Okay, Mary Mary’s attempt to start an urban legend does indeed go a bit far… But there was a lot of comraderie and shared purpose in the room on Friday when Scott McNealy and Steve Ballmer gave an update on the Sun-Microsoft relationship. I’ve been deeply involved in the collaboration work we’ve been doing (you can see two jointly produced draft specifications here) but haven’t been able to say a lot publicly about it until now. Fair warning: I will probably have to go underground again on some of the future work.
At this event, we did a demo of planned support for Sun-Microsoft interoperability in cross-domain single sign-on, using honest-to-goodness XML-based protocols. Ballmer prefaced it by predicting some people would think it’s the most boring demo they’d ever seen because we’d be showing an integrated user experience. Charlie Feld, EDS executive VP and one of the several customers and system integrators offering testimonials that day, commented that with EDS’s 100,000 servers and millions of devices and “the complexity that’s been built in this 40 years’ worth of junk yard that we call the IT era”, he was actually excited about the demo. That felt damn good.
I hope to share more thoughts — and even photos; did you know we have a Steve Ballmer lookalike on the Sun federated identity team? — in the coming days. But here’s one more tidbit. At the event, Ballmer observed that we’ve moved from the courtroom to the computer lab over the last year and now we’re moving to the marketplace, and McNealy talked about how we’ve been figuring out the “anthropology of working together”. I think both sides have benefited from the personal interactions we’ve been able to have over the past year, and that’s something that I know will continue and strengthen. Sun has a brochure on the topic of interoperability that uses the image of a piano duet to summarize what it’s all about. Some wag suggested that maybe we should have used an image of oil and vinegar — they don’t naturally mix, but if you periodically shake them up real hard and increase the one-on-one interaction of individual particles, they can figure out how to get along. That sounds about right to me. Enough talk about interop — it’s all about emulsification!