Posted by Ted MacLean
General Manager, Open Solutions Group

Companies around the world are starting to think about developing and launching cloud strategies, and one of the critical elements for success that they’re identifying is interoperability between technologies and products from multiple vendors.

As General Manager of the Microsoft Open Solutions Group, I take part in conversations with many companies about this critical element, and how we can help them by identifying solutions that address the challenges of managing a mixed technology environment. One company we worked with recently is a leading Austrian music and entertainment retailer called LIBRO.

Like many retailers, LIBRO’s data centers contain a broad mix of technology platforms that were developed by different vendors.  The company was serving the Austrian market through over 200 locations, while rapidly expanding into surrounding European markets.  This growth was taking its toll on LIBRO’s IT infrastructure.

For example, LIBRO needed several vendors (ranging from Microsoft to Red Hat to Novell’s SUSE) to help support their mixed Windows and Linux infrastructures.  And lacking a single set of management tools that worked across the entire infrastructure made migrating workloads to the cloud a significant and costly challenge.

By working with Novell’s SUSE business unit, Microsoft developed a solution that standardized support of LIBRO’s mixed IT environment, which includes disparate Linux distributions. (As you may know, through the alliance with Microsoft, Novell offers support for various flavors of Linux including CentOS, Red Hat, etc.)

LIBRO’s IT administrators were also able to prove the cross-platform capabilities of Windows Server 2008® R2 Hyper-V™ and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to increase choice and flexibility for internal customers, while consolidating their server environments.

This jointly developed and delivered solution allowed LIBRO to provision new systems faster and reduce maintenance time from one or two days down to an hour.

We recognize that these kinds of situations are becoming increasingly common. And the conversations I have with customers, like LIBRO, focus on how we can ensure that they not only identify ways to save money, but also that they are in a position to innovate and drive their business forward.

The fact of the matter is that we need to work closely with our partners – and even competitors – to ensure that we provide solutions that fit the business need. It is only through listening (and responding!) to the business needs, that we will really add the value that our customers expect.