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Microsoft and Interoperability: Buzz-word or Promise?

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A public service announcement, for those of you who are interested: the sixth annual SambaXP conference will be held from April 23-25, 2007 at the Hotel Freizeit in Goettingen, Germany. This Samba developers' conference should prove to be an interesting one, given some of the licensing choices and technology breakthroughs coming for the Samba crew.

And while I am happy to put in a plug for a community event here and there, that's not the sole reason I am mentioning this particular conference. What interests me about this SambaXP is who's not (thus far) coming to the event: Microsoft.

I know, big surprise there, right? Well, in this post-Novell deal world, it actually is--if you accept the interoperability premise Microsoft purports in the media.

Let me explain. First, right now no one from Microsoft--engineering, development, or otherwise--is currently scheduled to attend the SambaXP conference. And while a specific reason hasn't been given, an important clue to Microsoft's stance can be found from comments made by Director of Platform Technology Strategy Sam Ramji at MTS07, quoted in a blog by consultant Ben Galbraith:

"Would I like to contribute to Samba? You bet. Am I constrained by the fact he testified against us in the EU and the general politics between Steve and Jeremy? Yes. My hands are tied. That sucks. If Jeremy [Allison] would just shut up, I could help him, but that's a different issue," Ramji is quoted as saying.

For those who don't know, Ramji is actually responsible running the Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft--so when he says that political conflicts are preventing him from working with the Samba folks, that's fairly significant. Curiously, though, this reluctance to meet and work with the Samba team is apparently a one-sided affair.

I have it on very good authority that members of the Samba team have gone out of its way to reach out to Microsoft on technical issues, including inviting them to this year's SambaXP. So whatever beef Microsoft thinks the Samba developers have against them doesn't seem that bad. Frankly, it seems like these remarks by Ramji are disingenuous (and a bit rude). They're just an excuse to maintain the real status quo at Redmond.

I were a Microsoft customer looking at all of their claims of interoperability (especially made in concert with new partner Novell), I would expect that working on such a huge interoperability project like Samba would just be a given.

Evidently not.

So, as a hypothetical customer, is Microsoft really doing its best to achieve interoperability, or is it just paying lip service for the benefit of its new partners, while playing a stalling game with every other project that could accomplish integration and interoperability?

Looks to me like interoperability is not Microsoft's true objective.

I have no doubts that people within Microsoft and Samba disagree on a lot of issues, but the whole goal of Samba has always been to achieve the very interoperability that Microsoft is now suddenly touting. Surely a common ground can be found to work together on the technical issues.

So, Microsoft, what's it going to be? Samba's reaching out. Will you accept their call to work together?

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