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Red Hat & Microsoft Sign Virtualization Interoperability Pact With No Patent Junk
Monday, February 16 2009 @ 11:38 AM EST

This is huge! Microsoft and Red Hat have signed a *patent-free* virtualization interoperability pact. Here's Red Hat's press release and some analysis by Matt Asay here.

Congratulations to Red Hat for refusing to buckle on this vital matter, and to Red Hat Legal for working out the details, and a tip of the hat to Microsoft, for facing reality and doing the right thing. And thank you, EU Commission, for creating a reality that makes it possible for the GPL to find a level playing field.


Crucially, Red Hat's interoperability deal with Microsoft does not include any patent covenants, the ingredient that torpedoed Novell with the open-source community:
The agreements establish coordinated technical support for Microsoft and Red Hat's mutual customers using server virtualization, and the activities included in these agreements do not require the sharing of IP. Therefore, the agreements do not include any patent or open source licensing rights, and additionally contain no financial clauses, other than industry-standard certification/validation testing fees.
Red Hat has long argued that patents discussions only cloud true interoperability, which is best managed through open source and open standards....

What most people don't know is that Red Hat had been discussing interoperability initiatives with Microsoft for a year before Novell and Microsoft tied the knot, but Microsoft ultimately derailed the talks by trying to introduce a covenant not to sue over patents, similar to what it ended up negotiating with Novell. Red Hat rejected this unnecessary inclusion, left the bargaining table, and Microsoft connected with Novell to use interoperability as an excuse to attack open source.

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.

It was Matthew Szulik who stood up to Ballmer, by the way, to his everlasting credit.

Here's a bit more from Mary Jo Foley, of ZDNet's All About Microsoft:

To be clear, the newly minted Microsoft-Red Hat partnership is not the same as the Microsoft-Novell one that Microsoft unveiled two years ago. There is no patent-protection clause that is part of the new Microsoft-Red Hat agreement, meaning Red Hat has not agreed to license any Microsoft patents in the name of guaranteeing its customers that Microsoft won’t sue them for possible patent infringement. No support certificates for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) will be sold by Microsoft, either.

As Galli explains on the Port 25 blog:

“(T)his agreement with Red Hat is specific to joint technical support for our mutual customers using server virtualization. So, in that regard, think of it as one dimensional, whereas Microsoft’s partnership with Novell is multi-dimensional.”
Multi-dimensional. That's putting it tactfully. You can watch the webcast if you don't mind registering and turning on Javascript, and here's the Red Hat press release and FAQ:


Red Hat and Microsoft Expand Server Virtualization Interoperability

In response to strong customer demand, Red Hat and Microsoft have signed reciprocal agreements to enable increased interoperability for the companies' virtualization platforms. Each company will join the other's virtualization validation/certification program and will provide technical support for their mutual server virtualization customers. Key components of the agreement:

  • Red Hat will validate Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows 2000 Server SP42, and Windows Server 2008 guests on Red Hat Enterprise virtualization technologies.
  • Microsoft will validate Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 and 5.3 guests on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V (all editions) and Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008.
  • Once each company completes testing, customers with valid support agreements will receive cooperative technical support for:
    • running Windows Server operating system virtualized on Red Hat Enterprise virtualization, and
    • running Red Hat Enterprise Linux virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.
  • Future versions of products from both companies are also planned to be validated under these agreements.
  • The agreements contain no patent or open source licensing components.
  • The agreements contain no financial clauses, other than industry-standard certification/validation testing fees.

Is this a joint agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft?

It's not a joint agreement. Red Hat has signed an agreement to join Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program, while Microsoft has joined Red Hat's Virtualization Certification Program. Microsoft will be listed in the Red Hat Hardware Certification List once it has completed the Red Hat certification process.

It seems like customers should have had this type of support some time ago. What took so long to provide customers with technical support?

Microsoft and Red Hat started hearing requests for bilateral validation soon after Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program went live in June 2008. Both companies quickly agreed to work together; finalizing the details around comprehensive, coordinated technical support has taken some time. As a result, customers will be able to confidently deploy Microsoft Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, virtualized on Microsoft and Red Hat hypervisors, knowing that the solutions will be supported by both companies.

Are there other components of the deal that have not been disclosed yet?

No. The agreements are specific to establishing coordinated technical support for our mutual customers using server virtualization. The agreements have nothing to do with patents, and there are no patent rights or other open source licensing rights implications provided under these agreements. The agreements contain no financial clauses other than test fees for industry-standard certification and validation.

While Microsoft and Red Hat continue to compete in the marketplace, customers have told us that technical support for server virtualization is an area where we must work together. Now we have agreements to test and coordinate technical support and provide customers with a new level of mutual support between Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows Server for their heterogeneous IT environments.

What versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Virtualization will be validated, to what versions of Windows and Hyper-V?

Validations are now getting underway, and are planned to be comprehensive. Each company is doing its respective validations separately, with the first results expected later this year.

As a participant in Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program, once Red Hat submits test logs indicating that Windows Server 2008 runs properly on the Red Hat Enterprise virtualization, the specific version of Red Hat used in the tests along with parameters of the virtual machine tested will be posted on Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program website. At that point customers can confidently deploy Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 SP2, or Windows 2000 Server SP4 and later and receive coordinated support.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux SVVP completion is planned for calendar H2 2009.

Microsoft currently plans to validate Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 as a guest on Windows Server Hyper-V. Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V (all editions) and Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 will now support uni-processor virtual machines running:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 (x86)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 (x64)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 (x86)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 (x64)

How do customers get support for the validated solutions? Who do they call? Customers with valid support agreements with both companies call either Microsoft or Red Hat to have their issues resolved. If the first vendor contacted cannot resolve the issue they will work with the other vendor to come to a resolution for the mutual customer.

What level of support agreement is required from Red Hat and Microsoft for a customer to receive support when running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Windows or Windows on Red Hat Enterprise Linux?

Customers with current Microsoft support agreements for Windows Server 2008 will be entitled to obtain support under this agreement. Where an existing agreement is not in place, customers can identify their willingness to purchase 'per-call' support. Any customer with a valid Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription and using Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 or 5.3 guests will be entitled to support under this agreement.

How do these agreements compare to agreements you both have with VMware and/or Citrix?

There is no change in Microsoft's or Red Hat's relationship with VMware. Note that both Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux can be deployed on VMware ESX. Red Hat doesn't have any virtualization agreements with Citrix at this time. Both VMware and Citrix have product configurations that have been validated through the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program. How do I find out what validations have been completed?

Validations will be posted to the respective Microsoft and Red Hat web sites:

Who will be the primary beneficiary of this agreement? The primary beneficiary of this agreement will be Microsoft and Red Hat customers. Of course, a secondary beneficiary will be the virtualization ecosystem because it will be more useful to customers, leading to wider deployments and faster technology development.

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