MS strategy pushes it to cross-platform support

Microsoft wrapped up its IT Forum in Copenhagen last week by singing the praises of new management tools that are part of a long-term vision for reducing IT complexity. But behind its more vocal announcements there emerged another significant tune, one that suggested that the software maker will have to be more willing to play with platforms from other companies in order to deliver its new strategy.

Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, kicked off the forum with a keynote that gave a broad picture of how a company plan called the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) can streamline distributed systems' deployment and management. Microsoft bills DSI as a cross-industry initiative to cooperate on business method modelling and process automation as a way to speed up development cycles and slash IT costs.

Under the DSI banner, Microsoft also rolled out a handful of new management tools, including Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005, an event and performance management tool for the Windows Server System, and released the public beta of Windows Update Services, a tool that allows administrators to control and automate the deployment of Windows software updates. However, its partner announcements underscored the company's need to collaborate with other vendors.

For example, the company unveiled a partnership and minority investment in platform integration provider Vintela. Under the deal, Vintela will offer a product that extends MOM 2005 to Unix and Linux environments.

The company also said that it had been working with Sybase subsidiary iAnywhere to integrate Microsoft's System Management Server 2003 with iAnywhere's mobile device management tool. The integration will allow companies to manage and secure non-Windows PCs, laptops, handhelds and smart phones as well as Windows-based devices.

While the partnerships were merely footnotes in Gates' address, some analysts claimed that the software maker's willingness to further extend its product capabilities to other platforms constituted the real news.

"These new tools show that Microsoft is willing to step up to other environments and support a heterogenous management strategy," RedMonk analyst, James Governor, who attended the show, said.

Governor described the moves as Microsoft "cracking open the door to supporting other environments instead of just looking through the keyhole". However, he predicted that IT users would be the ones to throw the door open by demanding more support from Microsoft for their various systems. Given Microsoft's new emphasis on management tools, it behooves the software maker to be a gracious host to other platforms, given that most organisations run both Windows and non-Windows systems, analysts said. "The reality is that Microsoft is not naive in believing the whole world is on Windows and as DSI expands, it needs better integration with non-Microsoft environments," Ovum research director, Neil Macehiter, said. Recent partnerships, such as the one announced with Dell to provide a single tool for hardware and software updates, showed Microsoft is savvy about the need to broaden its reach to make DSI work, Macehiter said.

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