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ARC 2010: Middleware

Last year Microsoft and Oracle tied for the top spot in Annual Report Card scores in middleware. But, this year, Microsoft was the runaway winner thanks to a hefty boost in the company's scores for Partnership Programs and Sales and Marketing Support.

This year Microsoft racked up an overall score of 77.7 among middleware resellers, handily beating IBM's 71.6 and Oracle's 70.4. Microsoft increased its scores in the Support category to 71.2 (from 62.6 in 2009) and in Partnership to 75.4 (from 70.7 last year). Microsoft, in fact, outscored its rivals across every Support and Partnership criteria.

/**/ /**/Microsoft even took top scores in Product Reliability and Marketability, usually the strongest category for IBM and Oracle. This year, Microsoft lost to IBM only in Technical Innovation, Product Functionality and Services Opportunity.

BizTalk Server 2009, Microsoft's current middleware product, has been popular with channel partners because it provides tighter integration with Microsoft's Visual Studio development tools and offers more application life-cycle development capabilities. Those features help solution providers perform custom development and integration work.

"That's a tremendous partner opportunity," said Burley Kawasaki, senior director of product management for Microsoft's business platforms marketing group.

This year, Microsoft has held a number of events with channel partners to help educate IT executives about the strategic role BizTalk Server can play in application infrastructure and helping businesses move to cloud computing. "That was a pretty big effort for us," Kawasaki said of the activities. "It's been very successful."

"The Microsoft [middleware] platform is being taken more seriously as an enterprise platform," said Scott McMichael, president of Innovative Architects, an Atlanta-based Microsoft Gold partner who provides consulting services for BizTalk. Microsoft's middleware products are also more competitively priced than middleware from IBM, Tibco and other vendors, McMichael said, and Microsoft does a good job of sharing its product road map with partners.

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