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Microsoft Announces Vendor Interop Alliance, Without Key Rivals

Microsoft on Tuesday said it has formed an interoperability alliance with top software companies, yet some of the software giant's key rivals are absent from the list.

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Called the Vendor Interop Alliance, the initiative was unveiled at the IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain. The alliance aims to encourage vendor collaboration to promote interoperability among disparate systems, enable scenario-based testing to ensure interoperability and communicate breakthroughs in interoperability to customers, who have long struggled with integrating disparate software.

Founding members of the alliance include Sun Microsystems and Novell, longtime Microsoft competitors in the operating system arena; BEA Systems and Business Objects, which compete with Microsoft in middleware; and Citrix Systems and XenSource, which go up against Microsoft in virtualization software.

Other founding members include CA, The Carbon Project, Centeris, Advanced Micro Devices, GXS, IP Commerce, JNBridge, Kernel Networks, Levi, Ray and Shoup, NEC, Network Appliance, Q4bis, Quest Software, Siemens Software AG, SugarCRM, Symphony Services and Xcalia.

Leading software vendors Oracle, Red Hat and VMware -- chief competitors of Microsoft -- aren't on the list of members.

The Vendor Interop Alliance is the latest in a string of Microsoft-led efforts this year to resolve interoperability issues. As part of that push, Microsoft has pledged to document more specifications, including Web services and open document formats, and has signed virtualization and antispam pacts with rivals.

In the last two years, Microsoft has formed interoperability partnerships with open-source players such as Sun, SugarCRM, Zend and XenSource. And last week, on Nov. 2, Microsoft sent shock waves though the industry by entering into a broad interoperability pact with archrival Novell.

Customers are gaining power in the technology acquisition equation, and many are demanding that Microsoft provide interoperability or lose out on licensing and maintenance contracts. And as customer demands override vendors' voices, ISVs in the interoperability software market are stepping up their marketing efforts to connect with potential partners and customers.

One member of the alliance, Centeris, provides tools to help customers manage Linux in Windows environments. The company recently launched its WorldPartner Program, which targets VARs to sell the Centeris Likewise Management Suite. Centeris promises pre- and post-sales customer support under the program.

Another alliance member, Symphony Services, a provider of product engineering outsourcing services, said enabling an integrated interoperability value chain will speed time-to-market for vendors and deliver on a long-sought customer demand: better interoperability with Microsoft products. In a statement released Tuesday, Symphony CTO Jerry Smith said planned multivendor labs will allow vendors to test interoperability with Microsoft products and other vendors' products and systems before they go to market.

The effort will help vendors "reduce system-related problems, speed time-to-value after installation and reduce the amount of costly, post-launch updates or help-desk workarounds," Smith said in the statement. "End users will see a better return on their technology investments, spend less on internal support and reduce the effort and cost of integration."

Still, not all ISVs are pleased with Microsoft's efforts to reach out to other vendors, notably in the open-source realm.

In a letter posted on its Web site, Samba, an open-source project whose code enables interoperability between Windows and Linux servers and Windows-based clients, blasted Novell for its interoperability pact with Microsoft. Samba's file and print software is bundled with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Server 9.

"The Samba team disapproves strongly of the actions taken by Novell on Nov. 2. The patent agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement," Samba said in the letter. "For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the free software community. We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self-serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the free software community."

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