Bob Muglia: Microsoft changing its approach to interoperability

Bob Muglia: Microsoft changing its approach to interoperability

Summary: "What has changed is the way we think about how we work across the industry in terms of providing interoperable solutions. Our focus has shifted over the last few years.


"What has changed is the way we think about how we work across the industry in terms of providing interoperable solutions. Our focus has shifted over the last few years." Those are the words of Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior vice president of servers and tools.


He was speaking at the Interop conference this morning in Las Vegas about the "new" Microsoft that is now embracing and extending beyond its stack to benefit customers, with "interoperability by design." This comes after Microsoft’s recent claim that open source software violates 235 of its patents, perhaps as a way to create roadblocks to the forthcoming GPL version 3. During his keynote, Muglia mentioned the patents and attempted to clarify Microsoft's position.

"Customers say it is problematic when they are working with open source, but don't have similar IP protection [compared to commercial software or hardware]," he said. "There is no mechanism to license opens source software with assurance not at risk. We are working with the industry and with open source vendors to provide very straightforward programs for licensing. If you want Linux, for example, Microsoft is proactively addressing [assurance] in a cost-effective, industry friendly way."

Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley doesn't believe that Microsoft has the best interest of customers at heart by asking them to license patent that it says open source software violate.

I'm stunned that after taking a number of seemingly positive steps vis-a-vis its thinking and strategy around open source, Microsoft has decided to blow away any bridges it built in a matter of weeks. Until recently, it was primarily CEO Steve Ballmer who was championing publicly Microsoft’s old “closed source is good/open source is bad” rhetoric. (For every three steps forward others at Microsoft took toward understanding and articulating ways that open source and proprietary source could coexist, Ballmer only managed to take two steps back.)

This newest Microsoft-sponsored study adds insult to injury. The company’s decision to go public with an alleged count of patent infringements has backfired and turned into a three-ring circus (If you doubt that, check out the list of nearly 300 individuals who’ve lined up on a public Wiki asking for Microsoft to “sue me first” for patent violations.)

Muglia announced three new licensees of Microsoft networking protocols--Juniper Networks, Aruba Wireless Networks and OnStor--as evidence that IP licensing is more than tolerated by customers.

On the theme of interoperability, Muglia, a 19-year veteran of Microsoft, defined it as "enabling IT systems and business processes to exchange data and facilitate the sharing of information and knowledge."

Microsoft has historically fixated on integrating its own set of applications--intra-operability.


Now, Microsoft is taking a more liberal approach to opening up its core software and playing nice with others. "There should be no vendor restriction in doing what you want with the data you create," Muglia said, "and we are working with the industry to facilitate [interoperability] through open standards and a wide variety of connectors and other mechanisms. One of the mechanisms is Microsoft's Open Specification Promise, which offers protocols such WS-* and Open XML royalty free.


In many aspects, Microsoft has been the platform and ecosystem feeding thousand of developers tied to Windows. At the same time, the company is a potential competitor as Symantec and McAfee have found in the security space, for example. Microsoft is partnering with multiple vendors on in the unified communications, federated identity and virtualization areas, but could someday eat their lunch. It's the law of the jungle, and could lead industry competitors to think that Microsoft is playing with loaded dice.

Microsoft has been a reluctant interoperator, but in going for enterprise customers, the build the moat mentality is being moderated. Of course that doesn't mean that Microsoft will accept anyone's definition of interoperability or formats. The debate over the OpenDoc Format versus Office Open XML last year was a good example of Microsoft's reluctance to be flexible, although it eventually sponsored the Open XML Translator project on


Muglia said the two weeks ago 20 CTOs from major customers were on the Microsoft campus offering feedback on interoperability problems.

"We were pleased as we walked into the interoperability council that 70 percent of the problems we found solutions for. If you look at the matrix of interoperability that customers have, you can understand the complexity of the environment they face. It really sets the context and why we have to change our approach to interoperability."

As an example, Greg Leake, director of the Microsoft application server group, demoed swaping interfaces between WebSphere and .Net without a single line of code using Web services.


Rather than putting a fork in the eye of open source by trumpeting its patents , Microsoft would be better off focusing on more efforts like Duet and reducing the friction in interoperating with external systems.

Topics: Open Source, Microsoft

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  • Hey Bob

    Good spin. No one really take your words seriously on inter-op because who you guys are, a bunch of corporate thieves.

    Nice colors for the presentations though!
  • i'll show you interoperability

    "Martino says 'one Linux' interoperability is a key to advancing the open-source cause"

    no thanks Bob.
  • This is easy to prove

    Publish your modifications to Kerberos, kinda like MIT did when they provided you with the specs for Kerberos. Be as liberal as MIT with sharing the protocols and allowing others to implement. While you are at it, publish the MS Office binary formats. Then we will see that you think that the owners of documents should control the document formats. If not, I'm not impressed.
  • Thanks Bob I needed a good laugh to start my day

    Sorry but the idea that Microsoft would cooperate with anybody let alone competitors in it's most profitable market spaces is laughable. The fact is that while MS tells the world it's supporting interoperability out of one face out of the other it's threatening legal action for theoretical patent violations. So which is it? You supporting the ability to inter-operate and exchange data with other types of systems and programs or you going to sue your customers, Microsoft?
  • It's a TRILOGY, Bob!

    1) Embrace
    2) Extend
    <B>3) EXTINGUISH !!!</B>
    Microsoft has NEVER used 1 and 2 without eventually going to 3.
    Microsoft reminds me of the story of the Frog and the Scorpion. The Scorpion promised NOT to sting the Frog if the Frog would give him a ride across the river. Two thirds the way across the Scorpion stung the Frog.
    "Why did you sting me?", asked the Frog.
    "Because it's in my nature to do so. Why did you believe me?", replied the Scorpion.
    • Excellent analogy!!

      And in my memory, it ended with both the frog and the scorpion drowning.
      But it does break down at one point:
      The fable is about [b]one[/b] frog and [b]one[/b] scorpion. In the real-world scenario, there is only one scorpion, but [b]many[/b] frogs. If M/S stings a linux/open source dealer/developer, there are many left on the banks...
      • One Can't Exist W/O the Other! Calamity Ensues? :(

        Or it dies with the one Scorpion. With life for the frogs becoming heaven on earth. Multiply? Hey no Scorpion left to assert his Oligopoly and population control on them. Peace at last and linux spreads like wildfire! ;)

        *Note: Oligopolies kill for the thrill only, so do scorpions if anything crosses what thy claim as their territory!
  • "accept anyone&#8217;s definition of interoperability or formats"

    Of course they won't! EVERYBODY MUST
    accept Microsoft's.

    Fighters must have intoperability too,
    or they couldn't touch each other. Just
    imagine a boxing match according to
    Microsoft's idea of interoperability.

    Microsoft (to opponent): "Now you hold
    still while I hit you".

    Opponent: Whop,,,Wham (as he hits the

    Microsoft paid
    Referee: "1......2......9......10, yer
    Ole Man
  • "sue me first"

    Anyone who hasn't followed the link to the slash dot and wiki pages, you should. I love the "legal" explanations that are laid out there as to why MS probably doesn't have a leg to stand on. Loved the point about the fact that most of Microsoft's "innovation" is from it's polishing ideas and products pioneered by other people/companies. I'd like to hear more about this point.
  • "Windows is interoperable with Windows!"

    Jeepers, look at those diagrams! Windows is interoperable with Windows, and with Windows software! I NEVER KNEW THAT!
    • "Windows is interoperable with Windows!", or not...

      I note with interest there is no reference in the charts to different versions of Word...
  • Microsofts False Generosity

    It is easy to be generous with that which doesn't belong to you in the first place. Microsoft claims to own patents that are being violated; but now says they won't sue because they are really nice guys who care about interoperability.

    Microsoft has not sued because they can't win. Its an easy decision to make. It has nothing to do with generosity or interoperability. The fact that Microsoft wants to play nice with open source software, is simply a business decision based on sound judgement. Linux has gained too much ground in this area to be ignored. To pretend that Linux distributions need a Microsoft license is fantasy. Microsoft is using this lie to scare companies into paying for licenses they don't need; and to try and control a trend that they see as frightful. Shame on them!
    • 3.2 Billion Viral Marketing Campaign Funds Prove Your Point! ;)

      Yes, Bob and his buddies at Microsoft try to pull the "Monkey Man's" foot out of his mouth. But he'll more than likely end up just shoving it back in. Kind of like a bald headed baby with his Binky. Would you rather have him throwing chairs at Google and threatening, "I'm going to ****ing kill Google! I've done it before...."?

      But for the most part the people that work at Microsoft are just average minded people, who happen to work for a "Predator Corporation". Kinda like our own government lately!

      It's CORPORATION'S CONDUCT we should be focused on, and the brass that leads them. Because right now we have the inhuman Corporate Monsters leading not only businesses, but nations as well. President Eisenhower at the end of his 2nd term, warned us of "the Military Industrial Complex" and it's threat to this nation.

      Now Hitler has a new Spirit of Oligopoly Control patterns, born in the head of Monkey Nutz Balmer!!!
  • Embrace, Extend....and Extinguish. What's New?

    "Embrace and extend" in Microsoftese has always meant taking public standards and adding proprietary features that make their implementation incompatible. This is usually followed by "extinguish", pushing the public standard to the margin and using its market power to force its proprietary version on the market.

    Microsoft has a long way to go before those of us who haven't drunk the "koolaid" will be able to say of them, "plays well with others". Deeds, not words, and a consistent track record is what we'll be looking for.