Microsoft, Sun tout progress on interoperability

Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. provided a progress report Wednesday on their interoperability efforts, touting ongoing cooperation on Web services standardization, deployment of Windows on Sun systems, and other areas.

“We really are working toward a world where both Sun and Microsoft products coexist,” said Greg Papadopoulos, Sun’s chief technical officer, in a joint conference call to discuss steps taken by the former bitter rivals since their cooperation agreement forged in April. “We’re going to ensure unique levels of interoperability.”

“One thing for me that I have found really, really refreshing in this whole alliance (is) the fact that the companies actually end up being more similar than different in terms of IP (intellectual property) and how we approach R&D,” Papadopoulos said.

Hank Vigil, corporate vice-president for consumer strategy and partnerships at Microsoft, said the software giant is “quite pleased” with the progress the companies have made in the early stages of the relationship.

The companies have held weekly meetings between “relationship managers” to check progress and resolve issues, they said. Additionally, there have been 15 executive meetings, and monthly meetings between engineers. Papadopoulos has met with Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has met with Sun Chairman, President, and CEO Scott McNealy.

In the Web services realm, the two vendors have co-authored four Web services specifications in the last six months. These include WS-Addressing, which was submitted to the W3C, as well as WS-Eventing, WS-MetadataExchange, and WS-Management.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is referring customers wanting Java on Windows to Sun’s JVM, since Microsoft’s JVM is not being upgraded. The two companies and partners are working to ensure Java products run well on Windows.

To improve customer experience, the companies have forged a more formalized business relationship, working to provide seamless resolution of technical issues between products, they said. They are also working to establish a Competency Center in Redmond, Wash., where Sun can thoroughly test real-world applications.

The vendors also cited Sun’s achieving VeriTest certification for Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition, Sun Java System Access Manager, and Sun Java System Identity Manager running reliably on Windows Server. Sun also is set to complete a plan to validate Access Manager and Identity Manager functionality in identity management scenarios using Microsoft Active Directory as the directory for user credentials.

Identity is a key area in the arrangement. “We agree that browser authentication is an area where we could probably do some great work jointly,” although there is nothing to announce at the moment, said Andrew Layman, director of distributed systems interoperability at Microsoft. Announcements on interoperability between identity products are expected next year, according to Microsoft.

Additionally, the vendors cooperated on ensuring that Windows XP SP2 was interoperable with the Java Runtime Environment and StarOffice Productivity suite.

Work in the area of deploying Windows on Sun systems has resulted in Sun’s AMD Opteron servers and workstations certified by Windows Hardware Quality Labs as “Designed for Windows,” while workstations also take advantage of AMD Opteron Enhanced Virus Protection for Microsoft Windows XP SP2, the two vendors said.

“Essentially, we want to ensure that our hardware platforms are supporting the major operating systems,” Solaris and Windows, Papadapoulos said.

Joint customers can execute graphics-intensive workloads on Sun-branded workstations running Windows, producing what the companies described as industry-leading results in the SPECviewperf benchmark. Additionally, Microsoft has provided Sun with marketing support in promoting these workstations to Microsoft Certified Professionals.

In storage, Microsoft and Sun are working together to ensure Sun’s support of Microsoft storage APIs, including Virtual Disk Service and Volume Copy Shadow Service on Sun StorEdge 6920 storage arrays. The 6920 also has received the “Designed for Windows” logo qualification to provide a consistent experience for Windows customers. The qualification is intended to simplify midrange storage provisioning on Microsoft’s SQL Server and Exchange platforms.