Microsoft Forms Interoperability Alliance With Other Tech Vendors - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Forms Interoperability Alliance With Other Tech Vendors

The goal of the Interoperability Vendor Alliance is for software and hardware vendors to work with Microsoft to make their products work better together, based on input by customers.

Microsoft has formed an interoperability alliance with software and hardware vendors five months after launching an effort with customers to identify integration problems with other products.

The Interoperability Vendor Alliance was unveiled Tuesday at Microsoft's TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain. The purpose of the group is to work with Microsoft in making their products work better together, based on input by customers.

Members included well-known tech companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, BEA Systems, Business Objects, CA, NEC, Novell, Siemens Enterprise Communications, Software AG, and Sun Microsystems.

Microsoft for years was a rabid protector of its own technology, preferring not to spend a lot of time on integration. That, however, changed as the software maker drove deep into the IT infrastructure of large corporations and found complex heterogeneous environments of multiple operating systems, such as Unix, Linux, and mainframes.

Also driving Microsoft toward interoperability were complaints by its own customers, which found the Windows platform too difficulty to tie to business applications running on other operating environments. In February 2005, Bill Gates, chairman, co-founder, and chief software architect of Microsoft, introduced the concept of "interoperable by design" as its initiative to make its products play nice with others' through the use of XML technology.

The new alliance is about finding and publishing best practices on the group's Web site for integrating members' products. The vendors will work with customers to set interoperability priorities related to systems management, virtualization, identity management, data integration, storage management, portal integration, and developer tools. Members of the group also agreed to share technical information with each other.

In addition to publicizing best practices, alliance members also planned to post white papers and case studies related to their customers' experiences, and solutions to problems.

Microsoft announced the formation of the group five months after unveiling the Interoperability Customer Executive Council. That group is scheduled to meet twice a year at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters to discuss issues such as connectivity, application integration and data exchange.

The council's founding members include government organizations and corporations. They are the Societe Generale, LexisNexis, Kohl's Department Stores, Denmark's Ministry of Finance, Spain's Generalitat de Catalunya and Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI), and the states of Wisconsin and Delaware.

Interoperability hurdles go beyond Microsoft. Major technology vendors in general try to tie customers to their software infrastructure products by offering as complete a product line as possible. Examples of ever-expanding product lines include IBM's WebSphere, Microsoft's .Net, and Sun's Java.

Developing tools for interoperability cost money, and there's no immediate revenue tied to the expense. While the industry has made lots of noise about rallying around XML and other potential interoperability standards, results so far have fallen far short of the hype.

Jason Matusow, senior director of intellectual property and interoperability for Microsoft, said standards alone are unlikely to ever achieve interoperability, so there's a need for customer and vendor alliances.

"Interoperability is not just about standards," Matusow said. "Standards are one of many (steps) to achieve interoperability."

Other members of the latest alliance include The Carbon Project, Centeris, Citrix Systems, GXS, IP Commerce, JNBridge, Kernel Networks, Levi, Ray & Shoup, Network Appliance, Q4bis, Quest Software, SugarCRM, Symphony Services, Xcalia, and XenSource.

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