Microsoft and Banyan Sign Interoperability Deal

Banyan Systems Inc. is trying to revitalize its image in the eyes of the computer industry. But to do that, the company needs help from a former rival -- Microsoft Corp. In January, Microsoft and Banyan (www.banyan.com) announced a global alliance that will help Banyan grow its network services division and its network software offerings. For the past two years Banyan Systems’ CEO Bill Ferry has been working to fortify his ailing company.

In the services arena, Banyan plans to use a $10 million Microsoft investment to train 500 Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCP) during the next three years, bringing its growing services business to 1,000 MCPs. Ferry says he chose to ally with Microsoft in part because of the leads they could generate for Banyan’s services business.

On the software side, the companies agreed to develop software to help their messaging, directory and operating systems products interoperate. Microsoft hopes the alliance will show customers that it is dedicated to interoperability with other vendors’ offerings. "Customers have been telling us for some time that with the product momentum of NT and Exchange, we need to focus on interoperability," says Ian Rogoff, Microsoft’s general manager of enterprise partnerships.

When Ferry began planning Banyan’s resurrection, he says he solicited input from the company’s largest accounts. They delivered one message loud and clear -- NT and Exchange are becoming their platforms of choice. "We have found that a number of our customers have already started migrating," Ferry says. "We’re saying we have a services organization to help customers create the most appropriate network design for their organization. For those customers who plan to migrate, we will facilitate that, but it’s not the answer for all customers. "

According to Lee Doyle, vice president of networking at IDC Research (www.idc.com), Banyan’s NOS products won’t stand the test of time. "I think they’ve been assuming that it has a finite run," he says. "In the interim they’re not giving up, but in the long term they are." On the other hand, he says, Banyan customers won’t look to replace StreetTalk until Active Directory works, "and Active Directory isn’t going to work for a couple of years."

For now, Banyan has no plans to discontinue any specific products. But Ferry admits that Banyan’s future probably doesn’t lie in the network operating system software arena. "We recognized we had an installed base of network OS and messaging customers but that our future would not necessarily be in that area," he says.

The company plans to venture into the Internet application arena. Banyan announced it will work with Microsoft to develop Internet infrastructure and Web application solutions based on Microsoft products for supply chain management, enterprise resource planning, customer management and human resource applications. "We have a software initiative that’s in transition," Ferry says. "We will move from network OS over time to Internet solutions."