Microsoft Corp’s chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, joined Novell Inc executives at Novell’s BrainShare user conference to defend the companies’ interoperability, development, and patent deal.
Well I guess pigs do fly, said Novell’s chief marketing officer, John Dragoon, emphasizing that Mundie’s appearance at BrainShare would have been unthinkable ahead of their controversial partnership deal.
To many Linux and open source supporters the deal remains something they could much rather not think about, but Mundie and Jeff Jaffe, Novell’s chief technology officer, insisted that the deal is good is for the industry in bringing together Linux and Windows.
We’ve created a win-win-win, said Jaffe. Microsoft feels like they won, they’re getting a lot out of it. We in Novell feel like we won, and then the biggest winner of all is the customer, who finally has companies collaborating on the mixed source environment.
There are a lot of elements of the agreement between Microsoft and Novell that show that it is possible to build bridges between these two environments, said Mundie. Many IT professionals that we talk to rank interoperability as important as security and reliability in managing the health of their overall IT environments.
At Novell’s customer event, the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company demonstrated the first fruits of the interoperability deal including the ability to run Windows Server virtualized on SUSE Linux Enterprise, the integration between Active Directory and Novell eDirectory, and the integration between OpenOffice.org and Microsoft’s Open XML formats.
In the agreement we agreed to develop, market, and support these products together, and I think all three phases of that are clearly operational, said Mundie. The market aspects of it are really going quite well; we’ve had a very, very positive response from our customers.
To date, AIG, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, AIG Technologies, Wal-Mart, and HSBC have signed up to the deal, accepting coupons for SUSE Linux Enterprise support from Microsoft, and Novell’s CEO, Ron Hovsepian, maintained that the customer was at the forefront of Microsoft and Novell’s minds when the deal was done.
I will tell you as the CEO of this corporation, it was done for one reason, and that was for the customers, he said. We can make up all the noise we want around the edge of this thing, but it was all about driving customers, driving customers to make their lives easier and to deliver interoperability.
Jaffe also maintained that the deal, which saw Microsoft pay Novell $348m up front for Linux support certificates and patent cooperation, does not mean that Novell is now in Microsoft’s pocket.
At the end of the day, Microsoft is going to push for Windows, we’re going to push for Linux, we’ll agree to disagree, but we will agree on getting interoperability between the platforms, he said.
Agreeing to disagree is something the two companies have had to do following Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s suggestion that Microsoft has intellectual property claims over Linux.
Critics of the Novell/Microsoft relationship have pointed out that Ballmer would not be in a position to make such claims had the two companies not entered into an agreement not to sue each other’s customers for patent claims that they may or may not have against each other’s products.
While the two companies painted the agreement as a win for all parties, it was clear that there are some areas on which the two companies still disagree. Both listed two different drivers that drove them to the partnership, for example.
What drove us to this deal was two simple things: first of all listening to customers, and secondly…customers are saying ‘Linux is important, but so is Windows, these are the two platforms of the future, and you guys have got to work together on interoperability and virtualization’, said Jaffe.
Customers came to us and asked us to do the deal. They had big investments in the Microsoft environment, they wanted to make investments in this new environment, and there were really two problems that were overhanging that, added Mundie.
One was this question of not just could the protocol liaison happen between the islands, but could in fact the integration be closer such that it would really allow true cost reductions in that environment. And there was an element of this intellectual property assurance too, he said.
They wanted at least some comfort that there was a partnership where they could say ‘if I at least buy these things I know you guys aren’t warring over any of these issues and I’m not going to get caught up in these questions’.