BARCELONA, Spain—Now that Windows Vista and Office 2007 have been released to manufacturing, the spotlight is on Windows Server “Longhorn.” Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for server and tools sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at TechEd: IT Forum here to give an update on Longhorns road map, discuss the companys controversial deal with Novell and give his thoughts on Sun Microsystems decision to license Java under the GNU GPL.
Tell me about the recent deal with Novell and what the executive thinking was behind that?
Weve been working a long time to try and get an agreement with a major distribution vendor. We did the XenSource deal in the summer, which focused on virtualization and interoperability, and you could say they are under contract to us to provide a piece of Longhorn Server.
The work with Novell is somewhat different because really, they are a major distribution vendor and its really focused on interoperability there. There are a couple of major parts to that: One is responding to the demands customers have about this to have Linux and Windows interoperate; while the other piece is that this is the answer to questions customers have had about the assurance that they are in compliance with intellectual property rules with Linux.
Since the advent of open-source software and its usage by business customers, there has been an open question about intellectual property. So this deal is a milestone in that it shows how commercial and open-source companies can work together to assure customers that when they acquire Novell SUSEs open-source technology they are in compliance with, and are respecting, all of the intellectual property that exists in the environment.
Under the terms of the deal there is no covenant for the two companies not to sue one another. The patent protection is just for customers, right?
That is the case and customers are the ones that matter here and were the focus of the deal. When you start getting into broader covenants not to sue between two companies you hit a whole set of different intellectual property rules.
Novell filed an 8-K recently in which it said that you have agreed not to do a similar deal with another Linux vendor to encourage the adoption of Linux and Windows virtualization solutions through a subscription certificate program. Doesnt that go against all your talk of wanting to get agreements with the other Linux vendors?
We do want to be open to everybody, but there is no limitation in the agreement that prevents us from working with the other distribution vendors to get a similar set of intellectual property patent protections for their customers, and we very much would like to make that happen as its good for customers and the other distribution vendors.
However, the ability we have to offset customer costs associated with that transition is a Novell-focused thing and what that comes down to is that you get some advantage to being first. It was a fairly substantive step for Novell to make this transition and we will help those customers make that transition.
Are you talking to Red Hat in this regard on an ongoing basis?
We have been and we do communicate with Red Hat, and in fact we continue to reach out and want to work with them and want to structure a relationship where Red Hat customers can be assured of the same thing that Novell customers are.
Do you think thats likely?
Youll have to ask Red Hat that question. I hope so. We really want to do this.
There are a lot of theories about why you did this deal and what your real motivation is.
There were two motivations behind this deal for us. One was the interoperability that I mentioned and which is very positive for us in every sense. The second is to recognize, unambiguously, that there is value to intellectual property within open-source products that are used by customers and that that intellectual property should be honored. This deal provides a structure that makes it easy for customers to acquire their open-source technology while at the same time honoring the intellectual rights. And in that sense we think it is a milestone for the industry.
Does Suns decision to make Java available under the GNU GPL (General Public License) affect Microsoft and its .Net strategy in any way?
I dont think it really does. Obviously we have a relationship with Sun and we dont believe that relationship is impacted. We work with Sun on a number of different forms of interoperability, and I dont think this impacts that. I think it is a decision on Suns part about how they want to bring their products to market and thats fine. We dont think it will change the commercial acceptance of Java or J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) in the enterprise.
We still believe, very strongly, both in the potential for software to be transformative and in the opportunity as an industry. I see the real value in the software and when we talk about software-as-a-service, it is a different services model to what Novell or Red Hat have. Its a model where customers acquire our software through a connection over the Internet and are getting it fed to them. But the underlying value is really in the software.
But one of the things I think is very important is that as time has gone on we have separated in our mind some attributes of open source. There are two things: the open source development model, which is the community-based development model of which there are multiple ways of doing licensing, such as GPL-style licensing and BSD-style licensing, and then theres commercial licensing.
We are clearly in the latter camp and we do ship products that include open-source-community-developed software that adheres to BSD-style licenses. Our Compute Cluster Server, for example, contains quite a bit of technology that was developed under open source and subject to BSD-style licensing.
But people are looking at Suns GPL move with Java and asking whether Microsoft might now make the .Net Framework available under an open-source license in addition to your Shared Source license. Any possibility of that?
First of all we do have substantive parts of the .Net Framework available through the open-source community and there are ongoing implementations of that. There is a substantive effort in open source to bring such an implementation of .Net to market, known as Mono and being driven by Novell, and one of the attributes of the agreement we made with Novell is that the intellectual property associated with that is available to Novell customers. But we certainly have no intention of releasing the source code to .Net to the community, but the community is free to go with Mono and enhance that and build solutions for customers.
Is Microsoft willing to look at a similar patent deal with Sun around the .Net framework and Java so that developers could freely build on both platforms?
We already have a substantive intellectual property agreement with Sun, which we entered into a couple of years ago and I think .Net was a part of that, so that is in place already I think. So we made IP peace with Sun two years ago.
When are you going to announce what the official name for Windows Server “Longhorn” is, and is it going to be Vista Server, which is what some people inside Microsoft are calling it on their blogs?
No. “Longhorn” is not going to be renamed Vista Server. We will announce the official name when we release Beta 3, which is on track for the first half of 2007.
Can you give me an updated road map for Longhorn, including the upcoming milestones?
Sure. Just before we shipped Vista, we forked the code and the Longhorn Server tree is now our primary tree as we move forward. Itll hold as the primary tree until sometime close to [when] Longhorn ships, at which time the future primary source code tree will merge off and become the next release of Windows client and server. Since we forked from Vista we have pulled up all of the last-minute Vista fixes—those were pulled up within a day or two—and we have now integrated in a final set of changes for Longhorn.
There will be two waves of integration going forward: We have done the first one and will get a CTP (Community Technology Preview) out later this year while, at the same time and in a separate build, we will incorporate the final set of changes and then stabilize the builds into a CTP for the first quarter of next year. We will then do ongoing CTPs as we get closer to Beta 3. The system has been pretty stable through all of this. I was a little nervous that the last set of changes, which werent that massive, would destabilize things, but it actually looks pretty good.
We know that Beta 2 was quite stable and many customers are running it in production right now, but we will probably not encourage a lot of new customers to go into production with the new stuff until Beta 3, or just before. So all the features will be done and everything will be in the code by early next year and then we will concentrate on pure stabilization and customer testing, stress testing and long-running tests, and all the stuff we do to make sure that when Longhorn ships it will be more stable than the current release of Windows Server 2003.
Is the plan to have Longhorn Server and Windows Vista SP1 (Service Pack 1) ship at the same time next year?
Thats the plan, to ship Longhorn and Vista SP1 simultaneously as its one source code base. So, if you follow that model, you have to ship them both at roughly the same time. This time we had more integration to do post-Vista ship than we had hoped we would have, but well see how this plays out next time.
What are your expectations for Longhorn Server adoption?
What will happen is that once it has shipped it will simply be the server of choice for people to deploy. It will sit right next to their 2003 and 2000 servers and is not disruptive. It has new capabilities if you want to take advantage of them for applications, but people will keep their 2003 servers. The server marketplace is not a substantive upgrade one. We do get some upgrades and so we do enable the scenario, but by and large people deploy the new operating system when they buy new hardware and the thing about Longhorn Server is that it will be very straightforward for customers.