Microsoft Buys Enterprise Software Maker DesktopStandard

In a bid to shore up its management line, Microsoft has announced the acquisition of privately held DesktopStandard, a developer of Group Policy-based desktop and server management tools.

DesktopStandard’s software works with Active Directory and integrates with Microsoft’s Group Policy Management Console (GPMC). GPMC comes standard with Windows Server 2003 and manages operating system settings for multiple computers across a network. It’s also supported on Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Administration Ease

DesktopStandard will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“It’s not at all surprising that Microsoft made an investment in this space,” said Scott Crawford, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. “It’s not terribly surprising that they invested in DesktopStandard because DesktopStandard has worked very closely with Microsoft to extend the Group Policy Management Console itself,” he added.

Group Policy lets administrators control desktops and servers throughout a network by assigning policies according to user groups. Policies are kept in the directory, and groups are assigned privileges that either allow or prevent them from changing settings or accessing applications.

The ease with which Group Policy can be administered, especially concerning change management, can often affect a firm’s bottom line.

“Difficulties in change management can lead to a very high proportion of service issues that may require desk-side support,” Crawford said. Generally, difficulties in change management will significantly increase the cost of administration [because] anything that can reduce that cost and improve the efficiency, maturity and reliability of change management is itself a pretty good investment,” he said.

Growth Phase

DesktopStandard’s software will add stronger tools for centralized administration to Group Policy, giving administrators greater control over what rights users have. “That in itself is a challenge in the Windows environment,” Crawford noted.

The type of administration will be changing with Longhorn, Microsoft’s next-generation server system, and Vista, the successor to Windows XP. However, for this generation, it will lower the total cost of ownership by centralizing the policy administration, according to Crawford.

Microsoft is buying most of DesktopStandard’s products, including GPOVault, ProfileMaker, PolicyMaker Standard Edition and Share Manager. It is not buying PolicyMaker Application Security. That will be sold by BeyondTrust, which was spun off from DesktopStandard on Monday.

DesktopStandard is coming off a record profitable year, with a 107 percent increase in revenues over 2004. The most significant growth came from its Group Policy line of products, with an increase of 210 percent in 2005. The company added three new products last year: PolicyMaker Application Security, PolicyMaker Share Manager and GPOVault Enterprise.

The company also added two free products: PolicyMaker Registry Extension and GPOVault, and a Software Development Kit.

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