If .NET was Microsoft's response to Enterprise Java, then Indigo is Microsoft's answer to service-oriented architecture (SOA). As Microsoft incubates the Indigo platform, analysts predict that it will position the company as a strong competitor against application platform vendors.
Microsoft never had a strong presence in the enterprise asynchronous messaging market and its .NET technology did not position the company to really boast about SOA, according to a recent report from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
But Indigo, a set of .NET technologies for building and running connected systems using a Web services architecture and a service-oriented programming model, will change all that, according to the report.
The report said the combination of Microsoft's current position in the enterprise platform market with the new capabilities of Indigo will inevitably lead to increased market share. Top that off with Microsoft's strength in product marketing, and competitors have a formidable rival in the SOA space.
Other leading SOA application platform vendors include IBM, Oracle, BEA Systems, SAP and Sun Microsystems.
The report also found that Indigo is particularly strong in highly distributed environments. In such environments, Indigo's fabric-like architecture will tend to drive down operational costs, increase flexibility and ease the expansion of Microsoft's SOA platform into new parts of the business.
Forrester predicts that in 2005, SOAs employing application servers or integration servers will move toward a more flexible "fabric" of runtime services that will be provisioned more dynamically to support the changing needs of application workloads.
"The interesting and relevant question is who will own the Web services runtime?" said Miko Matsumura, vice president of marketing at Cupertino, Calif.-based Infravio. "Right now, the Java Business Integration specification [JSR 208] could potentially form the basis of a Java Community Process Enterprise Service Bus standard."
JBI aims to eliminate the prospect of companies being locked into a single vendor by providing a standard container in which components from multiple vendors and various integration technologies can interact. That would not be in the best interests of large platform providers such as Microsoft and IBM.
In fact, some people are positioning JBI as an alternative to Indigo, according Forrester.
"Neither Microsoft nor IBM support JSR 208, which suggests that each of them has their own way of dealing with the runtime brokering of Web services -- and clearly, Microsoft's Indigo plays into that," Matsumura said.
The report also said many early SOA implementations were done on IBM's WebSphere MQ messaging technology, which positioned IBM as the authority for next generation SOA technology.
But people have underestimated the usage of Microsoft's BizTalk integration server, according to Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, of Waltham, Mass.
"BizTalk is one of the most implemented business process tools out there," he said.
Forrester predicts that Microsoft will more closely merge Indigo and BizTalk into a single offering. Although BizTalk will still be offered as a separate product, the trend toward a more integrated stack means that BizTalk may even merge with Windows and Visual Studio.
This could prove to be beneficial for business analysts as Visual Studio's built-in business process modeling tool could potentially replace BizTalk's older business process authoring tool, which is based on Visio, Forrester said.
Last month, at the VSLive conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced the first beta release of Indigo. Since then, Indigo's product development has shown no signs of slowing.
Just yesterday, Microsoft announced the availability of the first Community Technology Preview for Indigo, which enables developers to test, experiment and give feedback on the features in Indigo prior to future releases.