Novell-Microsoft pact quells hostilities

Novell welcomes Microsoft to its BrainShare user conference for the first time this year

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 Hovsepian, Novell's CEO and president, at Tuesday's event. "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: virtualization, 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, and lets Longhorn run as a paravirtualized 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 going forward 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 in Sacramento. "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."

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