First Winners of Microsoft “.NET Best” Awards Find Innovative Ways to Connect Information, People, Systems and Devices

REDMOND, Wash., August 7, 2002 — It’s a major corporate trial with millions of dollars in potential penalties at stake. In a surprise move, the defense makes an unusual — and compelling — argument, based on the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, a gambit the prosecution hadn’t considered. The prosecutor needs to respond immediately if she’s to maintain momentum and sway the jury — but who thought to bring hundreds of thousands of pages of federal regulations into the courtroom? And even if she had, how could she have conveyed them into the courtroom? But with a few taps on her Pocket PC, the prosecutor has the relevant regulations in front of her — and spots the weakness in her adversary’s argument. She’s able to respond and go on to win the case.

That scenario might sound like something out of an episode of television’s Law and Order – but it’s an example of what’s possible using OakLeaf CFR Web Services from OakLeaf Systems. The solution – available online at Oakleaf’s Web site (see Related Links at right) — is based on Microsoft .NET, the XML Web services software that connects information, people, systems, and devices, enabling people to access and use important information, whenever and wherever it is needed.

The rapidly growing number of companies using .NET includes a global who’s who of organizations, including Continental Airlines, Deutsche Bank, Dollar Rent A Car, EDS, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft, Monsanto, Northrop Grumman, Pitney Bowes, Marks & Spencer, Reuters, and Verizon. Morgan Stanley recently reported that 71 percent of Fortune 1000 chief technology officers see XML as the integration standard for online transactions and that 60 percent of them are now evaluating the use of Web services.

The OakLeaf CFR Web Services application is so innovative it deserves an award, according to Microsoft. The company has tapped OakLeaf Systems as a charter winner of its Microsoft .NET Best Awards, a new competition to recognize XML Web services developers who best utilize .NET Web services standards — such as XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI — to deliver real business value. OakLeaf won for the best “horizontal” solution.

Applications Ranging from Academia to Heavy Machinery

The six other charter winners — all announced today — include:

  • Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines for the best academic solution, Bayanihan Computing .NET, a generic grid computing framework that uses Web services to enable PCs to act as a “virtual supercomputer.”

  • At Global Inc. for the best line-of-business solution, the Web MBR (Medical Bill Review) solution, which At Global estimates could lower medical costs by 10 to 40 percent by allowing healthcare providers, insurance carriers, employers and third-party service vendors to work together more effectively.

  • Storage Point Corp. for the best tool or utility, Remote Storage Manager 5.0, which automates the backup of computer files, reduces the need for dedicated disaster-recovery personnel, and makes it easier for employees, business partners and customers to collaborate.

  • Sandvik Coromant for the best interoperability solution, complementing the company’s EDI interface with an online business-to-business connection that is based on Web services. The Swedish company — the world’s largest maker of cemented carbide cutting tools — finds it faster, easier and less expensive to communicate and conduct business with customers, and to provide information tailored to their needs.

  • Rila Solutions for the best integration with Office XP. The Bulgarian-based company’s Survey Web Service facilitates the process of conducting surveys — from corporate workgroups choosing tactics to major media organizations conducting public opinion polls — by reducing development time and allowing the same survey to be integrated into Office XP documents, mobile and Web sites, client/server applications and more.

  • InterKnowlogy, LLC for the best integration with .NET Enterprise Servers. CommNet, which uses nine .NET Enterprise Servers, including Microsoft Application Center 2000, Microsoft SQL Server 2000, Commerce Server 2002, and Biz Talk Server 2002, to allow event coordinators, guest speakers and audio-video providers to collaborate more quickly and easily, ensuring that events run more smoothly.

The Microsoft .NET Best Awards were judged by an expert panel including executives from Internosis, Cactus Internet Inc., Polaris Group and Trinity Expert Systems PLC. Judging criteria included quantified business value to Web service users, developer productivity or time to market, best use of XML Web service technologies in each category, and compliance with Web service standards.

“These seven winners – and the countless developers worldwide who are also busy creating solutions based on .NET – are turning individual applications, Web sites and devices into constellations of computers, devices and services that connect and work together to deliver broader, richer solutions,” says Sanjay Parthasarathy, Microsoft corporate vice president for the Strategy and Business Development Group. “They are giving people more control over how, when and what information is delivered to them. They are enabling pieces of technology to collaborate and interoperate on people’s behalf. They are enabling businesses to offer their products and services to the right customers, at the right times, in the right ways.”

Inspired by the Possibilities of .NET

Winners say they were attracted to .NET because XML Web services enable them to offer collaborative services that weren’t possible before, or that were so expensive to create and maintain, or so restricted in function, that they had a limited audience. For Sweden’s Sandvik Coromant, communicating with customers and the public via Web services rather than EDI or other methods eliminates the need for those customers and others to download a client interface for their machines or to connect and download data via an FTP interface. That means more people will be willing to use the company’s Web services and, consequently, buy the company’s products.

For At Global, .NET means that preferred-provider healthcare organizations can give insurance carriers updated information in real time, without the need for massive and time-consuming information downloads by the carriers. Independent providers of information on reimbursement rates, state and federal requirements, and other data, can now offer their services to a far broader market of organizations for which traditional methods of healthcare information exchange were not cost-effective.

The team from Ateneo de Manila University sees .NET as a tool for tapping the computing power of idle PCs on the Internet and turning them into a “poor man’s supercomputer,” reducing the time it takes to do calculations and simulations from months or years to mere hours or minutes. Led by Professor Luis Sarmenta, undergraduate students Stanley Tan, Sacha Chua, Paul Echevarria, Russell Santos, and Joey Mendoza used .NET to write a PoolService Web service that receives computational jobs from users and spreads the work across many “worker” machines, such as the university’s hundreds of idle PCs.

The Philippine students have also demonstrated the idea of computational Web services –.NET Web services that take requested tasks from users and do the computation in a parallel method behind the scenes. Sarmenta envisions numerous applications for this type of service, including 3-D graphics, scientific simulations and financial forecasting. “And, since these Web services are accessible from mobile devices and do not require the user to know about parallel processing, they quite literally bring supercomputing into the hands of ordinary users,” he says.

For OakLeaf Systems, .NET offers greater speed and versatility than other online technologies. “You can access the Code of Federal Regulations from a government Web site that doesn’t use .NET, but the downloads are much slower,” says Roger Jennings, a principal in OakLeaf Systems and a popular author on information technology subjects. “Over DSL, a 5,000-word document can take several minutes to locate and download from the government site, but just a few seconds to download using OakLeaf CFR Web services and .NET. We’ve shown that .NET XML Web services are a practical way to deliver large amounts of text. And .NET XML Web services are device and operating system ‘agnostic’ so it’s far easier, and thus more practical, to offer that capability for the broadest range of devices — desktop computers, Pocket PCs, and other handheld organizers. Making the information available in more ways will spur more ways to use it.”

Microsoft’s Role in Web Services

Contest winners are pioneers of a sort, but they’re also quick to acknowledge Microsoft’s pioneering role in their innovative successes.

“I’m one of the first people using .NET to create XML Web services,” says Rila Solutions’ Jivko Jeliazkov, programming analyst and a key developer of the company’s Survey Web Service technology. “But it didn’t feel like I was doing anything new or unusual. As a Visual C++ programmer, I found Visual C# and the.NET Framework very natural and intuitive to work with. And because .NET provides a unified method of development, I could integrate our solution with mobile, Web-based and standalone applications and other Web services without any difficulty.”

Says At Global’s president and chief technology officer, Stephen Graham, “The .NET Framework is fantastic — we estimate that it cut our development time and cost by 75 percent, while enabling us to add new functionality. But .NET will bring even greater savings to us on a continuing basis over time, because we’ll be able to update all our customers by updating a Web service once, instead of having to distribute each update to each customer.”

People warned him against using so new a technology, recalls Tim Huckaby, CEO of InterKnowlogy LLC. “We were told we’d fail, that there was no way an enterprise application could be built in a very short time on new, unproven technology – .NET – and integrate with so many of the .NET Enterprise Servers,” Huckaby says. “Well, we proved the nay-sayers wrong. And our success is not only a credit to talented and dedicated people on our team, but also a testament to Microsoft’s .NET strategy and tools.”

OakLeaf Systems’ Jennings — who created the CFR Web Services application as a way to learn to create .NET XML Web services — calls himself a believer in Microsoft’s approach.

“Migrating code from Visual Basic 6.0 to Visual Basic .NET was remarkably straightforward and went without any problems,” says Jennings. “On the other hand, downloading the SGML version of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations from the government Web site in the first place so I could work with it was another matter — that took 10 full days, without stop, on a DSL line!”