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Microsoft, Sun Find Common Ground

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UPDATED: Microsoft and Sun are running over some easy terrain to start their long journey toward product interoperability.

The two companies checked off a short laundry list of compatibility issues they’ve been working on since celebrating the end of their legal war.

The first leg of the 10-year roadmap includes using APIs to make the Windows .NET stack and the Java stack “play well together.” After consulting with their respective customers and partners, the two sides said much of the focus of this first round addressed Web services infrastructure and identity software.

“We really are working towards a world where Microsoft and Sun coexist,” Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos said in a conference call with the press. “One thing that I have found refreshing is how more similar than different the two companies are in protection of intellectual property and R&D,”

Along with Microsoft Distributed Systems experts Andrew Layman and John Shewchuk, Papadopoulos said the two sides are building an ecosystem for Windows so it can run on Sun’s Opteron-based workstations and servers, including Windows
certification, driver certification and back line support. The companies also are making progress toward certifying Sun’s storage products in a Windows environment.

Sun and Microsoft also announced the establishment of a new competency lab based in Redmond, where customers will be able to test their systems.

Papadopoulos said he and Microsoft’s Bill Gates have met a total of
15 times in the last five months. More than 24 joint engineers were assigned to the collaboration, providing weekly updates to C-level executives like Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Sun CEO Scott McNeally. The two sides said they would provide another update in early 2005.

“Not bad considering that nine months ago we were slashing each
other’s tires,” Papadopoulos quipped. Now we’re helping each other fix each other’s flats.”

But even the execs admit the road towards cooperation has started with some baby steps. For example, Microsoft and Sun said they needed to work on meshing Web services standards outlined by their respective WS-* and Liberty Alliance camps.

Layman said the companies started with the WS-Addressing specification because it was co-authored by Sun and Microsoft engineers. The technology, which has been submitted to the W3C standards board describes a way to address messages so they can get from one computer to another. The groups said progress on WS-Eventing, WS-MetadataExchange and WS-Management. was more challenging but well within reach.

In particular the WS-Management specification is expected to help stabilize disparities between Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and Sun’s N1 provisioning and virtualization platform.

“We get the message and we are actively at work on how we can solve that,” Layman said.

Microsoft also said as it phases out support for the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, the company is working with Sun as well as other ISV partners to ensure that their products run well on the Windows platform. The groups said they were certifying Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition, Sun Java System Access Manager and Sun Java System Identity Manager for Windows Server. Sun said it is also validating Access Manager and Identity Manager functions in identity management scenarios using Microsoft’s Active Directory as the directory for user credentials.

Another target was interoperability between CAD and 3-D graphics. Papadopoulos said much of the work had already been done and cited recent benchmarks running OpenGL on a Java workstation.

The two companies are also using AMD’s Opteron processors as common ground. Each company has already certified its own products for the 64-bit processor and merely needed to compare notes when it came to Windows running on Sun hardware. Papadopoulos said the focus on 64-bit systems would benefit enterprise environments running all three major operating systems (Windows, Solaris, Linux).

Papadopoulos said Microsoft has provided much in the way of making sure XP S2 will protect systems even if they are running Sun’s OpenOffice derivative, StarOffice.

In the storage realm, Sun said it now supports Microsoft’s storage APIs, including Microsoft’s Virtual Disk Service (VDS) and Volume Copy Shadow Service (VSS) on Sun’s StorEdge 6920 storage arrays. Sun said the certification also helps it interoperate better with Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange.

Overall, both sides were cordial and reiterated that they wanted to make sure the stuff really works before making official announcements and said nothing on their radar should conflict with that goal.

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