IT FORUM - Microsoft launches interoperability group

Redeclaring its sincere intention to play better with others, Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday said it has started a group promoting software interoperability. Twenty-five companies, including Sun Microsystems Inc., BEA Systems Inc., XenSource Inc., and Novell Inc., have agreed to join the Interop Vendor Alliance (, which was announced officially at Microsoft's IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain.

The Alliance will focus on promoting interoperability with Microsoft software in areas such as systems management, virtualization, identity management, data access, connecting multiple portals through Web services-based single sign-ons (SSOs) and developer tools, according to Jason Matusow, senior director for interoperability at Microsoft.

"We want to create a forum that creates an environment for getting things done," Matusow said. Vendors that join the group can still decline to make their products work with another member's if they believe it is in their business interest. "Just because one member holds out his hand to shake doesn't mean the other one has to take it," he said.

Scott Williamson, a strategic alliance manager for CA Inc., which is a founding member, says it is often "tricky" to set up technical alliances with companies, especially ones with large product lines that compete with CA in other areas. He sees hopes for the Alliance to ease and speed up the process of setting up politically-sensitive collaborations.

Other founding Alliance members include Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Business Objects SA, Citrix Systems Inc., NEC Corp. of America, Network Appliance Inc., Quest Software Inc., and Software AG.

Notable holdouts to the Interop Alliance include enterprise software competitors to Microsoft such as Oracle Corp. and Red Hat Inc., firms that dominate areas Microsoft wants to get into, such as Google Inc. in Web 2.0 services and VMware Inc. in virtualization, and big companies that both compete and cooperate with Microsoft, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co.