I mentioned last week that I'd been in an interoperability briefing whilst at Novell BrainShare in Amsterdam; the content of which was themed around the MoreInterop partnership between Microsoft and Novell itself. Stopping to give this subject slightly more analysis, it strikes me that there may be more than one set of messages going into the cake mix here.
My first comment here is that MoreInterop has apparently been running for around three and a half years and yet it has been widely unreported in the technology press. Why is that?
Is it because the project is so successful at building the bridges to make Windows and Linux work well together that it doesn't make headlines? Or is it because the cake mix isn't sweet enough yet?
According to chief marketing officer John Dragoon, Novell is striving for, "Innovation in bi-directional virtualisation, document compatibility and cross platform systems and identity management."
Microsoft, for its part, likes to say that 'interoperability should be baked in from the start'. That sounds warm and comforting doesn't it? Certainly Silverlight 4 opens a few doors to broader multiple form factor interoperability (i.e. mobile, web, desktop, tablet applications) so that a more consistent user experience is enjoyed across all. But this is not always for enterprise data centre level technologies, so let's be careful where we tread.
OK, so we all want to work together, but is MoreInterop real or cosmetic?
Is this compatibility initiative a case of consolidating on baked in technological congruity, or is it just a light sprinkling of interoperability hundreds and thousands on top?
You can, like me, watch the MoreInterop YouTube channel to try and get some comment from customers to see what real practitioners are saying. But we warned, although the videos are good and very watchable – you will find yourself listening to people tell you about 'leveraging efficiency' and 'maximising data centre efficiency so they can just sit at the desk and do stuff'.
I think the question here is who is driving the push for interoperability most. I met with Novell's Joe Wagner who is the company's senior VP and GM for global alliances during the show and he is enthusiastic about the market prospects for SUSE Enterprise Server and the SUSE Appliance Programme to deliver freshly baked software appliances for big players including IBM.
This then could be the year of the Enterprise Global Alliances Vice President – so let's even use CAPS for that.
If the world market for software appliances is as high as Novell predicts (upward of US$1.18 billion by 2012) then it could Novell who is driving the interoperability push. While Microsoft and IBM and others may sit and smile wanly about their desire to partner up with their good buddy Novell because of the 'inevitability of enterprise Linux' (my words not theirs), perhaps it is Novell that is quietly churning the MagiMix with enough baking powder and self-raising flour to turn out a perfect pound cake just in time for tea.
I also met with Microsoft's global alliances GM at the show, a chap called Tom MacLean who you can watch here watch talking about leveraging partnerships to strengthen systems management and directory federation in the name of interoperability.
MacLean says, "Interoperability is a two way street, if you want your software products to talk to each other, you need your software providers to talk to each other." Wow, I didn't order 'cheese'-cake!
I'm being cruel, these vendors are trying to buddy up and work together in a more productive (and yes I will say customer focused) way than in time gone by. So it comes to pass that we see once sworn enemies now forming stronger refreshed coalition agreements for the greater good of everyone in the country.
Does that remind you of anything guys?