Microsoft Buys AssetMetrix, Enters Software Asset Management Space

The deal, unveiled at Microsoft’s annual management summit in San Diego, will 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. Though the acquisition comes as good news for some partners, it’s bad news for Microsoft SAM partners, many of them former large account resellers (LARs).

Microsoft plans to deliver a company-branded SAM solution, integrated with its Systems Management Server (SMS), in the next six to nine months, Tatarinov said.

"It is a true business need and a missing piece in the overall systems management strategy," Tatarinov said after announcing the acquisition in a keynote speech at the summit Wednesday. "This is the fastest way for us to get to market and add this to SMS. It's the fastest path to market because it will take just six to nine months to get it all integrated.”

Microsoft's SAM would go up against Symantec's LiveState, Novell's ZenWorks and Altiris.

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AssetMetrix has developed "deep expertise" to help customers and service providers discover actual inventory of software and technical "artifacts" on the desktop and servers and provide better advice on using those assets, Tatarinov said. It also will help customers with their license compliance needs and enable them to find untapped software assets they may have paid for but aren’t using.

The acquisition is a good move for Microsoft, said Frederic Esnouf, delivery manager at PI Services, a Paris-based Microsoft solution provider, after the keynote. "It's a good option for the enterprise," he said. "They don’t want to have to pay someone to find out if the software they've already paid for from Microsoft is paid for."

Microsoft's current SMS offers some software inventory and asset discovery capabilities, but it's difficult for customers to extract data, according to industry observers.

Tatarinov said the AssetMetrix solution manages a database of 300,000 known applications and Web services.

The SAM technology will help drive sales for Microsoft resellers and potentially assist hosting partners, but it's unclear if Microsoft plans to offer its own hosted SAM service, observers said.

On stage, a Microsoft product manager demonstrated the integration of AssetMetrix's platform with SMS and said that having such a system would enable customers to enter their credit card, buy and get compliant. But Tatarinov jumped in to qualm any concerns about that scenario. "We are not that evil," he kidded. Microsoft anointed many of its former LARs as software licensing advisers when it took its enterprise licensing business direct in 2001.

One former LAR executive said the handwriting has been on the wall for some time. "For LARs, this [AssetMetrix acquisition] could be a very big deal. But 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 also used to head Corporate Software, one of Microsoft's largest LARs and now part of Software Spectrum.

Toronto-based Softchoice, an AssetMetrix partner, said the acquisition won't hurt licensing consultants, yet it won't be good for some LARs-turned-software licensing advisers, who have developed their own tools.

Softchoice CEO Dave MacDonald said his company has a license consulting practice, but he noted that it supports all tools and can offer unbiased, independent recommendations.

MacDonald also said Microsoft has been ramping up its SAM efforts in the past seven or eight months and has engaged Softchoice and others to help reach customers.

"We've done 65 consulting engagements [with Microsoft] helping customers interpret SMS data," MacDonald said. "They don't have the legs we have."

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.