Microsoft's Huitema Fights the Good Fight

by Derrick Story

However much Microsoft is paying Christian Huitema, they ought to pay him more.

In case you're not familiar with Huitema, he joined Microsoft in February 2000 as an architect in the Windows Networking and Communications group. The two books he wrote prior to joining Microsoft, "Routing the Internet," and "IPv6, the New Internet Protocol," qualify him as a player at this P2P conference.

He was one of the first speakers at the event, 9:15 am on Monday morning, discussing "Distributed Peer-to-Peer Name Resolution." And if you think that Christian quietly met his obligation then packed up and hit the road, you're wrong.

I can tell you that he did not hit the road, even though some of the other speakers probably wished he would have. Christian has attended session after session keeping his ears tuned to unsubstantiated claims, excessive rhetoric, and faulty logic. If a speaker drifts into bashing Microsoft technology while indulging in any of these practices, Christian Huitema is ready to articulate an opposing viewpoint.

Microsoft may have been invited to the party, but the software giant faces incredible skepticism from this audience when proposing its approach to web services and peer-to-peer.

Case in point: The closing keynote on Monday was titled, "Microsoft .NET: Building Distributed Services," and was presented by Mark Lucovsky, the architect of .NET's My Services (Hailstorm). During his talk, Lucovsky made the point that Microsoft can be trusted with your personal data and that My Services will behave as a good Net citizen.

Even when Tim O'Reilly challenged him by asking directly, given Microsoft's track record in business practices, should we be waiting for the other shoe to drop?, Lucovsky assured the audience that he would protect .NET from being abused by Microsoft insiders, and from threats on the outside too.

Fast-forward now to Tuesday. It was clear to me that many of the speakers did not buy Lucovsky's claim. Tuesday morning's keynote speaker, Sun's Simon Phipps made tactful, but distrustful allusions, while others such as Apache's Sam Ruby, said that he just didn't understand much of the language that Microsoft used when describing the rules that .NET would play by.

Lucovsky was not around to defend his assertions. It seemed like Microsoft's initiatives were becoming nothing more than fodder for this doubtful open source crowd. That is, unless Huitema was in the room.

He would sit there, quietly shaking his head, until someone would ask, "Christian, what do you think?" He would make a couple points or ask a question (that was often a powerful statement disguised as a question), and then there would be a pause while someone tried to formulate an equally compelling answer.

This is the type of intelligent discourse that's worth paying money for. Personally, I too have doubts about Microsoft's integrity, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to smart guys on both sides of the issue spar in a public forum. And in many cases, had Christian Huitema not been present, it would not have been much of a fight.

If you'd like to see pictures of Christian Huitema, Mark Lucovsky, and others, go to the P2P Monday Photos page.

Based on your knowledge of .NET, is Microsoft creating a level playing field?