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Microsoft, CTP team for corporate deals

The firms announce a partnership to provide corporate customers with a faster way to build e-commerce, data warehouses, and other enterprise applications.

Cambridge Technology Partners is hooking its caboose to the Microsoft train.

The systems integrator is standardizing its business on Microsoft's infrastructure products in an effort to better fix prices for clients and streamline customer implementations, including database and electronic commerce services.

Jim Sims, CEO of Cambridge Technology Partners, said 60 percent of their clients are now using Microsoft products. To better service them, the company intends to boost its army of Microsoft certified engineers from 150 to 1000 over the next three years, Sims said. Cambridge also plans to standardize internally on Microsoft's enterprise platform.

"We're convinced Microsoft and NT will play a critical role in the enterprise applications area," Sims said. Strengthening the company's commitment to NT is the recent acquisition of systems integrator Excell Data of Bellevue, Washington, he said. Excell recently announced new Microsoft SQL Server 7.0. integration services.

The partnership won't dramatically change Cambridge Technology's business, said Lewis Clark, analyst at Dataquest, a San Jose, California-based consultancy. Rather, Cambridge Technology Partners wants to meld Windows NT into clients' existing Unix or Windows-based systems, he said.

"Microsoft is trying to move NT as a platform up the value chain,'' Clark said.

Over the past two years, the Redmond, Washington-based software giant has heavily touted its products including its Windows desktop and Windows NT server software, SQL Server database, and component architecture as the best way for companies to tap the best of their lucrative business software systems.

Today's move is part of Microsoft's ongoing strategy to lure the attention of top systems integrators to better compete with rivals IBM, Oracle, and other application infrastructure suppliers trusted by the world's largest companies.

For its part, Cambridge Technology Partners is moving in the same direction as its competitors--including the Big 5 consulting companies as well as the smaller, Internet-focused systems integrators--who are seeking to ally more closely with Microsoft. Both Microsoft and IBM are competing to be the plumbing that moves data around the massive software systems from SAP, Peoplesoft, and other players.

"Suffice it to say [this announcement] is another way that Microsoft's infrastructure becomes the focal point for IT solutions delivery," said Bill Martorelli, analyst at the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. "It's no secret that Microsoft's infrastructure is playing a larger role in ERP and electronic commerce."

Reflecting that strategy, the alliance focuses on areas including:

  • Electronic commerce, with both companies collaborating to build e-commerce applications using the Microsoft Commerce Platform.
  • Building loyalty strategies for Cambridge's customers through sales force automation, customer service and support, and computer telephony integration systems based on Microsoft Windows NT, Microsoft SQL server, and the Microsoft BackOffice products.
  • Data warehousing projects using Microsoft's SQL Server Version 7.0. Cambridge has more than 200 consultants qualified to deploy SQL-based data warehousing systems.