Microsoft buys stake in company tying Linux to Windows

Microsoft this week came as close at it may ever get to supporting Unix and Linux when it took a minority stake in integration vendor Vintela.

Vintela has been cranking out software over the past few months to extend Windows-based authentication, management and monitoring capabilities to Unix, Linux and Macintosh operating systems.

Vintela currently has some 50 customers, mostly among Fortune 500 companies with diverse internal networks. Vintela is currently the only vendor producing such integration technology that links Windows and competing platforms. Experts, however, say another handful of vendors are in stealth mode and will hit the market shortly.

Neither Microsoft nor Vintela would reveal the size of the investment, although sources said it was less than US$10 million. Privately held Vintela plans to seek another round of funding early next year with an eye toward expanding research and development, sales and support services.

In addition to the infusion of capital, the pair also agreed to a set of commercial agreements that will have Microsoft providing Tier 1 support for corporate customers. The agreements also include licensing for a series of undisclosed Windows protocols that will tie Vintela's products more tightly to Microsoft's infrastructure software.

"We are able to integrate with Microsoft at a deeper level. It is no longer service integration; we are getting deep," says Chris Skillings, CEO and co-founder of Vintela. "When you fire up a Vintela product it looks like a Microsoft product. It is very well integrated."

The irony is that Vintela's product set grew out of intellectual property the founders acquired from Caldera, which sued Microsoft for anti-trust violations related to the desktop operating system DR-DOS. Microsoft and Caldera settled in 2000.

Vintela over the past month has introduced four integration products that tie Microsoft features to the Linux, Unix and Macintosh platforms.

The latest, Vintela Systems Manager, unveiled this week and slated to ship early next year, allows Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 users to extend its management and monitoring capabilities to Unix, Linux, and Macintosh OS X systems. Using MOM, IT administrators can manage those platform resources from the existing MOM administrator, operator, and Web consoles as well as the MOM reporting mechanism.

In September, the company introduced Vintela Group Policy (VGP), which extends the group policy features of Active Directory to Unix and Linux desktops and servers. The tool helps administrators create a consistent set of configuration policies for computers and manage those from a centralized console.

In August, the company shipped Vintela Management Extensions (VMX) 1.0, a set of components for Microsoft's System Management Server 2003 that provide discovery, inventory, distribution, reporting and remote features for managing servers and desktops regardless of platform.

In May, Vintela introduced Vintela Authentication Services (VAS), which allow authentication of Unix and Linux systems through Active Directory.

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