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Microsoft, Red Hat, Virtualization and Patents

It was interesting enough that Microsoft announced this week a deal with Red Hat for virtualization interoperability.

We're fans of interoperability here, as are most partners and users, so we're receiving the announcement as good news -- as is the new incarnation of ZDNet's terrifying three-headed blog. And who would want to argue with that beast?

What was more interesting, though, as many observers have already pointed out, is that the word "patent," so critical to Microsoft's landmark SuSE Linux agreement with Novell, is nowhere to be found in the Red Hat deal. Well, actually, it is, but only in specifying that patents aren't part of the deal:

"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."

And so we have something fairly rare but hopefully becoming more common: mostly non-contentious cooperation between Microsoft and an open source vendor. From what we can tell thus far, nobody is outraged by this deal, which is mildly remarkable given the outrage the open source community generally has for Microsoft. Clearly the lack of a patent clause has led to cheers and quelled jeers for the deal.

For partners and customers, this little agreement is all good -- again, interoperability is pretty much always a good thing. For VMware, it's a challenge, but we're guessing that the virtualization titan won't just stand pat in response to this news.

We're not ready to declare that there's a bright new future for Microsoft and open source working together, but the Red Hat deal is a step in the right direction. Cheers all around, then, and let's hope for more.

What's your take on Microsoft and Red Hat cooperating? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on February 17, 2009 at 11:55 AM