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Steve Ballmer has played-up interoperability between Windows and other operating systems, notably Linux, to bolster Microsoft's credentials as a provider of management software.

Speaking at Microsoft's Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ballmer on Wednesday presided over a series of cross-platform demonstrations that involved Microsoft's management software.

The move was to silence critics over the company's notoriously "Windows only" approach to servers and applications. Ballmer's appearance was also in marked contrast to last year's MMS where the chief executive failed to show despite being billed to appear.

On display at this year's MMS event was Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1, due for release later this year. Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 was demonstrated on stage running with Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 3.

Commenting on support for Linux, Ballmer said: "As much as that hurts my eyes, I know that's an important capability for the virtual server technology for our customers."

Microsoft's bullish CEO went on to also demonstrate Windows running on Sun Microsystems' hardware, the result of certification that was made possibly under Microsoft's technology sharing agreement with age-old foe Sun signed last April. Regarding the status of the Microsoft-Sun relationship, Ballmer promised a joint update with Sun chief executive Scott McNealy in a "few" weeks.

Also demonstrated was management of a Sun rack through Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) using WS-Management, the web services specification jointly authored by Microsoft, Sun and other partners. According to Ballmer, the demonstration was performed without the need for special management packs to be installed.

Microsoft's CEO was attempting to stress the importance his company places on management, and overcome skeptics who see the company as either shackled to a Windows-only strategy or tied to a desktop- or departmental-server-only heritage.

He noted that in spite of Microsoft's work on services for Unix, collaboration with IBM on web services, and last year's pact with Sun, people still ask him whether Microsoft is committed to interoperability, and often give him a "quizzical" look. Obviously, such a lack of credibility stands in the way of popular acceptance of Microsoft's autonomic computing-based Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI).

"I want to make sure today you understand that from a management perspective we are absolutely committed to interoperability. We're committed to work in broad industry partnership to deliver great interoperability," Ballmer claimed.

In an effort to further convince skeptics, Ballmer promised integrated and improved services for Windows Server 2003 Release 2, due later this year, for connecting to Unix systems, and tools that allow federated identity through Active Directory.®

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