Novell-Microsoft pact quells questions

The interoperability agreement got a workout at Novell's Brainshare conference

After years of hostility, Novell welcomed Microsoft for the first time to its annual BrainShare user conference to discuss implications of the vendors’controversial technology interoperability agreement. “I will tell you as the CEO of this corporation, it was done for one reason, and that was for the customers," said Ron Hovsepain, Novell’s CEO and president, at the conference. "We can make up all the noise we want around the edge of this thing, but it was all about driving customers … to make their lives easier and to deliver interoperability." Hovsepian outlined the scope of the agreement, and Novell’s new commitment to interoperability, to approximately 5,000 attendees. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t want you to build your footprints over in the J2EE environment — I do — but when we get done with that fight with Microsoft in your office, we’re both going to get together and help you deliver that footprint,” Hovsepian said. According to the agreement, Novell and Microsoft will pursue interoperability in four areas: virtualisation, web services-based management, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility. Throughout this year the two vendors will introduce technology that lets SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 run as a guest operating system on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1 and Longhorn. The technology will also let Longhorn run as a paravirtualised guest on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, using the Xen hypervisor. On the web services front, Novell is working with the open source community to develop an implementation of the WS-Management specification. Early last month, Microsoft announced the availability of the Open XML/ODF Translator for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Office XP. Novell also released an Open XML/ODF Translator for the Novell edition of OpenOffice. To highlight the new focus on interoperability between Novell’s SUSE Linux and Microsoft’s Windows, Novell hosted a coffee-table chat with Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, and Jeff Jaffe, Novell’s executive vice president and CTO. While both agreed that there are going to be two operating systems — Windows and Linux — in customer encounters, they vowed to push their own. “With ZENworks, we are the best managers of Vista desktops,” Jaffe said. “At the end of the day, we are going to push for Linux, Microsoft is going to push for Linux, but we are both going to agree on interoperability.” “Let the games begin,” Mundie said. “We don’t stay in business unless we keep our customers happy.” One of Novell’s customers, Bruce McLeod, praised the agreement. “Overall the deal with Microsoft is a good thing and I hope it brings Novell more business,” says McCloud, who is system architect for network services for the California Highway Patrol. “The reality is that most medium-to-large shops have both Linux and Windows; this isn't a political decision but a technical reality and we need to make both platforms coexist comfortably.” McLeod, like many of the other attendees at BrainShare, is in the process of migrating his NetWare network to Linux. He is running Novell’s ZENworks Server and Desktop Management, GroupWise, Identity Manager, eDirectory and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), on Linux and is interested in the virtualisation aspects of the deal. “I hope to run as many services as possible natively on Linux and the Xen virtualisation hypervisor and only use NetWare as a virtual machine where absolutely necessary, so I don't think it will hasten our move to Linux, just make it more flexible,” says McLeod. George Weiss, vice president and distinguished analyst for at research firm Gartner, looks at the interoperability agreement more pragmatically. "There was a continuing momentum in the Linux market that Microsoft had become quite concerned about, and even though they still felt they had the most powerful tools for managing the Windows environments, they needed to maintain the control of those environments even if they had Linux in them,” Weiss says. “If Novell gained some business through the agreement, then so be it," he says. "Microsoft would have lost the business one way or another. If Red Hat had gained the business, Microsoft would have had less control.”

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