Microsoft Ally AVIcode Zeros In on Autonomics

The small software company's .Net-application monitor, Intercept Studio, works with the Visual Studio Team System to aid developers.

BALTIMORE—Microsoft has been moving to try to match, if not surpass, IBM in the area of autonomic computing through its DSI (Dynamic Systems Initiative), and the software giants secret weapon is a small Baltimore company called AVIcode, which even Microsoft officials acknowledge is the embodiment of DSI right now.

"We are the poster child for DSI," said Steve Pelletier, vice president of business development at AVIcode Inc.

Indeed, as part of its tight alliance with Microsoft Corp., AVIcode has been touring around with the software giant doing ".Net Experience Expo" events, the most recent of which was on June 17 in New York, Pelletier said.

The companies also jointly presented at the Microsoft TechEd conference earlier this month in Orlando, Fla., and the slides Pelletier and AVIcode chief executive Mike Curreri shared regarding the companys road map looked eerily similar to those Eric Rudder, Microsofts senior vice president of servers and tools, showed in his keynote at the VSLive conference earlier this year.

Moreover, Microsoft will be shipping the Operations Edition of Intercept Studio, AVIcodes .Net application monitoring software, with MOM 2005 (Microsoft Operations Manager 2005). Intercept Studio Operations Edition for MOM 2005 will be distributed as the Microsoft .NET Management Pack beginning next month, the companies said.

With the AVIcode additions, MOM 2005 will become the complete platform for managing .NET Framework applications, allowing customers to establish enterprise standards for monitoring the health of ASP.Net, Web services and .Net Remoting applications, Microsoft officials said.

AVIcodes application fault-management software simplifies application maintenance and troubleshooting, and detects crashes and performance degradations of production applications running on the .Net Framework.

The Dynamic Systems Initiative is a commitment from Microsoft and its partners to help IT teams capture and use knowledge to design more manageable systems and automate ongoing operations. AVIcode delivers tools that help enterprises bridge the gap between IT operations and development staff—a feat many of the major software developers are trying to achieve, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Computer Associates International Inc.

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"We see ourselves as a bridge between these two siloed areas of development and operations," Curreri said.

AVIcodes initial releases of Intercept Studio have been geared more toward the operations side of the house by delivering MOM capabilities in the Visual Studio tool set. AVIcode is delivering a new version of the tool, Intercept Studio 3.0, in November, to coincide with the release of Visual Studio 2005, which will force developers to follow best practices and to design their applications for more efficient operations and error checking from the outset, Pelletier said.

The new version will be an adjunct to Microsofts VSTS (Visual Studio Team System) and will provide operational data to various people involved in the development and deployment process, including software architects, development project managers, coders and QA testers, as well as data center operators and systems administrators, said Prashant Sridharan, group product manager in the .Net Developer Product Management Group at Microsoft.

"Intercept Studio 3.0 is our next major product release that will support monitoring for applications built on .Net Framework 2.0 and integration with the Visual Studio 2005 IDE [integrated development environment] and [the VSTS] Team Foundation Server," Pelletier said.

Indeed, AVIcode is including a new AVIcode Application Health Modeling Tool for Visual Studio Team Architect in the next version of the Intercept Studio product. The health-monitoring infrastructure is based on Microsofts modeling tools, code-named Whitehorse, that are part of VSTS.

And although the Microsoft and AVIcode alliance will not initially deliver totally autonomic solutions, where systems can find errors and then fix them themselves, the solution goes so far as to identify problems to the line of code level, alert a developer and then launch Visual Studio so the developer can fix the code on the fly, AVIcode officials said.

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Yitzhak Kabinsky, a software architect at Sunshine, Fla.-based online retailer Odimo Inc., said he uses Intercept Studio and "it allows us to see whats happening in our applications in a production environment, with no tampering of the code, while the application is running. It collects information in real time."

And when it locates a problem "it shows you where, and you can click on it and it launches the Visual Studio environment to the line of the problem and you can fix it," Kabinsky said. "It has been very helpful to our operation."

Meanwhile, given that Microsoft has not moved to deliver this kind of functionality on its own, the tight integration between the two companies strategies might raise the question of whether Microsoft will simply acquire AVIcode.

Asked that question, Curreri said he could not talk about the issue, but said: "If youre asking me whether we could be an acquisition target by a major software company, I would not deny that."

Pelletier said the "AVI" in the companys name stands for Alex and Victor, the companys co-founders—Alexandre Zakonov, now chief architect, and Victor Mushkatin, chief technology officer. "And AVIcode stands for Alex and Victors code," he said.

Pelletier said the company is poised to continue on its growth path and continue supplying its products to Microsoft users, as well as to users of products from CA, Serena Software Inc. and others.

Microsofts Sridharan said he could see AVIcode "easily becoming another Mercury [Interactive Corp.]"

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