The goal of the group is to identify areas for improved interoperability across not just Microsofts products, but also the broader software industry.
Members will include CIOs and architects from both the corporate and government sectors, with Paris-based Société Générale, LexisNexis, Milwaukee-based Kohls Illinois, the State of Delaware, Denmarks Ministry of Finance, and Spains Generalitat de Catalunya and Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, in Madrid, already signing up as founding members.
Tom Robertson, Microsofts general manager for interoperability and standards, told eWEEK that the goal is to recruit some 35 private and public sector members to the Council from across the world and many different sectors.
"The Council will focus on the common issues customers face in their heterogeneous environments, and then … look at the concrete steps we can take to resolve these," he said.
Robertson said Microsoft did not plan to invite any of its partners or competitors to join the council because its purpose is to identify specific shared customer issues and to develop a plan to resolve them. Once that was done, partners and competitors could be brought into the process, he said.
In an interview at the annual TechEd developer conference here on June 12, Bob Muglia, the senior vice president of Microsofts server and tools business, told eWEEK that the Redmond, Wash., software company was "open to ways of working with the open-source community broadly, and even in the GPL space we are trying to find ways in which we can build bridges to GPL, but the bridge has to be carefully constructed."
Customers are working in increasingly heterogeneous IT environments and asking for a greater level of interoperability from their IT vendors, Muglia said, reiterating that Microsoft is committed to building bridges across the industry to deliver products to its customers that are interoperable by design.
The council will be hosted by Muglia and meet twice a year in Redmond. The first meeting is scheduled for this September. "We also expect to create working groups tasked with finding concrete solutions to the issues that arise as a result of the council meetings," Robertson said.
The council will have direct interaction with Microsoft executives and product team members to focus on those interoperability issues that are of greatest importance to customers, including connectivity, application integration and data exchange, he said.
Olivier de Bernardi, the group chief technology officer at Société Générale and a founding member of the council, said he believes that using technology designed with a commitment to interoperability between products, hardware, software and applications is the best way to design flexible and adaptable IT solutions that meet the needs of different business lines.
Likewise, Ignacio Alamillo, a research director at Spains Generalitat de Catalunya, said Microsofts role as an interoperability key player would help remove the main technical barriers to global e-government administrative services, reducing cost and time to market.
Microsoft has been making interoperability a focus for some time now. In February 2005, Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates wrote an open letter introducing the concept of "interoperable by design."
In addition, Microsofts Virtual Server 2005 R2 supports Linux guest operating system and the company has technical collaboration agreements with SAP, Hyperion, JBoss and SugarCRM.
Technical work on interoperability issues around Windows, Linux, Unix and open-source software is also taking place in Microsofts open-source software lab, and the company has set up a community Web site, Port 25, about the issue.
The company has also entered into intellectual property licensing deals with companies like NEC, Toshiba, Sony Ericsson, Autodesk and Nokia, and has implemented standards support for improved data exchange with Web services in the Windows Communication Framework, XHTML 1.0 (Extensible HTML) in Office 2007, and EDI (electronic data interchange) interoperability and RFID integration in Windows Vista and Office 2007.