Microsoft Walks Off With Winternals

Redmond adds Winternals to its growing list of security acquisitions

James Rogers, Contributor

July 18, 2006

3 Min Read

Microsoft picked up privately held data protection software company Winternals for an undisclosed sum today, as the vendor again looks to boost its security story. (See Microsoft Acquires Winternals.)

Austin, Texas-based Winternals offers a number of Windows-based systems recovery and data protection products that perform such tasks as network defragmentation and blocking unauthorized applications. The vendor is also behind the freeware tools Website Sysinternals, which averages around a million visitors a month.

Certainly, Microsoft has been cranking up its security message over recent months, unveiling new Web-based security services and coughing up cash for SSL VPN vendor Whale Communications. (See Microsoft Serves Up Security Services and Microsoft Acquires Whale.) Other Microsoft security acquisitions include managed services specialist FrontBridge and anti-virus specialist Sybari. (See Microsoft Pulls In FrontBridge, Microsoft Snaps Up Sybari, and Gates Opens Up on Security.)

"It carries on the trend of Microsoft buying smaller players with good ideas," says Paul Stamp, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "The endgame is that security becomes just another thing that the IT guys do -- Microsoft is trying to facilitate that."

Microsoft, of course, is also getting an extensive customer list thanks to Winternals, which includes Visa, Merrill Lynch, Best Buy, and the Irish Department of Finance. According to Winternals, 97 of the current Fortune 100 are among its customers.

Microsoft is yet to reveal what will happen to the Winternals workforce, although the software giant did confirm that co-founders Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell will be moving over to the company. Russinovich will join the Microsoft Platforms and Services Division as a technical fellow, while Cogswell becomes a software architect within the Windows Component Platform team.

Redmond is keen to allay any fears that Winternal's existing customers may have, promising that Winternals will continue to provide technical support for the current terms of their contracts. Microsoft, in a statement on the Winternals Website, added that it will also meet the terms of existing Winternals partner contracts.

But at the moment, Redmond is revealing little about its long-term plans for the Winternals product line, saying only that it is evaluating how the Winternals products and technology can be integrated within Microsoft offerings.

Jim Allchin, co-president of Microsoft's Platform and Services Division, hinted that it may not be long before Winternals makes its presence felt in new products. "I have had my eye on Mark for some time," he said in a statement this morning, referring to Russinovich. "The work he and Bryce have completed in system recovery and data protection illustrates the depth of thinking and skill they will bring to future versions of Windows."

But Stamp warns that Microsoft must also overcome a degree of end-user skepticism about its security record. "The biggest gap they have to address is the hole in people's perceptions," he explains. "Microsoft were late to the game when it comes to securing the environment they supply, and people have long memories."

In after-hours trading, shares of Microsoft dropped 9 cents (0.4 percent) to $22.65.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch. Special to Dark Reading.

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