Microsoft, Novell Detail Their Linux-Windows Roadmap

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The companies said they will focus their joint efforts on building more efficient, cost-effective products for facilitating server virtualization, Web services implementations, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility.

"The majority of our customers have mixed-source environments, and they want their platform vendors to take responsibility for making things work together," said Jeff Jaffe, Novell's chief technology officer, in a statement late Monday.

To help businesses create virtual server farms consisting of hardware running Windows and Linux, Microsoft and Novell are planning products that will allow users to host Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10 as a "virtualized guest" on upcoming releases of Windows Server, including the forthcoming version known as Longhorn. Conversely, products are also in the works to allow Windows Server to reside as a guest on Suse Linux servers.

The two companies said they will employ Web services standards to create management tools for the mixed environments, based on the Web Services for Management Specification. Both Novell's ZenWorks Orchestrator and Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager 2007 will incorporate the specification this year.

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Microsoft and Novell, which joined forces in November -- to the displeasure of many in the Linux community -- also pledged to produce productivity applications that can work in both Windows and Linux environments. The companies have embarked on an open-source project to create a bi-directional translator for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations between the OpenDocument format (ODF), which is supported by, and Open XML, the default format for Microsoft Office.

Lastly, the two companies said they're working to improve directory and identity interoperability between Microsoft and Novell products and technologies using standards-based protocols to improve control over IT resources managed with either Novell eDirectory or Microsoft Active Directory.

Analysts say the roadmap is a welcome sign that the controversial teamup of Microsoft and Novell will result in more than talk and vaporware. "With the road map, the technology benefits customers can expect will be tangible and delivered on a predictable basis," says IDC analyst Al Gillen.

Since November, Microsoft has sold more than 35,000 "certificates" that allow customers to access Novell's Suse Linux products and support. The customer list includes Wal-Mart, which in late January said it would deploy a mix of Linux and Windows products for its internal computing and Web requirements.