Microsoft pushes Falcon middleware out of the nest
By Ted Smalley Bowen
Posted at 12:37 PM PT, Aug 21, 1996
Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced the beta-test release of its pending
Windows NT message-oriented middleware product, code-named Falcon.
As part of its efforts to establish Windows NT as an enterprise-level
application server platform, the Redmond, Wash.-based developer is entering
the messaging middleware market, currently occupied by such players as IBM
with its MQ Series and Digital Equipment Corp. with its DECmessageQ.
Slated for general release in the first quarter of 1997, Falcon is designed
to support the creation of large-scale, distributed Windows NT applications
via a common message queuing model.
The messaging middleware takes advantage of Microsoft's ActiveX object
technologies. Within the company's Active Server framework, Falcon will be
accessible as an ActiveX server-side component, as will Microsoft's
forthcoming transaction processing monitor product code-named Viper.
The first beta release of Falcon, which has been distributed to a pool of
about 100 sites, includes an ActiveX control that acts as a proxy for the
low-level messaging engine, allowing Visual Basic developers and others using
ActiveX-compatible high-level tools to write applications that leverage
Falcon's asynchronous messaging, according to James Utschneider, group product
manager for Microsoft's server development.
"We're exposing the low-level messaging API so that the solution assembler,
as well as ISVs and advanced developers, creating a broad range of
applications can take advantage of asynchronous store-and-forward messaging to
support up to thousands of nodes," he said.
Falcon also boasts a small client footprint, requiring only several hundred
KB of client disk space, he noted.
"We wanted to keep the footprint small so systems like a Windows 95 notebook
can be a Falcon node," Utschneider said.
Microsoft is also providing Internet hooks to allow Web-based applications to
incorporate Falcon messaging. The company has demonstrated Internet
applications with browser clients invoking both Falcon and Viper services.
"The Falcon technology is being built by same team in Israel that is building
the [Microsoft Web] Proxy server for us, so you can assume they are aware of
Internet integration issues," Utschneider said.
"In its initial phase, Falcon will allow a browser-based application to
kick-off Falcon messages, he continued. "All of our server-based application
technologies can be accessed from browser-based applications to varying
degrees. We are providing IIS [Microsoft Internet Information Server]
integration in varying degrees to make that possible."
To enable Falcon support of non-Microsoft platforms, including MVS, AS/400,
and popular versions of Unix, the company has teamed with New York developer
Level8 Systems Inc., which will also provide an interface for IBM's MQSeries.
Although Falcon will compete with MQSeries, Microsoft anticipates that many
sites will use both, according to Utschneider.
"We don't want customers to have to rip out existing applications written
with MQSeries in order to take advantage of Falcon," he said.
Plans for integration with DECmessageQ have not been finalized, according to
Utschneider, who added that Falcon's packaging and pricing have also yet to be
In order to compete with more established products, Microsoft will have to
emphasize its ActiveX integration, according to Stan Dolberg, an analyst with
market research firm Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.
"Falcon is positioned against MQSeries and DECmessageQ. Microsoft needs to
bolster Falcon with the ActiveServer interface and Internet integration
capabilities," Dolberg said. "To differentiate, I would expect Falcon to be
good at taking advantage of whatever happens with DCOM [Microsoft's
Distributed Common Object Model]. They're also likely to always target the
average corporate skill set by providing an MQ for everyman."