Top secret: Microsoft's $6 billion open source play

Linux and open source software at heart of acquisition

This month's announcement by Microsoft to acquire digital marketing services firm aQuantive has revealed little on how the companies will integrate their IT, but inside information indicates the deal may be Redmond's largest commitment to free software.

The parent company of Avenue A Razorfish, Atlas, and DRIVEpm, aQuantive is regarded as the second choice behind the now Google-owned DoubleClick in the online advertising space.

A drastic purchase perhaps, but Microsoft is confident the company's technology and services are complementary.

In an interview with IDG News Service, Microsoft's president of its platforms and services division, Kevin Johnson, would not comment on the specifics of how Microsoft will bring together aQuantive's existing offerings with its online properties and adCenter advertising platform, but did say the companies are putting teams in place now to work on the integration plan.

Whether the businesses are complementary or not, Microsoft's integration work will no doubt involve a lot of open source software used by aQuantive.

Information available from Atlas' Web site indicates the Internet software company employs extensive use of open source software including Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Solaris.

Software engineers at Atlas' Raleigh office do client/server development in C and C++, software maintenance and "scripting", and developing and maintaining custom reporting capabilities.

Other sought after skills include Unix development, JavaScript, and those for Windows software administration like SQL Server and IIS.

The use of open source is not confined to Atlas with the second significant business unit Avenue A Razorfish boasting "we also frequently utilize open source technologies".

The world's largest interactive agency, according to aQuantive, Avenue A Razorfish develops server-side code to support Fortune 1000 client Web applications in J2EE and .Net.

The company's applications often incorporate content management, portal, and security applications that leverage "standard-based Web technologies".

Developers must be familiar with open source technologies and scripting languages, and different server operating systems, like Windows, Unix and Linux.

The scale of aQuantive's open source deployments is unclear but with 2600 employees the acquisition could be Microsoft's biggest free software bet and will certainly test the company's willingness to interoperate.

- with Jeremy Kirk

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