Software Plus Services Means Greater Choice, Microsoft Exec Says

What does the "plus" mean in Microsoft's Software Plus Services? A keynote talk by John DeVadoss, director of architecture strategy at Microsoft, provided an explanation. He spoke on the topic, "Software Plus Services: Towards a Model of Differentiated IT" at the Enterprise Architect Summit 2007 event held this week.

"We see the Software Plus Services model as a platform of 'and' ", DeVadoss said, meaning that enterprises will have a choice of including on-premises solutions -- and -- hosted solutions.

DeVadoss added that the notion of Software Plus Services is a convergence of software as a service (SaaS), service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 technologies.

We aren't living in a "one size fits all approach"-type of world, he emphasized. Instead, we are shifting to a "differentiated approach."

Early on, DeVadoss dismissed the idea that the world we'll face will be "software versus services." He called that "the current buzz" that most would reject. He questioned how data can be controlled in a services world, because it is "unclear who owns the data." He also suggested that a pure services model more closely approximates a one-size-fits-all model, since SaaS applications are likely to be designed for the lowest common denominator.

However, there are important advantages in a SaaS world as well, he said. For instance, it is possible to track usage better than in the packaged software world.

DeVadoss stressed that it is a hybrid world and customers should have choice. A CRM (customer relationship management) solution can be located in the cloud or on the premises of the enterprise, depending on customer choice.

Architects may want to engage in what DeVadoss called "intentional partitioning," determining which business capabilities should be in your spectrum. Furthermore, the notion of managing your portfolio and managing your risk will make or break an organization, he added. The sourcing question will be of paramount importance for architects.

DeVadoss had a somewhat shocking admission to make about licensing, at least for a Microsoft representative. He said that we used to assume there was one licensing model, but not anymore.

"We see new and emerging licensing models -- more and more the free and ad-based models," DeVadoss said.

He also noted a decentralization trend, which is especially associated with the "Web 2.0" approach.

"We are seeing the pendulum shift from the centralized to decentralized model," he said, comparing it to the client-server model of the early 1980s.

The shift isn't just happening at the technology level. It's also happening at the management level too.

"It's very tough to drive a top-down management ontology. We are seeing a bottom-up taxonomy, and Wikipedia is an example of this notion," DeVadoss said.

The consumer-grade capabilities of solutions increasingly will become good enough for the enterprise, DeVadoss predicted. Additionally, there will be a movement toward externalization of IT. The old-school approach of running and maintaining enterprise-grade applications has become too complex and expensive, he said.

In essence, though, Microsoft's Software Plus Services is a platform for the enterprise's spectrum, and the customer will get to choose where the applications live, he emphasized.

DeVadoss called out some key concepts to watch for in a Software Plus Services world, including the use of "federation," where there is harmonizing across enterprises. "Composition," such as lightweight mashups, is becoming a predominant development activity, he added. There will also be a change in "experience" with Web 2.0 technologies via browser, rich clients and emerging Office patterns. Also, "governance" becomes paramount in a Software Plus Services world, DeVadoss said, adding, "imagine having to deal with governance across organizations."

DeVadoss argued that time-to-value is more meaningful measure for an organization than return on investment (ROI). It's important to look a business segments and ask, 'Do I create value for the business in a timely manner?'

In terms of architectural approach, DeVadoss liked the approach championed by John Hagel with FAST (Focus, Accelerate, Strengthen and Tie it all together). Hagel's idea is to think of all of those steps that must be taken to get to the final vision. Adopt the long view (three- to five-year vision), and look for weaknesses to strengthen along the way.

DeVadoss concluded that enterprise architecture is becoming more critical than ever before.

"Coming up in the next three to five years is a world with a lot more choice and control to create value," he said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.