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CTO: Article

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As AJAXWorld 2007 (East) speaker and fellow Microsoftie Alex Barnett points out, Ferguson's old blog (and out-of-date bio) is currently still up at IBM.com, but his new bio is here at microsoft.com.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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Most Recent Comments
Bruce Lee 01/17/07 05:33:16 PM EST

I can't tell if you are being serious or sarcastic when you refer to Don's "clear thinking". He is about as far from a clear thinker as you can be. To be fair, maybe he is a clear thinker, but just can't communicate. Either way, this move hurts IBM about as much as Randy Johnson hurt the Yankees when he left.

foot-shooting IBM 01/16/07 01:45:31 PM EST

Today WebSphere is actually little more than another IBM brand, a marketing device. You have WebSphere, Rational, Tivoli, and perhaps a few more. All products seem to be labeled that way. MQ is WebSphere. WebSphere is almost anything. Having worked with the stuff (in particular MQ, WAS, WPS) for some years now, I have become rather weary of it. But then, Sturgeon's law applies: 90% of everything is crap. And the remaining 10% may just be crap too.

In my opinion, moving a designer of bloatware to MS is a good thing for everyone but MS. It won't do IBM much good, IBM is certainly capable of foot-shooting without him.

anOn 01/16/07 12:00:19 PM EST

This is a big loss for IBM. Donald Ferguson was the chief architect for IBM's software group and had been at IBM for more than 20 years. During which time he architected and helped establish the WebSphere Application Server's current number one market position. Equally important, Ferguson managed the integration between WebSphere and IBM's other middleware products, DB2, Tivoli, Rational and Lotus, as chairman of the company's SWG Architecture Board.

Damien Katz 01/16/07 08:42:32 AM EST

Came to read this article because I thought the topic IBM to MS braindrain was interesting. But shortly after opening the page, obnoxious video ads just start up, with full audio, with no provocation in Firefox. It makes me dislike both the advertiser and the site itself.

gelfling 01/16/07 08:35:47 AM EST

Senior people at IBM are treated like Gods, comparatively speaking. The minions are denied training, travel, education, pay raises, bonuses while benefits get worse every year. First and second line managers are turned over like flapjacks so that the people who actually do the work have 2, 3, 4 managers a year and then if they're lucky they won't stumble into a department that's being 'reorganized' out of existence forcing them to find another job or quit.

Meanwhile, the aristocrats lavish literally hundreds of millions of dollars on themselves while they send out epistles that a) extol the workers greatness and b) warn them to work harder for less for the sake of the firm.

I can only imagine that if a senior guy leaves IBM for greener pastures they must have already decided, for no obvious reason at all to either kill all that person's products and projects, or, some palace infighting has left them holding their own ass.

ryanw 01/16/07 08:33:29 AM EST

Being the father of websphere, I would imagine this guy to have his run of it and full of corporate burnout. He's looking for a job with less responsibilities to where he can be in a room and give a bunch of ideas and tell others to execute. Collect his cash and go home. He's going to work 9am - 4pm four days a week max and be sitting pretty.

Liken it unto Emit Smith taking a possition at the Cardnials to finish his carrer. It's easy money, it's a day job, like taking candy from a baby.

Doctor Don? 01/15/07 07:28:48 PM EST

Was Ferguson already working on Component Broker over a decade ago, before it was even called WebSphere? Can he really go back that far, I thought he was only in his late forties?!