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New Active Directory Domain Services hurts partner products

With Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory Recycle Bin, Microsoft once again steps on partner toes.

The Active Directory "Recycle Bin" feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 assumes the tasks that were once performed by Microsoft partners like Quest Software and ScriptLogic.

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For IT pros, the Recycle Bin feature in Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services is one of the most interesting new capabilities in the new Windows server operating system because it lets administrators undo accidental deletions of AD objects--something they could only do using third-party partner products before. So, its inclusion is not so great for the ISVs that sold solutions that prevented or fixed the problem.

"This 'Recycle Bin' functionality is something that's been a rich field for third-party ISVs. Microsoft needs to be a bit careful about intruding on that space," said Don Jones, a Microsoft MVP, author, IT consultant and co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC. "Putting ISVs out of business doesn't encourage them to continue supplementing AD management."

"Since Microsoft typically puts out pretty poor AD tools, they need those ISVs to cover a lot of niche concerns like compliance. Microsoft has done a really poor job of positioning the Recycle Bin in 2008 R2, and it's already damaging ISV business," said Jones,

who wrote a white paper "The Active Directory Recycle Bin: The End of Third-Party Recovery Tools?"

Microsoft expanding onto partner turf is nothing new to VARs and ISVs, although given its partner focus, the company is sensitive to these complaints, and Microsoft executives say that the company is careful to map out how its products will evolve. And, it is not the only big vendor that barges in on third-party territory.

Michael Cizmar, president of Chicago-based Michael Cizmar + Associates Ltd. said partners often fill the gaps in software because they do the leg work with the customers to figure out what they need and develop solutions. Then, big vendors copy those products and offer them for free.

"Once you announce to the world what you are doing, the vendors will naysay it or develop a similar product to incorporate into their own to lower the total cost of their product," Cizmar said.

For instance, Cizmar said his company developed a successful SharePoint Connector for use with Google but, soon after, Google came up with its own version that killed the market for his offering.

"We knew our product was better than Google's, and some people did buy it despite there being a free option from Google. But when a manufacturer offers something similar for free, even if there is less functionality, people will use it," Cizmar said. "It has happened with other vendors as well. Our product lifecycle is typically short and rapid because of that."

In the case of Active Directory, third-party recovery tools, such as Quest Software's Recovery Manager for Active Directory, still offer more functionality than Microsoft's built-in Recycle Bin feature, which cannot, for example, roll back to restore anything that was improperly changed. Quest's tool can.

Adding features with minimal capabilities that leave space for partner products is a typical Microsoft move, said Richard Warren, an IT services provider with Wilsons Mills, N.C.-based North Carolina Technologies. Microsoft "has always stepped on the toes of partners when it comes to low hanging fruit," but also leaves gaps for partner products to fill.

"When a feature becomes essential to the platform and the framework itself, Microsoft doesn't hesitate to add rudimentary functions," Warren said. "But, is it a deep, fully featured replacement? No. It offers rudimentary functionality, but leaves partners room to provide deeper functionality."

Some partners said giving Active Directory Domain Services more native functionality makes it easier to sell.

Richard Ayars, executive vice president of Arlington, Texas-based IT services provider Custom Information Services, said he welcomes the additional feature because it makes Active Directory Domain Services more complete, and third party products will still provide improved functionality over inbuilt features.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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