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Microsoft, Novell expand on technical collaboration plans

Microsoft and Novell on Feb. 12 unveiled more specifics regarding their joint technical roadmap. As expected, the two companies are collaborating on four areas of technology that address significant problems faced by enterprises: virtualization, Web services for managing physical and virtual servers, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility.

In virtualization, Microsoft and Novell are jointly developing a virtualization offering for Linux and Windows Server to consolidate server workloads in heterogeneous data centers. When the project is completed, users will be able to run SLES 10 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) as a virtualized guest on an upcoming “service pack 1” update to Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2.

In addition, in the next version of Windows Server, codename Longhorn, SLES 10 will run as an enlightened guest using its built-in Longhorn’s virtualization technology. On the Linux side, Longhorn will run as a paravirtualized guest on SLES 10 using Xen virtualization technology.

All these new virtualization mechanisms are expected to arrive in 2007, according to the companies. Virtualization is the first goal for the recently announced Novell and Microsoft joint labs.

The unlikely operating system pair is also working on the foundation for joint Web services-based management tools for Linux and Windows Server. This collaboration on standards-based solutions for managing heterogeneous environments should make it easier for companies to manage their mixed Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise physical and virtual environments.

The Web Services for Management (WS-management) specification supports the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) initiative to expose model-agnostic management resources via a set of Web services protocols. At the same time, Novell is working with the open source community to develop an open-source implementation of the WS-Management specification. Novell ZENworks Orchestrator and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 is expected to incorporate WS-Management this year, the companies said.

WS-Management is a vendor-neutral core set of Web service specifications that’s meant to define the common set of operations that all systems management systems must use. WS-Management’s goal is to support interoperability between management applications and managed resources. In addition to Novell and Microsoft, Sun, Intel, and Symantec, among many others, support WS-Management.

Microsoft and Novell are working toward improving directory and identity interoperability between Novell eDirectory and Microsoft AD (Active Directory). The WS-Management tools will work with both AD and eDirectory to produce improved IT resource access control for network administrators, the companies said.

Microsoft and Novell are also continuing their work delivering seamless interoperability between office productivity applications. This is primarily being done through the joint open source project to create a bi-directional translator for documents, spreadsheets and presentations between OpenOffice.org’s ODF (OpenDocument format), and Microsoft’s Open XML.

The first version of the ODF/Open XML translator arrived on Feb. 2. This version of the Open XML/ODF Translator supports Microsoft’s Office 2007, Office 2003, and Office XP. Additionally, later this month, Novell will release an Open XML/ODF Translator for the Novell edition of OpenOffice.org.

Microsoft and Novell will also be developing a series of interoperability demonstrations that focus on interoperability between technologies and products from both companies. A more detailed roadmap for this collaborative effort will be available in the first half of 2007.

Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and CTO at Novell, stated, “The majority of our customers have mixed-source environments, and they want their platform vendors to take responsibility for making things work together. That’s what our technical collaboration agreement with Microsoft is all about. We’re working together to deliver true interoperability between Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise, and we are standing together behind our products and our customers.”

Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s senior VP of the Servers and Tools Business, added, “We’re working on reducing costs and improving flexibility in the data center so customers can focus on managing their businesses, not their IT systems.”

Al Gillen, research VP for system software at IDC, stated, “With this first installment of the Microsoft-Novell development roadmap, we see that both companies are building on this relationship to develop real, product-specific solutions to deliver on the promises made to customers. The great potential of the November announcement between Microsoft and Novell could have been disappointing without a product-specific roadmap to execute against. With the roadmap, the technology benefits customers can expect will be tangible and delivered on a predictable basis.”

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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