Microsoft Eyes Linux, Unix with Vintela Investment

In a competitive move against IBM and HP, Microsoft came as close as it might ever get to supporting Unix and Linux when it bought a minority share of platform integration solutions firm Vintela.

Vintela technology will allow companies to use Microsoft Windows software management tools to manage Unix and Linux systems.

“Customers who have a substantial investment in Microsoft-based management tools normally want to integrate their non-Windows systems to avoid duplication,” Vintela President Dave Wilson said.

Migrating to Microsoft

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, told LinuxInsider that Microsoft is using a strategy similar to its NetWare play, providing a way for its products to co-exist with other vendor’s products and then using that as a way to migrate folks from those other products to its own over time.

“This move toward interoperability removes the migration barriers between the products, and because Microsoft is supplying the tools, the feeling is that the migration will be a favorable one for Microsoft,” Enderle said. “But there is always risk when you create tools like this because the opposite could happen.”

Analysts said this deal marks Microsoft’s movement away from making it more difficult for products to interoperate and toward excellence in interoperability.

“With this strategy Microsoft reduces its legal exposure while giving customers something they have been screaming for over the last five years,” Enderle said. “Microsoft is more focused on embracing competing technology and excelling it in, like it did in the 1980s.”

Vintela on Center Stage

Vintela and Microsoft entered into a number of new licensing agreements designed to establish strategic and technology initiatives for integrated infrastructure management.

“Customers are asking us to enable Microsoft technologies to integrate with non-Windows systems,” said Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president, Enterprise Management division at Microsoft. “Vintela’s leadership in delivering solutions to bring all systems together accelerates the ROI [return on investment] customers can expect from Microsoft products.”

The scope of the agreements between Microsoft and Vintela fall into three general areas: commercial agreements, including product support agreements; product licensing agreements; and an investment. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Enderle said this deal leapfrogs Vintela onto the center stage.

“This is more than just a blessing,” he said. “This is actual use of the technology and so it’s stronger than what you would typically see from a partnership.”

Dell Gets In on Interoperability

Microsoft’s interoperability initiative also includes a strategic development partnership with Dell. It is all part of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates’ goal to improve the way customers manage systems across the enterprise.

Dell reports its customers have said time and resources spent on managing the high volume of updates to servers for security and application improvements are their biggest pain point and expense.

“Our development partnership will focus on improving the way we deliver systems management to customers with integrated products that improve productivity by minimizing the demands placed on IT resources,” Kevin Rollins, president and CEO of Dell, said.

Developers from both companies are working together to build on standards such as the Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware specification from the Distributed Management Task Force Inc., and WS-Management, a Web services specification that provides a common way for systems to access and exchange management information across entire IT systems.

The People Issue

Enderle said Microsoft has the partner power and the technology in place now to allow Unix and Linux to interoperate with Windows, but there is still one more challenge: people.

“The skills are quite a bit different on the Unix side and don’t transfer easily to Microsoft. Plus a lot of those guys don’t like Microsoft that much,” he said. “Microsoft is not stepping up yet to deal with the behavioral issues or the interpersonal issues that surround the various platforms. That’s where the risk is.”

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