Sun and Microsoft: Fixing Each Others Flats?

Outlining interoperability progress since their landmark settlement eight months ago, a Sun exec says the two companies have moved from "slashing each other's tires [to] helping one another fix our flats." The companies say customers w

Some eight months have passed since Sun Microsystems and Microsoft signed their landmark settlement and technical collaboration agreement, and a number of significant milestones have already been accomplished during that time, executives from both companies said Wednesday.

Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems Inc., told reporters via teleconference that both companies view this as a long-term relationship that will unfold over the years, and one that had been considered a 10-year agreement from the outset.

Papadopoulos said the companies share two immediate goals. "First is that we are working on Web services specifications which will really help future products interoperate out of the box, and secondly, we are exploring the basic common sense approaches that let the existing products sets we both have work well together," he said.

"We are really working toward a world where both Sun and Microsoft products will co-exist at our customers but interoperate and stay that way," Papadopoulos said. "We are very happy on the cooperation we have had so far on Web services protocols from Microsoft."

Both companies have focused on the customers needs, he said, adding that he and Microsoft Corp. chief software architect Bill Gates had met with some of their biggest customers who had given them a long list of things they wanted them to work on, including security, interoperability, Java and Web services. "That dialogue continues," he said.

Andrew Layman, director of Microsofts distributed systems interoperability in Redmond, Wash., talked about the processes and how this was important to relationships with customers. Executives have worked to ensure good communication at all levels of the company and are holding in-depth meetings with engineers and customers to ensure that both companies are aligned, he said.

The companies have held fifteen executive meetings over past five months, while two dozen engineers meet face-to-face every month to discuss specific technical issues such as Sun storage support for Windows Server, how to optimize Windows and Suns AMD hardware, how to work more closely on Web services, and how to provide tools to help customers manage their enterprises, he said.

Papadopoulos said that in the area of 64-bit computing, Sun has a strategic relationship with AMD and Opteron, and that it sees Microsoft and Windows compatibility as a key element in what customers want for those platforms as well.

"Essentially, we want to ensure that our hardware platforms are supporting the major operating systems and platforms for both Solaris and Windows and that we have been certified by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs as Designed for Windows, and our workstations get to take advantage of the enhanced virus protection in AMDs Opteron under Windows XP Service Pack 2 [SP2]," he said. "This gives our customers options."

The two companies also are working on systems interoperability, not just on the server side but on storage and interoperable heterogeneous environments. "In network storage, weve worked together on things like driver compatibility, making sure we support Microsofts virtual disk service and volume copy shadow service on Suns StorEdge 6920 storage arrays, while also ensuring that the Microsoft APIs are not only supported but also certified," Papadopoulos said.

This would give customers the assurance that the two companies are playing well together and that they could depend on this for provisioning things such as SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange, he said.

Next Page: Setting up a center to test interoperability.