Microsoft, Avinon Ink Three-Year Alliance On .Net Web Services

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Avinon and Microsoft formed a three-year strategic alliance and joint development pact on the .Net platform.

On Wednesday, San Francisco-based Web services pioneer Avinon, the maker of the NetScenario Web services platform, said it has been working closely with Microsoft for nine months and signed a multi-faceted agreement with the software giant in November. Under terms of the deal, Avinon and Microsoft will engage in co-marketing, sales and development work on Microsoft's BizTalk and SharePoint .Net servers and XML Web services efforts more broadly in 2002.

Avinon executives said they also expect to develop for Microsoft's .Net MyServices platform, which is set to debut in June. Sources said Microsoft continues to develop server-based Web services for corporations to complement the .Net MyServices desktop services as well as server-based extensions to Web services standards, but has dropped the former code name of that project, known as Blizzard.

Avinon, which becomes a Preferred Microsoft Ecosystem Partner as a result of the deal, previously had a cross-platform strategy but, because of its exclusive focus on .Net services development, will get financial backing, a joint product road map and marketing funds from Microsoft.

The news comes just days after another Web services pioneer, Bowstreet, revealed a tighter bond with Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems. On Jan. 10, Bowstreet said it would port its Business Web Factory to the Sun ONE architecture, enabling the Java community to dynamically assemble Web services in their application server.

Avinon, which also provides a service management software platform for the rapid assembly and delivery of business Web services, called NetScenario, plans to focus on the financial and manufacturing sectors as part of its pact with Microsoft. The company also on Wednesday debuted new service centers for its NetScenario platform.

The alliances signal a shaping up of the Web services market, still in its infancy. Both Avinon and Bowstreet initially planned cross-platform strategies but have now made their alliances known.

"Certainly, birds of a feather are sticking together," said David Ruiz, Avinon's vice president of marketing. "Bowstreet is on Java and is trying to saddle up with Sun. You'll see the Java camps together and the .Net camp together.

"We're a .Net poster child, but also a guinea pig," said Ruiz. "We're creating interactive Web-based apps called business service applications that operate in enterprise and the [Internet cloud. "

It's still unclear how the channel will play in the Web services market. Both Bowstreet and Avinon have unveiled plans over the past week to bundle consulting services as part of their platform offerings targeted at enterprise customers. Avinon has, for example, its own consulting services arm and has bundled Microsoft Consulting Services as part of its NetScenario service center bundles.

On Monday, Bowstreet unveiled a technology and consulting package called FastTrack, which includes the bundling of its Business Web Factory product with three weeks of professional services, training and other services, enabling clients to build a Web services pilot program.

However, Ruiz said Avinon and Microsoft are having discussions with Accenture as well as systems integrators and solution providers Extreme Logic, Atlanta, and San Francisco Bay area Magenic about participating in extending the .Net service centers.

Long term, he expects the channel to participate in the Web services revolution by providing value-added services such as fabricating NetScenario service centers for vertical markets, leveraging BizTalk adapters to tap into enterprise systems and building Web services into business services for IT managers. "Those are drivers to partnerships," he said.

In September, Avinon appointed former Microsoft executive Scott Langmack to its board. Langmack served in the marketing teams of Microsoft's former Expedia and CarPoint online teams.

According to a new report issued by Summit Strategies in December, Microsoft has the jump on other software vendors such as Sun and IBM because of its full range of tools and platforms for Web services development.

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