Microsoft explores new software areas

Microsoft Corp. will find some receptive corporate users as it explores partnerships and potential technology developments in the storage and security software markets.

Several corporate users said this week that they would be interested in new Microsoft storage and security offerings because they extensively deploy the firm’s Windows server operating system to run their applications.

Tom Pane, vice-president of technology at New York-based AnnTaylor Stores Corp., said his company has more than 100 Windows NT servers and about 25 Unix servers from Sun Microsystems Inc.

To monitor storage, the retailer uses a tool from Austin, Tex.-based Tivoli Systems Inc., but Pane said he would like to get more detailed analysis than the tool provides.

Pane said the Tivoli tool can tell him when his servers reach 75 per cent capacity, but it won’t manage volume or show dwindling disk space and growth trends that might help his staff make storage-migration decisions.

“You can buy from third-party vendors and you can string together solutions, but it really should be coming from Microsoft themselves, and they’re not really there today,” he said.

Frank Orlow, manager of Clark Retail Enterprises Inc. in Oak Brook, Ill., said he would be interested in new Microsoft products for storage management and security because “any time you’ve got a bundled software environment with products from the same company, generally they play well together.”

Orlow said he checked out Microsoft Operations Manager to help with volume-level storage management, but he found the cost – approximately US$700 per processor – prohibitive for his 36 Windows servers.

A storage-area network, which would provide additional management capabilities, is also too expensive, said Clark, so he has three staffers monitoring storage as part of their jobs.

Jim Prevo, CIO at Green Mountain Coffee Roaster Inc. in Waterbury, Vt., said he carefully designed his firm’s storage and uses Compaq Computer Corp. tools to monitor storage capacity in 45 Windows 2000 and NT servers. Prevo said he always pays attention to Microsoft’s products.

Microsoft provided no details about its existing or potential offerings in the storage or security markets.

The software maker said last month via internal mail that Mike Nash would head its new Security Business Unit, according to company spokesman Dan Leach. Nash is due to complete his transition from Microsoft’s content development and delivery group to the security unit in the next two months, Leach said.

The first product due from Nash’s division is the next version of Microsoft’s Internet Security and Administration Server, an enterprise firewall and caching tool.

Fresh off his efforts to launch Microsoft’s .Net consumer services group, senior vice-president Bob Muglia switched gears in November to head Microsoft’s new Enterprise Storage Services Group.

Muglia’s group is charged with developing “a cohesive product and business strategy for the evolution of Microsoft file systems, network-attached storage, storage-area network, backup, continuous availability and storage resource management.”

“Storage management is a real pain point out there, and Bob is looking at what steps Microsoft can take to better explore that for customers,” Leach said, noting that Muglia’s group will consider both partnerships and potential technology developments.

“Beyond that, no business decisions have been made,” he added.

Leach said Muglia will report directly to Jim Allchin, group vice-president of platforms. Nash will report to Brian Valentine, vice-president of the Windows division, who reports to Allchin.