Microsoft and Novell have teamed up to open a joint development lab. The companies have said that cross platform virtualisation is top of the list of projects for the lab to investigate.

They first announced plans for the joint lab back in November 2006, when they formed a controversial patent-licensing and interoperability agreement.

The duo have already begun to work together on several interoperability projects, including one that will ensure that Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 will run well on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server and that SuSE Linux will run on Server 2008 in virtualised environments. The capability, however, won't be available until after Microsoft ships the server next year and then releases its virtualisation capability within 180 days after that.

The new lab is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is currently is staffed by two directors and five test engineers. The companies hope to hire three more by the end of the year. Engineers from both companies can remotely access resources in the lab and contribute to the work there, said Suzanne Forsberg, the lab's co-director for Novell.

Forsberg shares director duties with Tom Hanrahan, director of Linux interoperability at Microsoft.

In addition to the virtualisation project, the engineers will also work on document format translator capabilities that will allow sharing between various document standards such as open XML and OpenOffice.

The goal of the original agreement between Microsoft and Novell was to ensure that operating systems from the companies work better in environments where they co-exist. The lab will have 80 servers so that engineers can test how their developments will operate in an environment similar to an enterprise datacentre, Hanrahan said.

Xandros and Linspire have also struck partnerships with Microsoft, similar to the deal with Novell. Red Hat, however, and other Linux vendors, have said they aren't interested in partnering with Microsoft.