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Microsoft Snags Don Ferguson, Former IBM Chief Architect – "Father of WebSphere"

Ferguson is now Microsoft Technical Fellow in Platforms and Strategy, in the Office of the CTO

Don Ferguson (pictured), who guided IBM’s strategy and architecture for SOA and Web services, and co-authored many of the initial Web service specifications, has been hired by Microsoft. He is now Microsoft Technical Fellow in Platforms and Strategy, in the Office of the CTO.

As AJAXWorld 2007 (East) speaker and fellow Microsoftie Alex Barnett points out, Ferguson's old blog (and out-of-date bio) is currently still up at IBM.com, but his new bio is here at microsoft.com.

According to the Microsoft bio, Ferguson will be focusing "on both the evolutionary and revolutionary role of information technology in business."

" Understanding the trends, architecting and piloting the implications for existing and new products and evangelizing Microsoft’s vision are the key aspects of Don’s job," the bio gushes.

At IBM, he was an IBM Fellow and Chief Architect for IBM’s Software Group, providing overall technical leadership for WebSphere, Tivoli, DB2, Rational and Lotus products. 

Some of the public focus areas for him at IBM were Web services, patterns, Web 2.0 and business driven development. As well as guiding IBM’s strategy and architecture for SOA and Web services, he also co-authored many of the initial Web service specifications.

As sample of Ferguson's clear thinking, SYS-CON.com readers might like to consider his musing on what's different about SOA and Web services, taken from a blog entry last August:

"1. Web services are more language independent than previous approaches. For example, CORBA was very C-like and was awkward in Smalltalk. EJBs and Java are, by definition, focused on the Java type space. XML renders more naturally into multiple languages like C, Java, COBOL, etc.

2. XML and Web services are less fragile and better accommodate change. For example, it is possible to add or reorder elements in an XML business object without necessarily breaking code using older versions. The same applies to WSDL. Most previous approaches like RPC or CORBA were often a distributed version of a runtime model with offsets into data structures or function tables. So, additions and reordering broke code.

3. Previous approaches really had three data models and type spaces. For example, a CORBA application had: 1) IDL, 2) IIOP for inflight messages, 3) SQL if the application was accessing a database. Distributed Java has a similar approach with serialized objects, the Java language and JDBC/SQL. Web services have one type space (XML) for interfaces, data applications are manipulating, XML databases and in-flight messages. It may not be obvious why one type space is better than three. The primary reasons are simplicity and flexibility. In Web services, there could be one basic approach for converting a data structure/business object from one format to another, instead of potentially three different type models and tools. This could enable a simpler development tool suite and API set. Moreover, having a consistent model enables flexible and more dynamic placement of business logic. The transformation code could run in an application, in an active database or in network intermediaries (proxies).

4. We designed Web services to support both asynchronous messaging and remote procedure call. Previous approaches started with one or the other, and then grafted the other model later on. For example, implementing a layer on top of MQ for simple RPC is common. CORBA was originally RPC centric, but then added support for asynchronous messages. In most cases, the after the fact grafting of one technique on another was awkward and error-prone."

Microsoft have snapped up a technology thinker who is as honest as he is clear. From the same blog entry:
"Are Web services 'it'? Probably not. We will see new technology come. I use the analogy of the tide. The tide comes in one wave at a time, and not all at once. Web services are the current wave, and it offers value."

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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