." Translation: WS-Security has Microsoft, IBM, and Sun on board, so we'll wait until next year to play the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization card again on the more difficult parts of the Web services stack.

Back to our video: "Notification is the idea that instead of going and finding information, there are certain things you care enough about that you want to be notified," Bill suggests. "Now that has to be filtered. You don't just want to be bombarded with instant messages or even e-mail. And so the idea that the user is in control there, [that] they pick these subscriptions, [that] they decide in which context those notifications are interesting to them." Translation: Notification consists of a beta notification server that goes final next month and the .Net alert service.

And finally, real time: "Jim Allchin later will talk about our strategy and how that's evolving. In the cloud, it's the MSN Messenger and the program element is the .Net Messenger, and the corporate server is still a code-named product that we've been hard at work on." That's it, plus a reiteration of the Windows Update technology, the first beachhead of peer-to-peer in Allchin's Windows Wonderland.

Allchin provides a Greenwich definition: "It's a real-time communications environment that will be available on .Net server." This is a vintage Allchinism -- he doesn't say it will be delivered as part of .Net server, just on it. It could be on top of it, as with all the other .Net servers to ship in 2003. Whatever the case, Allchin owns it.

So what is it, Jim? "[It's] IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force]-based standards, so that it allows presence, so that you'll be able to interoperate with any other vendor that's based on presence, define somebody else on the Internet -- are they online, and where they're online -- and SIMPLE [a new Microsoft entity], which standardizes some of the buddy list management, so that you can interoperate between different systems.

"Second, it's programmable," Allchin notes. And lastly, "It's federated through these protocols, so that you can be at work, and somebody on the outside, in their home, in a different country, will be able to wander through the presence and be able to find you, if you want to be found."

The technology appears to be an amalgamation of the instant messaging and videoconferencing tools that first surfaced in betas of Exchange 2000, the presence and location tools developed in concert with Groove's Ozzie Brothers, and elements of Exchange's installable Web Storage System and .Net-based WebDav file systems going back as far as the first demos of Cairo in 1995.

That's where Allchin left off, but Gates couldn't resist one more hint of the shape of things to come: "Outlook will evolve from being an e-mail client to being far more than an e-mail client. The real-time stuff we have in our consumer side, in the information sharing in Sharepoint, is important." Join me here next week for the next installment, entitled "The Death of E-Mail."

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