Red Hat joins the Vendor Interop Alliance: Much ado about...?

by Matt Asay

Today Red Hat announced that has joined the Vendor Interop Alliance, the group that Microsoft chartered with other top software companies, but which has not involved Red Hat to date.

I suppose it's a good move for the industry, but I'm left wondering what substance, if any, it provides. It's not that the VIA is a bad idea, but rather that the fact that one has to come up with such a thing in the first place suggests that the market is a bit broken, and unlikely to be fixed by a crowd of people standing around, clapping each other on the backs.

As Matthew Aslett notes, Red Hat's participation seems to be limited to its JBoss middleware, which already had partnered with Microsoft to improve interoperability. So what, if anything, does this agreement get Microsoft that it didn't already have? Or Red Hat?
Red Hat's membership in the alliance builds on the interoperability work started by the JBoss Division 18 months ago to optimize JBoss Enterprise Middleware on the Windows platform. To date, those efforts have been primarily in the Web Services arena, including the critically important World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) WS-Addressing specification and several plugfests around WS-Security, WS-Transactions, and WS-Addressing. In addition, Microsoft completed Hibernate certification for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) driver. Now, Red Hat can extend and deepen interoperability beyond standards to the native level on Windows for its JBoss Enterprise Middleware.
The strange thing in this announcement, and in the existence of the VIA, is that we have to talk about interoperability at all. It is precisely because the system is broken - with intellectual property rights driving vendors apart, rather than together - that something like this VIA is even remotely interesting.

But still I wonder if an industry alliance is the way to resolve the problem. Yes, you need scale/network effects to make something like this work. But in a large room filled with vendors who inherently distrust each other, I don't see much interoperability emerging. Just lots of meetings about interoperability.

If the goal is to get one-on-one interaction, what good does the Alliance provide? Not much, in my view.

I do think it's important to make sure different enterprise software works well together. I think this is particularly true of open source and proprietary software, and I applaud all that Bill Hilf, Sam Ramji, Jason Matusow, and others at Microsoft have done in this regard. They have made Microsoft a great partner for open source companies (really), whatever Microsoft's larger intentions may (or may not) be.

But their work has been done one-on-one, which I think is the right wayt o enable interoperability. We'll see if VIA can prove me wrong.