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Microsoft's Sam Push Puts ISVs, Data At Risk

Microsoft plans to continue running the service of its latest acquisition, AssetMetrix, for the next six to nine months as it mulls product and service options for its new software asset management (SAM) offering.

Microsoft plans to continue running the service of its latest acquisition, AssetMetrix, for the next six to nine months as it mulls product and service options for its new software asset management (SAM) offering.

Last month, Microsoft purchased the Ottawa-based SAM company, which should enable the software giant to enter the SAM market faster than if it developed a solution in-house, said Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Enterprise Management Division at the Microsoft Management Summit in San Diego.

This may hurt Microsoft’s SAM ISVs and service partners, some of which are former large account resellers (LARs). But one source said although it’s too early to know how things will “shake out” Microsoft’s entry into a market often benefits all participants—including competitors, some of which are resellers.

One former LAR executive said the handwriting has been on the wall for some time. “Let’s be clear: Microsoft warned us five to 10 years ago they’d start building this stuff in,” said Howard Diamond, CEO of ePartners, a Dallas-based Microsoft Gold partner. Diamond used to head Corporate Software, one of Microsoft’s largest LARs, and is now aligned with Software Spectrum, Plano, Texas.

Felicity McGourty, director of product management and marketing for Microsoft’s Windows and Enterprise Management Division, said the vendor is exploring logistics and legalities involved in “productizing” the AssetMetrix SAM tool. However, an online service is likely, she said.

“The online service is a potential [offering] if we continue it as a software service, but that has not been determined yet,” McGourty said.

Microsoft will be assessing the SAM market need over the next few months, but the prospects for a joint product and subscription service look good, according to McGourty. “There seems to be good demand,” she said. “This is one [offering] that could qualify for that model.”

McGourty acknowledged concerns about customer data being handed over to Microsoft but said it won’t be used to check customer compliance.

“We don’t use it to police. Customers can use it to check compliance and do their own reporting,” McGourty said.

Microsoft plans to integrate AssetMetrix’s SAM capabilities into its rebranded System Center Configuration Manager 2007, formerly System Management Server (SMS). The Redmond, Wash., company also plans to hand over AssetMetrix’s catalog of 100,000 to 300,000 assets to all current SMS customers—even to those without Software Assurance, McGourty said.

Steve O’Halloran, co-founder of AssetMetrix, said although there could be ramifications for customers and partners, he thinks Microsoft is more interested in the technology than customer data.

“I’m not sure if Microsoft will operate it as software as a service. But over the five years I was involved with [AssetMetrix], there were customers who said no way would their inventory be held by a third party, while others had no issue with it,” O'Halloran said.

AssetMetrix co-founder Ross Norrie said the service has up to 10,000 customers, 300 to 400 of which are corporate subscribers, who should not worry about their data.

“I can’t say what the obligation is between Microsoft and [AssetMetrix] customers. I’ve been a Microsoft employee for four hours,” Norrie said. “But there are privacy policies in place between customers and AssetMetrix, and they will be upheld.”

Roger King, president of Microsoft partner Software Spectrum, shrugged off the notion of contention. “This is not really a conflict. I draw the analogy to when Microsoft started to have security offerings. It improved the visibility of the space, and McAfee and Symantec businesses improved.”

King said Spectrum’s own Media Plane licensed managed services offering works with existing inventory and distribution tools. “It works with SMS and AssetMetrix to give customers a single, complete view of what they’ve bought, what they’ve deployed and what they’re entitled to,” King said. “AssetMetrix to me is a good hosted inventory tool whose data or ‘exhaust’ feeds nicely into Media Plane.”

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.

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