The Arc Magazine
Welcome to The Arc Magazine, a multi-part publication showcasing the Microsoft 'Software + Services' strategy from an architectural perspective. Delivered in 4 issues, The Arc explores the fundamental architectural considerations and the impact of the Software + Services (S+S) transition, and offers viewpoints on the following:
Issue 1 is now published and aims to give Architects, IT Professionals and Software Developers a deeper understanding of the business case for S+S. You can read an overview of the content below and the full publication is available to download free of charge. In subsequent issues we will address the technical architecture of S+S in more depth so please ensure you bookmark this page for updates. The remaining 3 issues will follow in March and April.
Issue 2 is now available for you to download which showcases the Microsoft Software + Services (S+S) strategy from an architectural perspective and will help explain the fundamental architectural considerations and impact that software plus services will have.
In subsequent issues we will address the technical architecture of S+S in more depth so please ensure you bookmark this page for updates. The remaining 2 issues will follow in April.
We hope you enjoy reading the articles, viewpoints and interviews. If you would like to provide any feedback please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue 1: Software & Services – What is it and what can it do for your business?
Software + Services (S+S) is the term that Microsoft has coined to describe the next wave of computing that will drive software developments over the next five years. 'Always on' internet connectivity has led to an explosion of hosted applications that can be accessed from any device with a web browser. Some of these have proved very successful, posing the question of whether the internet is now the optimum means of software delivery.
Software + Services: The Background
Microsoft regards Software + Services (S+S) as the fifth wave of computing after mainframes, PCs, the internet and Web 2.0. Others argue that the combination and integration of enterprise and cloud-based computing is not a new wave of computing at all but merely a maturation of the third or fourth wave.
At PDC, Microsoft ushered in a new era of S+S with a preview of Windows Azure, a services platform that will enable software developers to deploy applications using cloud-based Internet services, on-premises servers or a combination of the two, with full synchronisation between online and offline working.
For ease of integration, they will be able to do this using skills, tools and technologies already broadly familiar to them, such as the Microsoft .NET Framework and Visual Studio, plus a wide range of commercial or open source development tools and technologies. Windows Azure, which combines cloudbased developer capabilities with storage, computing and networking infrastructure services, is a key component of Microsoft's Azure Services Platform.
The Business Benefits
The challenge for IT managers is making the most of these opportunities at a time when budgets are being slashed. So how can businesses do more with less, without compromising reliability and risking system downtime?
Software + Services (S+S), which combines the benefits of running client software on a device, e.g. speed and functionality, with the flexibility of Internet services, is an attractive proposition because it gives enterprises the opportunity to reduce both cost and risk. By using a mixture of software and hosted services, companies can reduce their capital expenditure (CapEx) significantly and reap the benefits of paying for software on subscription out of operational expenditure (OpEx).
One of the key benefits for vendors and IT managers is the ability to provide data and updates dynamically as appropriate, something that is likely to be of particular interest to smaller organisations with limited IT skills.
The idea of disruptive technology is well established and occurrences can be identified throughout history, where new tools and practices that started at the fringe of society emerged to rival and supersede existing technology.
Technology-based innovations are often classified as radical innovations, frequently originating in R&D labs and offering significant functional performance over the old technology, or as incremental innovations, which tend to be customer driven and deliver more modest improvements. In both cases the technology innovation delivers against the needs of current customers of the firm. By contrast, disruptive technology innovations are more complex and can best be understood as a series of steps leading to disruption.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is an important new development for the software industry, which may have disruptive potential. The most important driver for disruptive technology innovation was found to be senior management belief in the innovation. The more senior management understands and supports disruptive technology innovations, the more likely it is that investments will be made. The main barrier to exploiting disruptive technology innovations appears to be allocating resources to disruptive technology innovation ahead of established products and business.
Dynamic IT evolves with S+S
Two major problems that have existed for decades in relation to IT systems are inflexibility and fragmentation, and the software layer has played a big part in this.
Today, IT is moving towards a more dynamic model. Virtualisation has been accepted at the hardware or systems layer, and while there is still a long way to go, developments and experience in this space have shown enterprises the potential of a more dynamic approach to business operations, too.
Within larger enterprises, S+S is really an extension of the Dynamic IT architecture based on principles including virtualisation, abstraction soft-coupling and the like, where the idea is to reduce hard-wired dependencies and empower businesses to substitute and move components around as their needs dictate.
But as the economy stutters into 2009, that real world is learning some very harsh lessons already and many enterprises are being forced to think carefully about their next moves. With budgets slashed or gone, and no room for manoeuvre in terms of ripping out their old systems, the S+S model should allow clever enterprises to tap into existing arrangements whilst reaping the benefits of hosted solutions.
Case Study – Software + Services is all about evolution not revolution, says Andy James, CTO of IT consultants Solidsoft.
S+S in the Real World
For the past fifteen years the independently owned firm of IT consultants has specialised in the use of Microsoft technologies to solve the problems of system integration within and between enterprises. More recently, it has developed business solutions based on BizTalk, Sharepoint and .Net.
"As an architectural paradigm we adopted Service Orientated Architecture (SOA)," James explains. "The focus was not only on delivering software but also the underlying building blocks or services." Today, Solidsoft is moving forward with a composite approach to business solution delivery.
One of the common misconceptions is that S+S is too expensive and complicated for most enterprises to take on board. Yet, with a little education and a steer around the subject most managers soon realise that it can not only help their business but provide the cost benefits that many crave in the current economic climate.
In the last 12 months Solidsoft has delivered a number of key projects in which S+S has proved itself, for both central government and the private sector. Non-disclosure agreements prevent James from talking about particular clients, but he cites the example of one organisation where highly sensitive information input by members of the public is distributed to and shared by a number of departments.