Honeymoons are bliss. Sun's CTO Greg Papadopoulos, better known as Papa Dop, and Microsoft's Bill Gates may make an odd couple but they both say they are happy, and their sometimes-questioned relationship is fertile with offspring showing up. Papadopoulis opined: " I think as a relationship goes, this is a 180-degree U-turn. Nine months ago we were slashing each other's tyres, now we're helping each other fix each other's flats."

On the storage front Papadopoulos said, during a conference call: "In network storage we've worked together on things like driver compatibility, making sure we support Microsoft's Virtual Disk Service and Volume Copy Shadow Service, all this on our new storage 6920 storage arrays. Again, making sure that we're there, that the Microsoft APIs are not only supported but certified and so with the 6920 we achieved a Designed for Windows-logo qualification, again giving our customers that assurance that we're playing well together and that they can depend upon this for provisioning things like SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange."

What this means in practise is getting Sun networked storage to store information from Microsoft's SQL Server and Exchange applications.

James Comstock, a Sun senior director, commented on the storage aspect of the alliance in a recent Sun Flash: "Microsoft Windows is not good at NFS. This limits their offering in the storage space. With Solaris, we can offer customers a much better value proposition. So if we can somehow integrate our features, we have a superior offering to deliver to customers. Together, Sun and Microsoft will deliver an enhanced NFS, more interoperability, improved protocols and better certifications."

Of course, storage is only a small part of the Microsoft:Sun rapprochment with identity management, single sign-on particularly, and Web services taking centre stage. Papadopoulos described the relationship thus: "The key areas of collaboration between Sun and Microsoft are two-fold. First is how Microsoft has ended the life of its Java Virtual Machine and is recommending that users use the version Sun provides."

"The second area concerns the work the two companies are doing to ensure greater interoperability. This includes our joint work on technology for next generation Web services infrastructure and identity solutions. In addition, it includes Sun and Microsoft building a complete eco-system for Windows running on Sun's Opteron based workstations and servers including Windows certification, driver certification, back line support and our technical engagement within Microsoft's competency lab in Redmond." Storage is a, relatively, minor part of this.

Hank Vigil, a Microsoft VP, said: "Clearly Microsoft and Sun will continue to compete robustly in the market, but we will also co-operate in important ways to the benefit of the joint customers and the broader industry at large." To this end Papa Dop said: "We're also putting in a competency center in Redmond where there will be lots of shiny Sun equipment there that enables customers to come in and do real-world testing of their applications in these heterogeneous, interoperable environments."

Let's not go overboard on this. Microsoft isn't supporting Star Office and Sun isn't adopting Web services. Long spoons are still the order of the day when Sun and Microsoft people sup with each other.