Microsoft will announce the move at the IT Forum here at TechEd Europe on Nov. 14.
The initial members of the vendor alliance are SugarCRM, Citrix Systems, Kernel Networks, Network Appliance and Siemens Networks, but membership will be open to others that want to join.
"This is just another example of how we are enabling interoperability around all the technologies we have," Andy Lees, Microsofts corporate vice president for server and tools marketing, told eWEEK in an interview.
"We wanted to formalize the process so that we can get interoperability feedback from other vendors, some of which will be partners, with others [being] competitors, so that we have a formal process whereby they can give us feedback on the areas in which they want better interoperability," Lees said.
The initial areas of focus will include common interoperability challenges like cross-platform systems management, single sign-on, data presentation, portal integration, storage and identity management, he said.
"Over the last 18 months we have made interoperability a big focus in terms of making our products as interoperable as possible, [working on] utilization standards and advancing these where they dont exist," Lees said.
The formation of a vendor alliance follows the June announcement of Microsofts Interoperability Executive Customer Council, which held its first meeting recently.
It also comes hot on the heels of the set of broad collaboration agreements announced between Microsoft and Novell on Nov. 2 to build, market and support a series of new solutions designed to make Novell and Microsoft products work better together.
The two companies also announced an agreement to provide each others customers with patent coverage for their respective products. These agreements will be in place until at least 2012.
"I think we are continuously surprising people, but it is only surprising if you believe the competitive rhetoric. We have historically had a very good track record on interoperability, enabling people to get access to their data from other systems and making protocols and APIs available," Lees said.
But not everyone is convinced Microsoft is committed to true interoperability, with some in the open-source community remaining skeptical about the companys intentions.
Asked if Microsoft would be spending a lot of time promoting the alliance with Novell, particularly given the popularity of Linux in Europe and the fact that Novells SUSE Linux is the dominant player in the region, Lees said that while it would be discussed, Microsoft would not be focusing on the subject at the IT Forum event.
"While Bob [Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for servers and tools,] plans on mentioning this in his opening keynote on Nov. 14, we dont plan on explaining it blow by blow. The people in the audience want to know about our technical road map and there is so much coming out that we plan to spend most of the time on that," he said.
But Microsoft is aware that those of its customers also using Linux want to know about subjects like virtualization and if the company has a good technical interoperability strategy with companies like Novell to make sure this works well, Lees said.
"Interoperability is important to them, so we will talk about it from a more technical point of view," Lees said.