This morning I was sipping my coffee and browsing what my Twitter friends were saying, when I discovered some big news had been released today. Urged by customer demand and OEM concerns, Red Hat and Microsoft have announced a virtualization interoperability partnership. Matt Asay, a fellow Twitterer and blogger, pointed out that there would be a webcast at 11 EST, and with 15 minutes to spare, I got ready to get the details. Essentially, Red Hat has become a Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Partner (SVVP), and Microsoft is now a Red Hat partner for virtualization interoperability and support. The basics of the agreement are outlined by Red Hat on their SVVP FAQ page.
Prior to the webcast this morning, a couple of bloggers had pointed out why this news was a little different than your run-of-the mill partnership. Their emphasis was strongly focused on the lack of patent agreements with the deal — a new turn of events for Microsoft and Red Hat after a few years of battling publicly over the topic.
On his CNET Blog, Asay shared his surprise and adulation of the maturing of both Microsoft and Red Hat to the needs of the market.
Today, Red Hat and Microsoft have together demonstrated that interoperability can exist independent of back-room dealings over patents. Microsoft has increasingly been forced to open its stance on patents by the European Commission, anyway, proving Red Hat’s resolute stance against patents was the right one. But today’s announcement suggests that Microsoft is maturing in its views as to how to interact with open-source vendors.
Asay pointed out that when Novell signed its agreement with Microsoft (in 2006), the announcement was met with criticism of the company from the open source community.
Asay’s Twitter post was a little more to the point (only 140 characters, afterall):
I guess this means, dear Novell, that in fact patent covenants need NOT be included in interop deals, including those with Microsoft
Matthew Aslett of the 451 Group posted a blog 15 minutes prior to the call, echoing Asay’s concerns.
In the webcast, Mike Evans, vice president of corporate development at Red Hat, and Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization strategy at Microsoft, tried to emphasize the customer-focused nature of the arrangement. Evans displayed statistics and sections of a recent IDC report on virtualization that proclaims we are only seeing the beginning of virtualization efforts in enterprise IT, and that more will begin to use the technology in 2009. These statistics match up with a recent survey conducted by SearchDataCenter.com that revealed that virtualization is on the rise in IT departments. In the call, a slide with a quote from Gary Chen, research manager of enterprise virtualization software at IDC, was displayed:
“IDC research shows that Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux are two of the main operating environments deployed by enterprises, accounting for 80% of the x86 operating systems running on hypervisors. It is great to see two of the big platform vendors put aside their competitive differences and put the customer first.”
Certainly, the effort is focused on the customer, but today, much of the focus seems to be skewed to the patent and financial language in the agreement. This seems fair, as the struggle between the two companies on the issue of patents has been publicly hashed out for almost three years. Microsoft had held fast to its claim that it couldn’t do interoperability without a patent pledge, but it looks as if Red Hat has won on its argument that a patent deal isn’t necessary to an interoperability agreement.
What do you think? Is this just another agreement? Or does this signify another change in Microsoft’s attitude toward open source collaboration? Or, have both companies just seen the writing on the wall and jumped just in time to take advantage of the virtualization market?