The Challenges of Interoperability

Let’s be real, interoperability can be hard – at least that is what our customers and independent software vendors (ISV) are telling us.  Two years ago, I joined Microsoft from an ISV that both partnered and competed with Microsoft.  My opportunity was to make a difference in how Microsoft works with ISVs to solve interoperability problems for customers.  Eight months later I launched the Interoperability Vendor Alliance (IVA) with over twenty industry vendors.

The idea is pretty simple – customers have to integrate heterogeneous systems every day.  The problem is that they don’t know if something is “broken” because of environmental variables or the fact that the specific products being integrated don’t talk to each other out of the box.

The IVA brings together ISVs to design and test solutions that tackle these interoperability challenges in a laboratory environment. IVA members get together in interoperability labs to test products based on customer provided scenarios. The cool thing about the labs is getting multiple partners together to solve a common challenge. The IVA acts as a facilitator to encourage vendors to talk to each other about end-to-end scenarios.  In some cases, the customer scenarios require products from vendors who aren’t members of the IVA and we invite them to participate in the labs as well. Lab results are posted on the IVA website under the “Interoperability Labs” section on the right side of the home page.

One of our first labs was showing an integrated systems management solution with five partners to monitor Windows, Linux, Solaris, Oracle, SQL Server, JBoss, SAP, and F5 hardware. In addition to showing customers what was possible, the partners were able to see how their products could be integrated for a total solution. I talked to a financial services CIO during the lab and he was very excited to see three of his vendors working together to solve the problem of proactively monitoring his heterogeneous environment. The latest test lab which ran in early April took place at Sun Microsystems, a founding member of the IVA.  The joint solution will be demonstrated at Interop Vegas, April 30th.

The question with all alliances is whether it will be alive a year after starting.  Although the IVA has nearly doubled in size to 57 members located across the globe, the true measure of success is the fact that multiple partners have worked together to solve interoperability challenges and test specific solutions.  We need to hear from you about the key challenges to interoperability you would like to see the industry collaborate on, so please visit the Interoperability Forum to let us know. Industry vendors interested in learning more about the IVA should review the website or send mail to

Sam Rosenbalm

Senior Technical Evangelist