posted by David Adams on Tue 30th Nov 2004 16:11 UTC
IconHave you partaken in the conspiracy theories about Microsoft's recent investment in Vintela, a Unix-Windows integration software company? Vintela's association with SCO, and Microsoft's apparent interest in keeping SCO's legal battle against IBM afloat in order to undermine Linux, certainly provide plenty of kindling to keep the home fires burning at conspiracy central. But let's try to get the story straight first. OSNews interviewed Vintela President Dave Wilson.

When Unix-Windows integration software vendor Vintela announced a couple weeks ago that it was receiving a substantial investment from Microsoft, initially the tech media picked up the story because it was interesting that Microsoft was making a move into Unix integration. However, as people started to realize Vintela’s pedigree, conspiracy theories started flying left and right on OSNews’ comment section and all over the internet. Vintela’s product saw its birth inside Caldera Systems, a once-well-respected Linux vendor that transformed into an excoriated whipping boy of the Linux movement after its acquisition of once-well-respected SCO and subsequent legal attack on IBM, and by extension, Linux itself.

Vintela and Caldera-Now-SCO are both primarily funded by the Canopy Group, a tech fund founded by Novell’s Ray Noorda. They both have offices in a complex in Lindon, Utah that houses several Canopy companies. These companies also provide business to each other, and have various partnerships with each other, which is a good way to support each other and share resources. But how does it look when a company that’s seen as attacking Linux (SCO), that nowadays is in business in large part thanks to money that it has received from Microsoft, directly ($16 million for Unix licenses) and indirectly ($50 million from Baystar capital, whom Microsoft brought to SCO), has a sibling who receives another investment from Microsoft? For the tinfoil hat set, at least, it looks fishy.

For more on the SCO/MS relationship, see this Techrepublic article

But while it seems pretty likely that Microsoft is using SCO as some kind of warrior-by-proxy against the Linux threat, the Vintela investment looks as if it could be merely a shrewd move to give Microsoft a foot in the door into an IT world that increasingly wants Linux and Unix in the shop. How can we separate fact from wild speculation? Well, that’s not ever easy. But we can start by asking for some straight answers from the players themselves, so we asked Dave Wilson, President of Vintela, to answer a few questions:

1. OSNews: Can you briefly explain, to our readers who might be unfamiliar with your products, what Vintela does? (Keep in mind that our readers are operating system enthusiasts, so you can be pretty technical, and a focus on OS-related functionality will be appreciated).

Wilson: Vintela develops integration products that allow an enterprise organization to extend the infrastructure technologies and tools they use in the Windows world to the non-Windows world. For example Vintela Authentication Services (VAS) allows Unix and Linux systems to act as full citizens in an Active Directory domain—creating a true single sign-on trusted zone for all systems. VAS eliminates the need for expensive and complex synchronization or meta-directory solutions. Similarly Vintela Management Extensions (VMX) extends the reach of Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 to Unix, Linux, and Mac OS X systems, creating a single point of management for the entire enterprise. Each Vintela solution provides the best of both worlds —- leveraging the scalability and integration of a Windows solution with the unique personality of a Unix or Linux system. Key to this integration is the fact that 95 percent of our software is Unix code, and uses standards based native Unix/Java utilities (Kerberos, LDAP, PAM, NSS, WBEM, etc). The objective is to enhance the user and developer environment for Unix, Java, etc, but minimizes the need to duplicate management and directory tools. We offer the user the opportunity to get as close as possible to a single integrated IT environment, built on standards.

2. Microsoft was already a key partner of yours before the investment. Can you briefly describe your company’s relationship with Microsoft? And how will that relationship change, post-investment?

Vintela and Microsoft enjoy a strong relationship and this broad range of agreements put that on a more formal basis. They will allow both companies to commit to development deliverables that are better aligned to satisfy customer demand for management of heterogeneous environments. The agreements have created an overall framework for Microsoft to work with a partner like Vintela on licensing the use of Microsoft technology in a non-Microsoft world, and that includes products such as Active Directory and SMS, and protocols and technologies as they relate to Unix, etc. Microsoft PSS will also be able to provide first level support for VMX/SMS, with a view to extending this in the future.. Vintela will be including Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CAL) with purchases of Vintela products, as applicable so that customers don’t need to negotiate separate licensing issues with Microsoft when, for example, their SMS installation suddenly expands beyond Windows to also include Unix and Linux clients. This is all designed to allow the best possible quality of product integration and create a seamless customer experience.

3. Your products provide interoperability between Windows and Unix or Linux systems, and industry analysts have pointed out that Microsoft might support a product like that because it would make it easier for them to get a foothold in a company that has a lot of Unix or Linux in place, in order to eventually supplant those systems. Do you think that such a scenario would actually play out that way? Or would a company just end up continuing to use its heterogeneous setup forever?

It is fair to say that almost all companies use Microsoft products and most of those use Unix and Java as well. Heterogeneity is a reality, and it is likely to remain that way. Vintela works with users who are looking to consolidate a complex maze of duplicate infrastructure management tools. Microsoft is under the same customer pressure. Each Directory Service, or systems management tool, etc, requires it own infrastructure, which is not only very expensive but it even prevents movements to SSO, etc. There is a move away from multiple “point solutions” towards a rationalized approach to management around open standards. In Bill Gates’ Keynote at IT Forum he specifically spoke of Microsoft’s efforts to integrate heterogeneous systems and singled out Vintela as their chosen partner to help make that happen. Vintela views these agreements as Microsoft making a mature and intelligent move in response to customer demand. Listening to customers is always a good decision. These agreements are about customers use of SMS, MOM, Active Directory, DotNet, etc where the customer is using both XP and Unix, etc

4. On the flip side, other analysts have suggested that Vintela’s products might be seen as a threat to Microsoft’s dominance of IT, because it would allow systems that run only (or run best) on Windows to be integrated with a primarily Unix or Linux shop without going all Microsoft. Do you think this is a correct characterization? And if so, what would your response be to the assertion that Microsoft is making this investment to have some degree of control over this potential threat?

It is very clear that Microsoft is a company that is very focused on providing Microsoft-product solutions for its customers, and historically has relied on partners to provide the “Total Solution”. In this particular case we believe that Microsoft understands that the customer is demanding a very high quality, and tightly integrated, “Total Solution” and Microsoft is investing in making that a reality. Vintela has great depth in Unix and Java skills. If we are able to work closely together, then we will be providing the best overall solution. In making this investment Microsoft is definitely getting involved to make this happen.

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