Microsoft hitches to the AMQP wagon

This past week Microsoft announced that they have joined the AMQP working group, throwing support behind the grass-roots AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol) movement popular with application developers in financial services, telecom and cloud computing.

Microsoft sells a long-standing proprietary messaging product called MSMQ and has been a driving force behind the WS-ReliableMessaging standard accepted by OASIS in 2007.

So why support AMQP now? Microsoft says in the press release that this is in response to customer demand (probably true) and a display of their commitment to openness, interoperability and customer choice (politicians aren’t the only ones that know how to spin).

The truth is Microsoft is not a significant player in the messaging space which has long been dominated by IBM, Tibco and JMS products (from Sun and others). Messaging is a highly heterogeneous problem, and MSMQ adoption has been Windows only. Most of the WS-standards stalled out about two years ago. Microsoft would love to be a bigger player in financial services, and since AMQP is a wire line compatible protocol, it gives them a low risk way to be on at least one end of the pipe. Better to do it themselves than let a third party do it. AMQP doesn’t cannibalize their other products, on the contrary, it is greenfield. As Bob Dylan said, “When you got nothin, you got nothin to lose.”

AMQP doesn’t have a lot of production use today, but it’s significant because it is the first open messaging wire format specification, the key to maximizing cross-implementation interoperability. This has been the achilles heel of JMS, which only specifies an API and leaves implementation of the wire format to the implementer. It’s always hard to say what will win a meaningful place in the market — the users of messaging will decide that — but AMQP is definitely worth watching closely. The support of Microsoft could turn out to be a tipping point on its journey to wider acceptance.