IT FORUM - Microsoft launches interoperability group

Reiterating that it wants to play better with others, Microsoft Corp. has started a group to promote 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 announced Tuesday 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, multiple portal connections through Web services-based single sign-ons 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 at CA Inc., a founding member of the new group, said 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 hopes the alliance will be able to ease the process of creating politically sensitive collaborations.

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

Notable holdouts 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.