A while back, Microsoft acquired anti-virus vendor Sybari. Sybari had an interesting product line with support for Exchange, SharePoint, Live Communication Server, Lotus Domino, generic SMTP gateways, Windows, and UNIX/LINUX. Now that the acquisition is complete, guess what disappeared from the product lineup?
If you guessed “UNIX/Linux” support, you’d be right.
On the one hand, I’m not really surprised. Sybari may continue to run as a separate company for now (albeit with a little “A Microsoft Subsidiary” addition to their logo), but sooner or later, they are likely to get merged into the general body of Microsoft products and development, and you don’t see too many other Microsoft products for UNIX platforms these days (the last one I can remember was Internet Explorer for Solaris, back in the day). They just don’t have the corporate expertise to write UNIX apps.
On the other hand, presumably the Sybari acquisition brings with it an existing UNIX development infrastructure, as well as a pool of developers who know how to write for UNIX. It’s a long way from anti-virus products to, say, Office, but it’s a start. A lot of people are finding the Linux desktop story more compelling, but office software continues to be one of the sticking points of that story; Office file compatibility is a major de facto requirement in today’s world and it would be hard to beat Office’s compatibility with a UNIX version of itself (granted, Mac/Windows compatibility occasionally has a few warts). Add to that the new Office Communicator — now there’s a product that should have a UNIX version sooner rather than later — and surely Entourage to at least provide some UNIX-based competition to Novell’s Evolution (which they added to their product lineup with the acquisition of Ximian).
On the gripping hand (if you don’t get this phrase, you obviously haven’t read The Gripping Hand, the sequel to the classic Niven and Pournelle sf novel The Mote in God’s Eye), The Register makes a very painful point, which is that the vast majority of viruses in the wild are targetted at the Windows platform. UNIX-based virus scanners aren’t so much about protecting UNIX machines from viruses as they are a convenient platform from which to scrub data intended to be used on Windows workstations.
Microsoft has been doing a lot of good work on trying to show that they’ve gotten serious about security. Unfortunately, this move is going to become a rallying point for the people who want to show otherwise, and it’s going to be very hard to disagree with them. Granted, I’m not in the big office up at the Microsoft campus, but from my view here I have a hard time seeing how nuking the existing Sybari UNIX anti-virus solution ties into the strategic goals of Trustworthy Computing — or in fact how it is anything other than a decision made in a reflexive anti-UNIX reaction. A lot of companies used the Sybari engine in conjunction with a nice UNIX-based MTA like Postfix to provide a high-performance, highly secure message hygiene gateway between the Internet and their Exchange organization. Now they’ve got one less option — and I can pretty well guarantee they’re not going to sit on their hands idly waiting for Exchange 12 to come out so they can deploy an Exchange edge server to fill the gap.
I wish somebody at the high executive level would realize that sometimes it is better to have your finger in every pie rather than try to make sure you have the only pie.