Peace breaks out in the datacentre

The settlement of the long-standing dispute between Sun and Microsoft over Java licensing is welcome news. Software, hardware and...

The settlement of the long-standing dispute between Sun and Microsoft over Java licensing is welcome news. Software, hardware and services from these industry leaders are at the core of the information systems that support many large businesses.

Of particular interest to IT directors is the announcement that they are to work together, which has the potential to cut deployment costs and simplify the datacentre, where both Microsoft and Sun have a strong presence.

IT directors want systems that work well together; that is why the development of open source has captured the imagination of many, as it promises a common platform for the datacentre. To have two of the IT industry's major suppliers of datacentre systems locked in disagreement and refusing to make their products work together as well as they could do has been detrimental to the user community. It required users to make a choice between deploying a single architecture - based on proprietary Sun or Microsoft technology - or face increased costs to support both.

The reality of the datacentre is that it is heterogeneous and needs to be able to support hardware and software from all major suppliers. By agreeing to work together, Sun and Microsoft have taken the first steps to ease the burden users faced during the 10 years this dispute has been ongoing.

The settlement opens the door to greater collaboration and sees Sun's Xeon servers certified to run the latest Windows operating system. For the first time, users will be able to deploy Sun-based Windows servers, giving users greater choice. Another major benefit of the agreement is that Sun and Microsoft have vowed to increase the interoperability between Java and .net.

The IT landscape has changed. Sun and Microsoft are now partners. Sun chief executive officer, Scott McNealy and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, are promising that their new-found friendship will benefit customers. In the coming months users will need to watch closely how the partnership develops, assessing where Sun and Microsoft now fit in their IT strategies.

Despite the outbreak of peace, it is important that both companies back up these words with actions. For example, they need to produce a roadmap, as soon as possible, on how the interoperability between J2EE and .net will work in practice. For their part, users should push both suppliers to ensure they fulfil the promise to put their differences aside. Otherwise, the potential benefits for users of this detente will be lost.

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