Web services, an emerging collection of standards for tying computer systems using extensible markup language (XML), has become an important technology for aggregating data from various data stores into a data warehouse. BI tools that slice and dice information from the warehouse also leverage Web services. If you're interested in a good piece on Web services and BI, then check out "Applying All Your (Business) Intelligence" by Harriet Fryman of Informatica.
Microsoft, which is arguably more guarded than open in letting non-partners access Windows, launched this week a customer council that would work with the software maker in improving interoperability between its products and other business applications. Any effort that could lead to a more open Windows or Office is hard to knock, but creating yet another group to work on integration is hardly worth praising until something substantive is produced.
Web services, for example, has been at the center of the industry's hype around interoperability for several years. Yet organizations involved in scores of groups developing the standards have yet to deliver the kind of interoperability needed to satisfy most companies, according to Shawn Willett, an analyst for Current Analysis. Out of the more 100 Web services standards floating about the industry, only a small percentage have been finished and deployed in products.
The fact is vendors are slow in their approach to interoperability because it's still better to keep customers locked in to your own products, than to let them easily introduce someone else's software. All the major software infrastructure vendors, including Microsoft and IBM, have strategies of providing everything a customer needs. That kind of approach doesn't lead to a large return on investment from interoperability.
Nevertheless, Microsoft's new Interoperability Customer Executive Council is a sign that customers have had enough, and are demanding change. In addition, Microsoft apparently realizes that interoperability offers the best path to more sales within large corporations, which run heterogeneous computer systems.
So the council may be the beginning of something valuable, or it could be just one more group that eventually fizzles. Time will tell.
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