Sun, Microsoft To Reveal New Interoperability Plans Next Month

At a Sun briefing on Monday about its upcoming Solaris 10 upgrade, a Sun marketing executive hinted that Sun and Microsoft aim to enhance interoperability between their platforms' file systems, as well as other areas, and expect to announce those plans next month. The companies have previously divulged plans to integrate their respective directories, Web services architectures and operating systems.

At JavaOne in June, Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy said phase one--providing interoperability between Microsoft's Active Directory and Sun's Java System Identity Server--would be delivered in late summer.

But Mark McClain, vice president of software marketing at Sun, said Monday that announcement has been pushed back to October as the two companies formulate an expanded plan of interoperability. Sun and Microsoft last month met with 10 top customers at a roundtable meeting in New York that was attended by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos.

"This has opened up dialogue where there was no dialogue before," McClain said, adding that customers are "sick and tired" of trying to get their Unix and Windows systems to integrate. He also offered a longer list of potential areas of integration that the two companies are now evaluating. "In the October time frame, we'll hint at other things coming," he said.

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It's not clear what additional benefits would be offered by enhanced file system interoperability, said Ted Dinsmore, president of Conchango, a Microsoft solution provider based in New York. For example, he noted, Microsoft's Windows Services for Unix 3.0 currently offers significant interoperability between Windows and Unix.

Sun's McClain didn't say if Sun and Microsoft plan enhanced interoperability for the current file systems in Solaris 9 and Windows Server 2003, or for the Sun's next-generation file system, code-named ZFS, in Solaris 10 and Microsoft's next-gen file system, code-named WinFS, which isn't due out until after the next Windows upgrades ship in 2006 and 2007.

Still, McClain said directory interoperability will be delivered soon and that Sun and Microsoft customers won't have to upgrade to the latest version of either company's directory to enjoy single sign-on capabilities in a mixed Windows-Sun directory infrastructure.

In April, Microsoft and Sun ended a longtime war by announcing a 10-year pact and promising significant interoperability between their platforms. At the time, executives said the two vendors would provide interoperability for Windows and Solaris but would eventually include other important areas, such as e-mail and database software.

The first phase of the partnership will be to solve single sign-on and facilitate interoperability between the LDAP model of the directory and identity management products in Sun's Java Enterprise System and Microsoft Active Directory, McNealy told attendees at Sun's annual Java developer confab in San Francisco last June.

James Dobson, a system architect and Solaris 10 beta tester at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., said directory interoperability would be useful because the college uses Solaris and Windows.

"We want to find as many open standards as possible and connect to LDAP and open-source systems," said Dobson, who attended Monday's briefing at Sun's Burlington, Mass., location. "There is Active Directory here, so it would be pretty attractive."

Conchango's Dinsmore agreed. "Active Directory and Sun server integration sounds potentially nice, depending on how many applications are written on Sun Directory," he said.