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Microsoft embraces and extends server promiscuity

It’s a heterogeneous, cross-platform, multi-platform, multivendor world

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Interop 2008 A decidedly downbeat Bob Muglia took centre stage at Interop this afternoon to preach the gospel of interoperability according to Microsoft.

Looking like he was nursing a cold, the Microsoft server and tools chief was maybe played out from his speech earlier in the day at the Venetian hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, where Microsoft is running a management summit for 4,000 people.

We suspect that he got a rather more enthusiastic reaction from the home crowd for his System Center announcements today than the polite applause he generated a couple of miles down the road from 2000 or so delegates at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center.

But without further ado, to the new products. Both are released today as public betas.

HeteroCrossable Platform

First up is System Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions. This will enable Windows sysadmins to remotely monitor and repair servers running on the main flavours of Unix and Linux. To do this – and to gain the trust of the Unix community - Microsoft has turned to open standards protocols for the extensions. They are, since you ask, Web Services for Management (WS-Management) and OpenPegasus. Microsoft likes OpenPegasus so much that today it joined the protocol's Steering Committee. It will contribute code back to the open source community under the Microsoft Public License, which, the company tells us, is an Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved license.

In his keynote, Muglia gave props to Quest and Xandros for developing Cross Platform Extensions management packs that will enable sysadmins to patrol Oracle and MySQL databases using Microsoft System Center.

"I can’t say that I recommend that you use so many non-Windows servers,” he told the delegates. "But if you happen to do that we do want to provide great heterogeneous support in a cross-platform world." You had to be there, but the Interop crowd raised a collective laugh. Next up is System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Muglia didn’t have so much to say about this, except that it’s deeply integrated with System Center - and that you can use it with VMWare. So let’s turn to the press release and HP server software veep Scott Farrand for a run-around the product benefits.

"New ways to lower energy costs, reduce server sprawl and optimize datacenters are provided by the collaboration between HP and Microsoft as virtualization goes mainstream...The combined solutions also allow customers to maximize availability, performance and flexibility of physical host servers, virtualized guest operating systems and workloads."

And so on.

Microsoft of course has a long way to go before it can match market VMware for virt. technology or market share. But "deep integration" with SystemCenter is the key to how it will play catch-up. And if it fails, the company will certainly hasten the day that VMWare will have to lower its prices.

The way Muglia tells it, today’s System Center news illustrates the bigger picture – of Microsoft’s unambiguous commitment to interoperability, of its keenness to work with others. That includes rivals as well as ISVs, the tens of thousands of independent software vendors who build their apps using Microsoft software.

Mixed message

"We’ve come a long way in the last five years," he told Interop, after enunciating the company’s four principles to interoperability. These were announced in February – you can read our story about the release of previously secret code protocols here.

To date, the company has released 45,000 pages of protocols, that will enable third parties to better integrate their software with Microsoft products. And no the sky hasn't fallen in. "We used to think these were our great trade secrets," said Muglia. They're not, but their release - almost certainly prompted by a desire to head off yet another EU anti-trust investigation - shows Microsoft being open and transparent, in chime with a second principle of what it calls Open Engagement.

A third principle is to encourage data portability, so that customers can move their data, without let or hindrance. That is entirely admirable, but the way Microsoft is working to ensure this, by way of a fourth principle - to work with all the software standards bodies on God's planet - is the stuff of battlefields, as this year's furore over Open XML shows. Microsoft is content to work behind the scenes, while its rivals cry foul.

When the rivals stop shouting, we will know that Microsoft truly is fully interoperable and is seen to be fully interoperable. In the meantime, we look forward to reporting the bush wars for many years to come. ®

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