Expect to see a lot more interoperability work between Microsoft Corp. and some of its open-source competitors over the next year—like the agreement struck with JBoss Inc. last year—as well as more participation by the Redmond, Wash., software maker in preventing interoperability problems earlier in its product cycle and providing potential fixes when issues arise.
"We have been successful in identifying popular open-source software applications that our customers are interested in using on the Microsoft Windows Server platform and working with those companies or projects to ensure that solution is well integrated," said Bill Hilf, the director of Platform Technology Strategy at Microsoft, and also the man who heads the companys Linux and open-source lab.
In September, Microsoft and JBoss executives said they would broaden interoperability between JEMS (JBoss Enterprise Middleware System) and Microsoft Windows Server.
The two companies said they would focus on four key areas initially: Microsoft Active Directory, Web services, management and SQL Server.
More than 50 percent of JBoss customers run JEMS on Windows Server, Hilf said, adding that "for those customers, our relationship is a natural fit. I think in 2006 and beyond you will see even more work from our lab along these lines."
Christine Martino, the recently appointed vice president of Hewlett-Packard Co.s open-source and Linux organization, agreed, telling eWEEK that such Microsoft moves are a positive rather than a negative for HP.
"As a Microsoft partner who supports Windows, as well as having our own HP-UX offering and supporting both Novells SUSE and Red Hat Linux, we are able to offer customers the freedom, flexibility and choice to mix and match their environments and components, something that other vendors cannot," she said.
The lab team has also helped provide information to open-source projects, as they did to help resolve the problems with Visual C++ compilations crashing on a Samba drive when the "allocation roundup" parameter was left at the default setting.
While this cooperation with open-source communities and competitors is also expected to increase going forward, Hilf noted that the company was focused heavily on interoperability testing across hundreds of open-source software projects.
"Weve done some work, including minor bug fixes, on the Samba Torture [smbtorture] testing tool, as well as some documentation of this tool. But the bigger picture is really not a bug fix here or there, but trying to identify interoperability problems before they hit customers, so testing earlier in our product lifecycle," Hilf said.
Some partners, like Barry Crist, the CEO of Centeris Corp., which spans both the proprietary and open-source worlds—the Centeris Likewise product allows users to manage Linux servers in their Windows networks—agree that Microsoft is doing a better job of reaching out to the open-source community.
"But Microsoft is a big company with a lot of different groups and different agendas. If you talk to the folks in Microsofts management tools group, they are under pressure from their customers to have cross-platform support," Crist said.
"There may be other groups within Microsoft who may feel differently, but the folks we have talked to have been generally supportive."
While Microsofts Linux and open-source lab has been running tests to examine how well Windows client software runs on legacy hardware and how to best make security fixes available to customers, open-source interoperability with Microsoft software has been a top priority, Hilf said.
"Microsoft as a whole has been working on interoperability across all our products. From an interoperability perspective we look into a variety of areas," Hilf said.
"First we look at things we know are problematic or difficult to get to work together and attempt to solve those problems. Secondly, we look at areas where we can improve existing interoperability scenarios.
"Lastly, we look at potential new opportunities where we can bring technologies together," he said.
The Linux lab focuses specifically on the interoperability of open-source software with Microsoft software.