The battle for control of the object world hotted up again last week as Microsoft positioned its DCOM object model as a head-on rival to the Object Management Group?s (OMG's) Corba equivalent.
The move came just as the OMG was lining up its friends - Oracle, Netscape, IBM and Sun - at the Internet World show last week to bang the drum for Corba, which is based on the Interorb Internet Protocol (IIOP) (see previous story).
The infamous anti-Microsoft alliance stepped up the posturing by affirming its commitment to collaborate on Corba interoperability. But control of the high end middleware, particularly in the increasingly important Web market, is becoming a critical survival issue for the OMG, and one that gained new urgency last week when Software AG announced that its port of DCOM to sundry Unix and mainframe platforms is due to ship this summer.
This means DCOM now has the potential to become all pervasive and move right into the OMG?s heartland, particularly if Microsoft succeeds in its aim of persuading the various systems vendors to support its object model at the operating system level.
Katy Ring, analyst at consultancy Ovum, explained the situation in reference to the current Internet-based protocol, HTTP, which is inadequate for existing corporate processing needs.
?A lot of people have been seduced by the Web stuff that?s going on and think it will solve all their problems. The problem is that if you?re going to rely on the Web for deploying your mission critical business applications, you can?t rely on HTTP, which is quite slow and a stateless protocol,? she said.
Since HTTP does not support persistance to update databases, or the full range of data sources, users have to deal with their applications elsewhere - at the middleware level.
?Users very quickly find that they have to buy into proprietary solutions whether they like it or not and that?s where DCOM and IIOP come in. They sit in the same space,? Ring said.
Richard Tong, Microsoft?s head of product marketing, agreed. ?The weak link in Web systems is HTTP, which is a limiting factor. We?re asking why can?t you use DCOM to link clients and servers. That means more efficiency,? he said.
Roopinder Singh, Software AG?s director of marketing and strategic alliances, explained the situation in more detail. ?We believe DCOM will become the leading connectivity standard in linking clients to servers. The DCOM model is supported by the majority of developers and the issue here is how to connect high end applications to the Microsoft world. NT, which supports DCOM, is currently dominant at the PC level, but over the next 12-18 months, it will move up the enterprise and users will want to go down the DCOM route because it offers them a single means for connectivity,? he said.
He added that, while Corba has established itself to a certain extent, the market has not taken it up in earnest. Like many observers, he expects there to be turmoil over the next couple of years.
The problem is that such technology is fundamental to users developing object-based applications. Programmers are already delaying development decisions because they are unsure which object model will win out, so there is still everything to play for.
The only realistic situation for the OMG at this stage is to hold out an olive branch to Microsoft and offer to integrate DCOM into its object standand. Providing bridges between the two worlds is too clumsy and Microsoft at the moment is holding all the aces.
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