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Microsoft defends vendor standards lead

Interoperability by another name

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LinuxWorld Microsoft has defended vendor-led standards and interoperability work rather than waiting for industry bodies to reach an open consensus.

Sam Ramji, Microsoft director of platform technology strategy, said vendors with complicated products like, say, Windows that implement thousands of standards can quickly identify and solve problems in areas like Windows and Linux interoperability.

"Vendors tend to lead and standards bodies to follow, communities tend to lead and standards bodies tend to follow," Ramji said. "It ends up being specific technologists that work together to solve standards issues."

Speaking at a LinuxWorld panel on interoperability between Linux and Windows, Ramji's view differed to Novell's director of marketing for Linux and open platforms, Justin Steinman. Novell last year signed a contentious deal with Microsoft covering IP protection and interoperability between Windows and SuSE Linux.

Steinman said it was important for vendors to participate in standards groups "otherwise we have people going off into corners... with two or three people working together instead of the broader community".

"We have a slightly different perspective," Steinman said. "Private people and private organizations like vendors drive interoperability, but bodies also drive interoperability. While it's important for vendors like Microsoft and Novell to get together and drive interoperability, we are only one voice in the Linux community."

He pointed to the recent secondment of SuSE manager Marcus Rex as Linux Foundation chief technology officer as an example of good participation. "The Linux community needs to be able to lead and drive and you need community leaders like Marcus to drive some of those standards."

Microsoft is no stranger to pushing the standards process to meet its own technology roadmaps and goals. Microsoft got in hot water for a non-standard implementation of MIT's Kerberos network authentication protocol in Windows 2000.

More recently, Microsoft eschewed bodies such as OASIS and W3C in the early days of web services to not only build a WS- roadmap with IBM, that others were constrained to adopt, but also took the lead on forming a special standards body - the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization - to certify products and maintain interoperability.

The WS- roadmap overlapped with efforts in existing standards bodies supported by the likes of Oracle and Sun Microsystems, much to these companies' ire.

Ironically using Kerberos to prove his point, Ramji claimed no standard existed around Kerberos as a communications protocol. "It's put into practice through vendors and community members and SIs and people who are wiling to make it work." ®

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