Napera CEO: Microsoft's New Openness Worked for Us
Not everybody is convinced that Microsoft's new commitment
is legitimate, but it's good enough for Todd Hooper, CEO of
a startup called Napera Networks
"I think they've bought into it," Hooper told RCPU in a phone chat
recently. "I don't think it's a smokescreen or anything like that. They
started working on this stuff in 2006, and they were anticipating what was to
What was to come, of course, were massive fines from the European Union, which
rebuked Microsoft for charging too much for server protocol licenses and basically
carped that the software giant was making it too hard for other vendors' wares
to work with Microsoft's stuff. Microsoft lost
a court appeal in September and had to pony up for fines levied years ago.
Then, in February, to
coincide with Microsoft's big server launch, the EU dropped another punitive
bomb on the company.
So, what does Hooper have to do with all of this? Well, his company sells an
appliance that sits on the edge of a network, monitoring network health and
letting businesses know just who's using their networks. The new tool is based
on Microsoft's Network Access Protection architecture (hence the "Nap"
in Napera) and, Hooper said, can actually eliminate the need to deploy Windows
Server 2008 -- although the appliance also works with the new server. Thus far,
that hasn't been a problem for Microsoft, Hooper said.
"The support from Microsoft has been great," he said. "It's
possible that a customer could buy our product and not buy Windows Server 2008,
which obviously could hit their bottom line but we've never heard anything from
them about that."
More to the point, the Napera appliance uses two protocols, DHCP and 8021x,
to communicate with Microsoft technologies. Before the EU's first fine came
down via the September court decision, royalty fees were heavy for protocols
such as those, Hooper said. But "the royalty numbers dropped dramatically
after the EU decision in September," Hooper said. "This year, [Microsoft
has] gone even further by taking out the trade secret license and making a patent
That means that Napera has access to protocols much more cheaply and easily
than it did before. And for Hooper and Napera, that's been a big boost.
"It's a big deal that Microsoft offers this sort of thing at all,"
Hooper said. And it hasn't been all about the EU, either. "You could tell
from 2007 that they were in the process of change, culminating in the changes
in September-October. The last couple of years, there's been a radical change
in their attitude. Microsoft has made it pretty easy to do the right thing."
You might think, then, that Hooper is a big fan of the EU and its oversight.
Actually, not really, as he writes
in his blog on the company's Web site. Yes, some of Microsoft's policy changes
have helped his company, but Hooper believes that the latest round of EU fines
-- levied conveniently on a huge launch day for Microsoft -- went too far.
"I was very cynical about it -- I was hugely cynical," Hooper said
of the EU's late-February bombshell. "The customer is ultimately paying
Microsoft's fines. The fact is, Microsoft has a large number of software patents.
If you're commercially implementing something Microsoft has a patent on, you
could argue that the right thing to do is pay a patent fee."
And then, Hooper, in our favorite part of the interview, started to sound like
a rant from RCPU when discussing the EU's pursuit of Microsoft: "Where
does that path end? Does it end with giving everything for free? That's an issue
of national sovereignty. I'm not really understanding why there's continuing
friction [between Microsoft and the EU]. I don't see big European companies
giving away patent licenses for free. They tend to be as bad as or worse than
Microsoft. It's starting to feel a lot like [the EU is] trying to take Microsoft
down a few pegs."
Yes, Todd Hooper, it is. And you're proof that it's not just folks inside the
walls of Redmond who are defending Microsoft's openness.
How convinced are you by Microsoft's new openness? Let us know at [email protected].
Posted by Lee Pender on March 18, 2008