AssetMetrix acquisition gives Microsoft licence management tools

Microsoft Corp. is adding a new set of asset management capabilities to its systems management line of products with the acquisition of an Ottawa-based software firm earlier this week.

During his keynote address to attendees at this year’s Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in San Diego, Calif., Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice-president of Microsoft’s Windows and Enterprise Management Division, announced that Microsoft had purchased AssetMetrix in an all shares transaction. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. spoke with Jeff Campbell, CEO of AssetMetrix, who was attending this week’s conference, following Wednesday’s announcement.

“This is a very significant acquisition for Microsoft in that they’re acquiring technology that will allow them to bring much more asset management capability to their customers,” Campbell said in a telephone interview. “Now they have the technology available to them to bring tools to their customers to allow them to accurately manage their licence situation.”

The deal, which the two companies began negotiating last fall, allows Microsoft to incorporate a catalogue of 300,000-plus applications into its systems management software (SMS) — now called Systems Centre. AssetMetrix’s software tells IT administrators how many copies of the software are installed in their environment, helping them to improve security and comply with software licence laws. Microsoft will release the software library as well as application signatures and additional reports to 45,000 existing SMS customers worldwide before year-end. No further integration details were provided.

“Asset and licence management has been one of our top customer requests,” said Felicity McGourty, director of product management in Microsoft’s Windows Enterprise Management Divisioin. “Although SMS does inventory, it doesn’t go to the level that’s able to give you the granular reports so you can match that against the licences you’ve actually bought.”

Peter Pawlack, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said Microsoft’s acquisition of AssetMetrix fills in a void that it had in its systems management portfolio.

“It’s not a ground-breaking acquisition but it will be a valuable enhancement to Systems Centre Configuration Manager 2007,” said Pawlack. “It will give one more very valuable capability that will be a boon to IT administrators and people that are responsible for making sure the organization is in compliance.”

Following the integration of the catalogue, Microsoft will take the next six to nine months to evaluate AssetMetrix’s other products in terms of how it will offer and integrate them into its existing product set. As far as the AssetMetrix name goes, McGourty said branding decisions will be made as Microsoft reviews where the products fit into its portfolio. She added Microsoft will continue to support other services such as AssetMetrix’s reports generated by its research labs that evaluate customer licencing, migration and service pack issues.

At MMS, Microsoft also announced that SMS and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) will be rolled into a new brand called Systems Centre codenamed “service desk,” which will be available in 2007. Systems Centre includes Data Protection Manager, Capacity Planner and Reporting Manager. AssetMetrix’s catalogue will be incorporated as part of Systems Centre when it comes out.

All AssetMetrix employees — there are approximately two dozen — have been offered “transition assignments” that will begin once the deal has closed. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the next 30 days pending Canadian court approval. Following the transition period, which is expected to take between three to nine months, employees will have the option of working at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

“They’re not going to be losing their jobs,” said McGourty. “We will create those plans appropriately for them to do whatever they want to. They’re always welcome to join Microsoft or not.”

As for Campbell, who has managed AssetMetrix for the past three years, he’s already got his next gig figured out.

“The picture I have in my mind is a beach, Cornella Beach in Sydney Australia, with a little kiosk where I will be renting surfboards to whoever comes walking past.”

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