Microsoft's Softricity buy: I hear a new tune from Redmond

Microsoft could provide Softricity's functionality to enterprises so that they could take their custom-developed Windows environment applications and convert then into streamed application services, with an efficient grid-like infrastructure for support.

Fascinating acquisition this week by Microsoft in picking up Boston-based Softricity. This has implications for how Microsoft can move in a number of directions. More than almost anything else I've seen from Microsoft, this acquisition speaks to Redmond's need to produce highly cost-efficient means to support and deliver as a service myriad enterprise applications -- perhaps much more than just native Microsoft applications.

Softricity has been in a tricky position of having a number of value propositions, making its core market tough to define. It's SoftGrid 4 offers grid benefits, virtualization benefits, low TCO benefits, software as a service benefits, composite app benefits, and rich client experience benefits. Some of its large savvy customers have well gotten why all this is to the good, but a volume sell to workaday enterprises was a tough row to hoe.

Now, Microsoft can take the multiplier-effect Softricity benefits and apply them broadly and quickly. It jump-starts the numbers and types of applications and services available for distribution as subscription offerings, perhaps including use within the Live offerings? It plays well to the rich client philosophy of Office 2007. Microsoft can also apply the benefits as an adjunct and perhaps replacement for terminal emulation application delivery -- and do it faster, easier, cheaper. It scales down to the enterprise, and up to the hosted service levels.

What's more, Microsoft could provide Softricity's functionality to enterprises so that they could take their custom-developed Windows environment applications and convert then into streamed application services, with an efficient grid-like infrastructure for support an lower client-touch costs. And for those that want to move older Windows applications for use with Vista, without the configuration headaches, they have a smoother migration path. Hell, they might just run older apps as streams altogether on Vista.

So this acquisition can be applied to both new applications, Microsoft-hosted services, and for giving legacy Windows and even Java applications a new lease on life as an internal service set (perhaps all running on a Windows/JVM grid), while taking the bite out of the Vista move. Lots of agility. I hope they didn't buy it just for the Vista migration benefit, but take full advantage of the possibilities.

So congratulations to David Greschler and crew at Softricity. And congratulations to Microsoft for knowing when to buy rather than build. Could this also portend more and larger still acquisitions by Microsoft?

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