Interop Preview: Microsoft Vs. Linux, Security To Share Vegas Spotlight

Microsoft senior VP Bob Muglia will be among the keynote speakers at Interop in Las Vegas from May 20-25.

May 17, 2007

7 Min Read
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A tour of Interop next week in Las Vegas will feel like a stroll through some of the tech industry's most sensational news stories of late -- just don't forget the combat boots.

Though the show has branched off to cover a number of pressing IT topics, events related its eponymous theme -- system interoperability -- will be center stage at this year's show. And as dry as those words might sound on paper, there will be no shortage of controversy as vendors and users square off to define what interoperability means, who's responsible for it, and why it's still more theory than practice in today's IT world.

Still think it's strictly back room stuff? The topic's commercial and social ramifications become more apparent when viewed through the lens of specific examples. Like, say Microsoft vs. Linux.

If Microsoft senior VP Bob Muglia draws a packed house at his keynote speech Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., he'll be able to thank in part his company's decision this week to reveal that it believes the Linux kernel violates 42 Microsoft patents and that other open source programs such as Open Office infringe on hundreds more.

As the man overseeing the roll out of key Microsoft technologies like Windows Server Longhorn, scheduled for release later this year, Muglia will have to stare down attendees anxious to know how the company plans to go forward with work on Windows and Linux interoperability while at the same time intimating that it may embroil the Linux community in legal challenges.Microsoft is working with a number of third party vendors to ensure that Longhorn and Linux are interoperable on some levels. For instance, it's developing technology with XenSource that will allow users to run Linux on servers alongside Longhorn by virtue of Microsoft's forthcoming Viridian virtualization technology.

Microsoft also is cooperating with Linux distributor Novell on a number of sales, marketing, and technical fronts.

Will Microsoft's saber rattling over Linux patents derail such efforts? Also on hand from the company to provide answers on that and related questions will be Craig Kitterman, Microsoft's program manager for interoperability. Kitterman will be speaking on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. at a session titled interoperability at Microsoft.

For those interested in Microsoft database technologies, program manager Bill Morein will host a discussion on "Visualizing SQL and SQL AS Data In Visio 2007" on Tuesday at 11:15. Also, Microsoft directors Ajay Sikka and Dick Greeley will talk about Microsoft's protocols program on Wednesday at 12:15.

It's hard not to talk about Microsoft this year without mentioning Windows Vista, the new operating system that the company introduced at the end of January. System requirements and application compatibility have been among the chief concerns of desktop users contemplating an upgrade. For those interested in learning the ins and outs of the new operating system -- from security features to application compatibility -- Nelson Ruest of Resolutions Enterprises will provide an overview of Windows Vista on Thursday at 11:15 a.m.Microsoft's claims to patents underlying Linux come at a time when the company is itself being accused of intellectual property theft, by Alcatel-Lucent. Both companies will be present on the show floor at Interop, but given that a court recently ordered Microsoft to pay Alcatel-Lucent $1.5 billion for patent infringement, we think we know who's buying if reps from the two vendors hit the bar after the exhibit hall's 5:00 pm closing time (3:00 pm on Thursday, May 24).Alcatel-Lucent made news on its own this week, agreeing to acquire Internet gateway services specialist NetDevices for an undisclosed amount.

Another Interop exhibitor that Microsoft reps might not be cozying up to is Dell. The personal computer maker's recent decision to offer Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows on some systems probably isn't sitting well in Redmond, nor is its move to reintroduce Windows XP on home systems in case customers want to forego Windows Vista.

Dell's presence at the show should provide a good chance for the curious to get the latest information on the company's plans around non-Microsoft desktop and server alternatives.

Meanwhile, Microsoft rival IBM is using Interop to provide an update on its managed security services. On Tuesday at 1:00 pm, IBM Internet Security Systems general manager Thomas Noonan will talk about why more businesses are starting to look for security-as-a-service offerings. Noonan was the former chairman and CEO of Internet Security Systems, which IBM acquired for $1.3 billion last year with an eye to bolstering its security services offerings.

IBM ISS's offerings include its Proventia network protection software and RealSecure server security system. IBM says the products complement its Tivoli security and infrastructure management products, which focus primarily on end-point security such as user authentication.Security-as-a-service is another hot topic that's getting big play in tech industry headlines. This week, telecom company Verizon bought network security specialist Cybertrust with the aim of launching its own managed security services.

In late March, Trend Micro, a company known for its antivirus and Internet content filtering software, announced that its OfficeScan 8.0 software will include the Web Reputation service, which offers Internet users warnings about malicious Web sites and traffic before they infect their PCs with spyware, keyloggers, or other malware.

What's behind the moves? Businesses are increasing their use of HTTP protocols to pass information back and forth across networks, so Web traffic is becoming a favorite target for hackers. The result is increased demand for the kind of managed security services that will be on display at Interop. Also heavily present in the news this week and at Interop are outsourcers. Two U.S. senators have accused Indian firms of abusing the H-1B guest worker program to stock their Stateside operations with low-paid Indian nationals. In response, most tech services vendors, including U.S. firms such as IBM and Electronic Data Systems, argue that the H-1B is necessary to fill a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

How will the H-1B visa debate affect your ability to tap Indian outsourcers? Interop should provide a venue to talk to the players directly, as a number offshore firms, including Tata Consultancy Services, will be on the show floor pushing their services. If India seems too far-flung a place to put crucial IT work, representatives from Invest Northern Ireland, a business development group, also will be on hand.

CzechInvest, which promotes offshoring to the Czech Republic, will be present as well.Finally, Interop also will cover a number of other tech topics that are dominating tech industry news publications and Web sites. Among them:

  • Green IT: With IBM announcing last week that it will spend $1 billion per year researching and developing environmentally friendly computing tools and techniques, eco-friendly technology has officially gone mainstream.

  • According to Interop organizers at CMP Technology (which publishes InformationWeek magazine and, the conference this year features an expanded program that will address eco-advantage strategies that companies are implementing to mitigate their environmental impact. On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., attendees can hear "Green to Gold" author Andrew Winston and a panel of peers discuss the driving forces behind these new business practices and learn how businesses are changing their operating, marketing, and sales strategies in response.

  • Security also will be a theme that runs throughout the show -- and this year security technologies will have a larger presence than ever before at Interop. The number of security vendors participating has increased, now accounting for 25% of all vendors represented at the show, according to CMP.

  • Municipal Wireless: Interop is dedicating more programs to Muni Wireless, with a number of sessions added to address both the technical and business model hurdles of deploying a successful municipal wireless broadband network.

  • Enterprise 2.0: With vendors from IBM to Microsoft and Google incorporating online collaboration and workgroup tools into their products, Web 2.0 technologies are rapidly proliferating in business environments. A number of Interop sessions will address how these consumer technologies are intersecting with business technologies, how they're affecting the way work gets done, and what business IT professionals can do to prepare for and leverage these technologies in their own organizations.

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