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For Microsoft-Novell lab, eight is enough

Cementing a peculiar partnership among rivals, Microsoft and Novell are opening an eight-employee lab to make products interoperable.

Microsoft and Novell plan to announce Wednesday the opening of a joint lab in Cambridge, Mass., where a team of programmers will work to make the two companies' products work better together.

The 2,500-square-foot lab "will be home to a combined team of the best and brightest Microsoft and Novell engineers focused on making Windows Server and Suse Linux Enterprise from Novell," the companies said in a statement. "This kind of technical interoperability work requires disciplined effort and dedicated resources, and that's what this lab is built around," said Suzanne Forsberg, Novell's Interoperability Lab manager.

But the number of best and brightest involved in the effort can be counted on two hands, minus thumbs. "Microsoft and Novell are currently working to round out the team of eight, which represents a balanced team of Microsoft and Novell engineers," a Microsoft representative said.

The first priority of the interoperability work will be virtualization, which lets a copy of Windows or Linux run in a compartment called a virtual machine; Microsoft and Novell each have different hypervisor projects that run such virtual machines. Other interoperability work will cover file formats, systems management, and linking Microsoft and Novell directory technology, which is used to govern tasks such as who's allowed to log on to a file server.

The lab is one fruit of an unusual partnership between the two rivals that also involved patent protections and most peculiarly, Microsoft sales of Novell's Linux products.