Microsoft's C#, CLI on the Brink of ISO Standardization

IDN interviews Microsoft's Dr. James Miller, Architect for .NET's Common Language Runtime, to understand what .NET standardization means to Microsoft -- and to developers.

Tags: Standards, ISO, Microsoft, CLI, ECMA, Developer, Adoption,

with Dr. James Miller, Microsoft Corp.

Architect for .NET's Common Language Runtime

by Vance McCarthy

In the last 10 days, Microsoft's .NET' C# and Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) each took their biggest step yet to formally being adopted as ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) standards. In fact, barring any last minute surprises, many ISO watchers expect both C# and CLI to become ISO standards by year's end.

On the eve of the first ISO standardization for key .NET technologies, Integration Developer News contacted Dr. James S. Miller, the architect for Microsoft's Common Language Runtime, to ask him a few questions about the ISO process, and what is at stake -- for Microsoft, .NET and enterprise developers.

IDN: What is the pending status of C# and/or CLI being adopted by ISO as a standard?

Miller: Both of these were adopted by ECMA in December of 2001 and forwarded to ISO (actually to ISO/IEC JTC 1, a joint technical committee of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission) for "fast track" consideration. The formal international ballot on the fast track was completed at the end of July. There were sufficient votes to adopt both as ISO standards provided that a ballot resolution meeting (scheduled for the first week of October) can address the remaining "no, with comments" votes.

It is my understanding that since no objection was lodged in the U.S., that ANSI will automatically adopt the CLI and C# standards as ANSI standards as well.

IDN: So, what do you expect the process to look like for the rest of the year, and when would you expect a formal ISO adoption of C# and/or CLI?

Miller: Jan van den Beld, the president of ECMA, will chair the ballot resolution meetings. I will serve as the Project Editor for the CLI standard and Rex Jaeschke will serve as Project Editor for the C# standard. In addition, Rex will actually do the document preparation
for both standards. Assuming a positive outcome of the ballot resolution meeting, the next step is for the editors to actually update the current Draft International Standards based on the outcome of the meeting. This must be concluded by the middle of November, and the formal ISO adoption would then follow in December of this year [2002].

IDN: What would this acceptance of C# and CLI by ISO mean to Microsoft?

Miller: To Microsoft it means the recognition that these technologies are acknowledged by the international community to be sufficiently stable and well specified to be used in a wide range of applications. It is also an affirmation by both Microsoft and the international community that the base of the .Net platform is open and control rests with an accepted and well-understood international process.

IDN: And what do you think this means to developers?

Miller: To developers it means that these two important technologies are not proprietary one-vendor solutions, but are available for adoption by any and all vendors. It clarifies the boundaries of the Microsoft-only product as compared to the cross-vendor Standard, and it gives long-term assurance that investment in these core technologies is justified.

IDN: Are there any other organizations (ECMA, IETF, ANSI, etc.) where Microsoft expects to see progress on standards adopting for C#, CLI (or other components of the .Net Framework or the CLR)?

Miller: The C# language and the CLI are just two components of the overall .NET vision. The adoption of these standards by ISO gives them a good, permanent home in the standards world. The processes used at ECMA and in the ISO fast-track have been efficient and effective, and progress on this particular area will likely remain there.

But other components of .NET are things like the Web Services protocols for interoperability. These are more closely aligned with the networking world. The active standards organizations in this area are W3C, IETF, WS-I, and OASIS. Microsoft is working with all of these organizations, as well as organizations dealing with standards for the data base community. It is a core part of Microsoft's .NET strategy that it be based on strong standards. This ensures interoperability and long-term stability of the underlying technical core.

IDN: Do you see any other elements of the .NET Framework being submitted to become a future standard?

Miller: Microsoft is committed to the standardization work. If you look back at the original submission to ECMA in October of 2000, you will find that Microsoft submitted a large amount of the .NET Framework that was not included in the current Standard simply because the committee could not address it in the initial one year timeframe.

We are actively working with the ECMA technical committees to identify parts of this original submission that would be usefully standardized, as well as other new developments that can be taken forward. Because the ECMA process is open, Microsoft is also actively evaluating suggestions from other participating companies and institutions. Until
the ISO fast track process completes, however, the technical committees are avoiding taking on additional work items.