Connectix Corp., which this week sold its client and server Virtual Machine technology to Microsoft Corp., is evaluating its future given that it is now left with just two products that are heading toward obsolescence.
In an interview with eWEEK on Wednesday afternoon, Roy McDonald, the CEO and president of Connectix, said his firm has developed Macintosh technologies since the launch of its first product in January 1989.
While the company still has Macintosh products in the market today that are not based on Virtual Machines—DoubleTalk, which allows Mac-PC networking from within the familiar Mac interface and not in a Windows environment, and the RAM Doubler, which was discontinued last month but is supported until September—both of those products are “heading towards obsolescence” as they are not Mac OS 10 compatible.
“The Microsoft deal has created a significant change in our product roadmap, and so we are going to have to do an evaluation and reset. We dont have any firm plans, but closing the company and starting a new venture is also possible,” he said.
The Connectix management team reinvented the firm as an enterprise software company a few years ago as it saw this as an opportunity for bigger growth, McDonald said. It also believed that VM technology had a higher value in that space.
More than a year ago, McDonald started looking at how he was going to fund this undertaking, as VMs have such a wide range of possible applications. But, as the company got further into that market, it realized that it also needed access to enterprise software channels as it moved away from its focus on consumer software.
“As such, we began to talk to Microsoft, which could help with both. So, while the deal is an acquisition by Microsoft, its also our way of getting an enormous channel for our technology. The company has now split into two pieces, with the technology team largely going to Microsoft and the sales and support team remaining here to sell the VM product.
: Connectix CEO Weighs Companys Future”>
“We will continue to be the primary channel for those products and will also be a support organization for the next six months,” he said.
McDonald said that, as a consumer software expert and generalist, he would not be moving across to Microsoft once the six-month handover period is completed in October. But Eric Traut, Connectixs CTO, will move to Microsofts kernel organization in Redmond, Wash., which “suggests something about the way Microsoft is thinking about this technology,” he said.
People migrating away from legacy OS2 are the principle users of the Connectix Windows client product, he said, adding that Microsoft is fully committed to carrying that effort forward and to helping those sun-setting OS2 in 2006 migrate over to XP.
“So there is far more of an interest at Microsoft in supporting more than just DOS to Windows and NT 4 to Windows Server 2003 migrations. That is merely the entering wedge of virtualization for Microsoft,” McDonald said.
Asked why he thought Microsoft decided to buy his VM assets rather than those of VMware, as was widely expected, McDonald said that one of the things that makes the Connectix Virtual Server unique is its COM interface set of APIs, which make it simple for applications to be developed on top of the virtualization.
“We support more than 500 published APIs, and those of our partners who build businesses on top of virtualized servers find this a compelling reason to use it as the platform. There is no question whatsoever that this was very important to Microsoft when considering the deal, which suggests our technology is not going to get buried in a very niche application,” McDonald said.
Jim Hebert, the general manager of Microsofts Windows Server Product Management Group, also told eWEEK on Wednesday that the bulk of Connectixs VM product development team will relocate to Microsofts Redmond campus. But Connectixs Mac product development team will remain in the Bay Area, as Microsofts own Mac development team is based there.
Microsoft started seriously looking to acquire VM technology assets some four months ago, and after surveying all the companies involved in the VM technology space was impressed by the fact that Connectix was a Windows-based development organization and used all the Windows APIs, he said.
“Our notion is that their fit with our interests is very high,” he said, adding that Microsofts NT 4 customers need a way to reduce their costs and move to a contemporary operating system. Virtual Machine technology is one of the tools Microsoft is going to offer them to do that.
“In the process of migrating their applications to Windows Server 2003, customers can consolidate their servers at the same time, which is a second way we address the migration problem for them,” he said.
Many of these customers are interested in server consolidation as they are running NT4 on machines that have been in service for up to five years and are coming to the end of their depreciation cycle.
In many of these cases, those applications do not fully utilize the power of the machines theyre running on, and moving them to fewer, more powerful machines means there will be a lot more resources available, he said.
“So, consolidating workloads from several NT4 machines onto a single machine is very attractive and helps reduce problems with floor space and makes it slightly easier to manage from at least a hardware perspective.
“But that model does not change the number of operating system instances you have to manage, so that part doesnt change all that dramatically. But the physical number of boxes changes, and that is a good thing for most customers,” Herbert said.
Many NT 4 customers with single applications on a single server will now be able to run multiple single applications on one server. “That is something they havent been able to tackle until now, and our problem has been finding the right way to enable those customers,” he said.
Asked if Microsoft intends to integrate the Connectix technologies into the Windows code, Herbert said he believed this was the type of functionality that the operating system itself should provide. “But, having said that, the decision about when we integrate things into the OS code base gets driven by a number of independent factors.
“Its conceivable that could happen. Certainly. We think of this as OS functionality. Were delivering this separately today, but longer-term that could change. As we are on the cusp of releasing Windows Server 2003, it will be some time before we could get that technology in there if we decided to do that,” he said.
The Connectix Windows and Macintosh client products, which are currently already in the market, will remain Connectix products until the transition of the acquisition is completed. “At that point, well put the Microsoft brand on them. The team that created them and supports them will continue to do that, and as they become Microsoft products well augment those teams as we need to so as to support customers on a going forward basis,” Herbert said.
Microsoft intends, at least at the moment, to leave the client VM products as free-standing products, which will be sold through all Microsofts existing channels. “Longer term, there are all sorts of things we can do, especially in the Windows client space, but the current plan is to leave it as it is. We have no plans at this time to change the things those products support,” he said.
Microsoft will also work with the Connectix engineering team involved in the Connectix Virtual Server, which is still in beta and slated for release later this year as a Microsoft-branded product.
“By moving the whole stack, including the operating environment, customers avoid the need to buy a new version of the application and operating system it runs on—though they still need licenses for all of these things—but they dont need to buy a new version,” he said.
“Windows Server 2003 offers such strong benefits to customers that we are being really proactive in wanting to get customers to migrate so they see the benefit and reduce their costs. The net of this is that we have a series of tools in place to help customers do that. This is one new tool were adding to help customers reduce costs and improve their operational efficiency by moving to Windows Server 2003 in a way thats the least disruptive to their ongoing operations as possible,” Herbert said.