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Microsoft gains hosting ally in Ensim

The maker of Web site hosting software announces a new version of its software for managing hosted Web sites that run on Windows, a potential lift for Microsoft's .Net strategy.

Web site hosting software maker Ensim has announced a new version of its software for managing hosted Web sites that run on Windows, a potential lift for Microsoft as the company looks to expand its .Net strategy to key markets.

Ensim's Webppliance software is used by Web site hosting companies to manage multiple Web sites, the company said. The new Windows version of Webppliance lets a Web site hosting operator run its operation on Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system and .Net Web services technologies.

Ensim had previously focused its efforts on software that runs on Linux, but the company decided to add support for Windows and .Net Web services software, such as ASP.Net, as a means to crack the small and medium-sized business market, where Microsoft is focusing a lot of its marketing efforts.

Ensim executives said Windows technology is "growing in popularity" among Web site hosting providers.

Support from third-party software companies such as Ensim may help Microsoft crack the Internet infrastructure market it clearly lusts after. Much of its .Net Web services strategy is based on providing the underpinnings for future Internet-based software. A key to this drive will be how quickly network operators and Internet infrastructure companies adopt software from the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

Rivals in the Linux software camp, as well as Sun Microsystems with Java, have long played important roles in the Net's technology infrastructure, with Microsoft lagging them.

Despite a downturn in the fortunes of several Web hosting providers, the market is expected to grow 30 percent annually through 2006, according to market researcher IDC.

Naturally, "Microsoft doesn't want Sun to have that whole market," IDC analyst Melanie Posey said.

Microsoft has had little success in the Web hosting market thus far, according to analysts, though it does have a high-profile deal with Qwest Communications International based on using Windows 2000 Server-based systems and associated software as a back end for Web sites. Ensim competes with companies such as Sphera, as well as internal Web hosting services and outsourcing companies such as Loudcloud.

Ensim, a 110-employeee company based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said its new software is now shipping. Ensim has received three rounds of venture capital financing and has garnered 100 customers for its Web site hosting management software and another 500 customers for an appliance, according to company executives.