Interop Alliance Links Microsoft, Sun, Novell, AMD

In Europe, at the heart of the global controversy over whether Microsoft and interoperability are incompatible, the Redmond company announced it is funding a global consortium of software and hardware manufacturers in the name of interoperability itself.

The stated goal of the new Interop Vendor Alliance is to listen to customers’ needs for interoperability, promote collaboration among vendors to address those needs, test solutions that might require interop, and then jointly promote those solutions once they’re discovered.

The track record for multi-vendor industry alliances in the history of computing has been less than stellar, with the tales of MicroChannel and ActiveX springing to mind. But with Microsoft now likely to receive consistent pressure from lawmakers in the European Union to redefine fairness as though Microsoft were inventing the concept in its own labs, the possibility exists that more than money, but serious effort, could be expended toward keeping this particular alliance afloat.

The historic portion of this announcement may very well be that it pairs together two notorious rivals: Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, which just yesterday won praise for the historic announcement of its own that it has chosen to release the source code for Java and its associated libraries under the GPL license.

The prospects of .NET and Java being deployed together toward common customer solutions is not lost on enterprise software vendor BEA, one of the Alliance’s founding members. Already, BEA has been retooling its service-oriented architecture platform SOA 360 for integration with .NET. In a BEA statement this morning, CTO Rob Levy made it absolutely clear his company intends to take this opportunity “to build bridges between the .NET and Java paradigms and to enable customers to build the best composite business apps they can imagine.”

The message: If you’re still thinking of .NET and Java as mutually exclusive, stop.

Whether Sun itself gets the message isn’t quite clear, though it does appear to be at least warming up. For its part of today’s statement from Microsoft, Sun’s executive vice president for software, Rich Green, acknowledged his company had already been working with Microsoft toward interoperability, but for just how many days, he did not say. He also omitted use of the word “Java,” leaving BEA’s Levy to serve as Java’s champion for now.

The possibility of .NET and Java interoperability may get another boost today through the inclusion of Novell, which is the chief sponsor of the Mono project for porting .NET to Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, and Unix. Last week, also in Barcelona, Novell announced Mono 1.2, which it now claims to be interoperable with .NET 2.0, by virtue of, in large part, its new and exclusive alliance with Microsoft.

While many are seeing this foundation as a "software alliance," AMD, NEC, and storage provider Network Appliance have also joined up. In a separate statement this morning, NEC said interoperability is key to enabling its line of fault-tolerant servers and data storage systems to not only be interoperable with one another, but manageable through a single console with one kind of system management software.

The New York Times this morning cited unnamed analysts as saying today’s move by Microsoft is yet another concession that it could not defeat Linux, and that the company’s next step is to try to manage its relationships with competitors more directly.

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