Microsoft takes the Linux pledge, partners with Novell

The companies will work together on virtualization, management and document compatibility

A partnership announced earlier this month will promote interoperability between Microsoft’s Windows and Novell’s SUSE Linux operating system. Analysts say the agreement between the two companies could help agencies seeking server virtualization solutions.

The companies will work together on virtualization, management and document compatibility, said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive officer. They will also collaborate on sales and marketing of their products.

“We’re going to make clear to the market that interoperability is a good thing,” Ballmer said. Under the agreement, developers of open-source SUSE Linux applications won’t need to worry about Microsoft coming after them for intellectual property rights infringement.

The added support for virtualization will make it easier for administrators to manage Windows and SUSE Linux in mixed-platform environments.

The companies also announced that they would develop interoperability between their network environments — Microsoft’s Active Directory and Novell’s eDirectory.

The partnership opens new opportunities for government procurement, said Bill Schrier, Seattle’s chief technology officer. The city, whose Web site is based on Microsoft’s .NET framework, often needs specialized software for functions such as paying bills and processing applications for business licenses.

“With this agreement, we’ll be able to get the other half of those Web applications, the ones that run on Linux, because Linux will also run on our Web site,” Schrier said. “We’ll have twice as many applications for the citizens and constituents of Seattle.”

Ron Hovsepian, Novell’s president and CEO, initiated the partnership.

The partnership “will simplify virtualization of mixed Windows and Linux environments and provide organizations with the reassurance of vendor support,” said Tim Jennings, research director at the Butler Group. The agreement could also facilitate greater interoperability between each company’s identity and access management solutions and office document formats, he said.

For example, the companies could work on interoperability for their single sign-on applications — Novell’s Identity Manager and Microsoft’s Identity Integration Server 2003. Microsoft has done similar work in the past. In 2004, it formed a partnership with Sun Microsystems to federate their identity management tools.

As for office document formats, Novell said it will support Microsoft’s Office XML Formats. Microsoft is positioning its approach as a competitor to the open-source OpenDocument Format (ODF). However, the company announced in July that it would add an ODF plug-in to Microsoft Office.

“OpenOffice and other ODF-supporting implementations already support a variety of legacy or proprietary formats, and Office Open XML will be a welcome addition,” said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, in a statement.

Making it easier for some users of OpenOffice software to access files created with Microsoft Office products will encourage broader adoption of ODF, Marcich said.


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