Microsoft has grounded Discovery, its planned server suite designed to meld content management, e-commerce and EAI capabilities, an executive confirmed Friday.
"The architectural vision of common services on a common platform is still alive, [but] there are no plans for a suite," Eric Swift, director of product management for Microsoft's e-business servers, told CRN.
The move came in response to customer input, according to Microsoft. Users want simple licensing and easy-to-buy software, yet they were not so interested in buying a software suite, Swift said.
Now the goal is to align that vision with Microsoft's Windows Server Systems brand push. "We had to emphasize our portal strategy properly, so we prioritized that," Swift said.
Another objective is to align the road map between Content Management Server (CMS) and SharePoint Portal Server, according to Swift. The SharePoint Portal Server wasn't slated to be part of Discovery, although some industry observers thought it should have been. In the past few months, Microsoft had made several organizational moves that put Discovery's future in doubt.
The news of Discovery's grounding comes as Microsoft readies the formal rollout of its BizTalk Server 2004--aka Voyager, or Jupiter Phase I--on March 2 (for more on Jupiter, see story). Discovery was thought of as Jupiter Phase II.
Sources familiar with the plans said some of Discovery's baseline capabilities will be channeled into the next-generation Windows operating system, or Longhorn, while others will surface in highly interoperable server successors to the present lineup. Swift said it's too early to make decisions about the Longhorn server wave.
Though packaging and licensing concerns ostensibly were one reason for the change of plans, Microsoft may feel some customer pushback. Last year, a Microsoft product manager said customers on Software Assurance that had even one of the suite's components would be able to upgrade to the full suite at very attractive pricing. Customers now may feel Microsoft has back-pedaled from what would have been a bargain.
Swift said Microsoft will "speak to any clients with expectations set one way and help them out. Customer satisfaction is obviously a high priority."
Some solution providers shrugged off the news. One, who asked not to be named, said his company can use the new, less-expensive standard edition of CMS 2002, along with Commerce Server 2002 and BizTalk code, to do much of what Discovery promised affordably. The standard edition of CMS 2002 costs $6,999 for a single-processor machine vs. $42,000 per CPU for the older version.
Another solution provider, who also requested anonymity, said that as long as Microsoft provides a single way to manage and operate the servers and ensures smooth integration, the change should not adversely impact business. "This thing [Discovery] was pretty far out there anyway," he said.
Organizational changes last fall that moved CMS development to the SharePoint Portal Server group from the Windows Server organization signaled that bigger reshuffling was afoot. Other signs included the departure of David Kiker, the general manager overseeing this effort, to another position at Microsoft, and the recent arrival of MSN's Ted Kummert to become vice president of e-business servers.
"Bottom line, Microsoft will focus on business process automation and trading partner management features for the immediate future, which backs up my research showing that large companies doing integration in B2B aren't doing much more than exchanging EDI documents," said Ken Vollmer, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "People aren't ready for all this other stuff."