Microsoft taps NSA's expertise in federal SNA market

Network Software Associates Inc. well-known among federal agencies as a leading provider of Systems Network Architecture connectivity products has struck an informal deal with Microsoft Corp. to lend NSA's federal marketing credibility to the software giant's SNA Server offering.

Al Dekin product manager at Arlington Va.-based NSA said the companies' relationship goes beyond the traditional business partner deals that Microsoft negotiates with other companies. "We've taken that program a step further to do product marketing " Dekin said.

"We want to be considered almost part of the sales and marketing group for SNA Server applications."Although SNA Server represents an essential aspect of Microsoft's BackOffice products for many users the company lacks a deep knowledge of how to sell support and establish the applications in mission-critical environments Dekin said. And because of NSA's position in the federal SNA market the company not only brings credibility to the table but also is available to answer customers' questions.

"Microsoft is stretched thin trying to support its multiple product lines particularly in the federal government " he said. "It's not a question of whether Microsoft knows how to support its own product but a question of sheer volume."

John Hand federal marketing manager at Microsoft credited NSA with "helping us sell additional SNA Servers " although he disputed Dekin's opinion that Microsoft was "stretched thin" in its product support efforts.

"We do have such a wide range of products that we can't make every single one our highest priority " Hand said. "[NSA's] whole focus has been PC to host connectivity so they help us move products into that space."

Ariel Glassman development manager at NSA said the company offers federal users five free copies of its SNA emulators - Dynacomm/Elite for Windows 3.1 or NS/ElitePlus for Windows 95/NT - with the purchase of Microsoft SNA Server.

Arnie Jones systems support manager at the Air Force Materiel Systems Group said the combination of strong products and support from Microsoft and NSA has allowed his organization to move away from the dumb-terminal solution used since the early 1980s into a Windows 95/NT environment.

"The difference between dumb terminals and using a 32-bit product is huge " Jones said. "Instead of a black-and-white pure-text technology we have all the power of Windows. We can do things like cut and paste. It's really a productivity boost. And when you get tools out there that everybody likes it makes my job a lot easier."

Jones said that after he bought Microsoft BackOffice the company directed him to a number of third-party vendors who could assist with the SNA Server applications. But Jones said he had already done some research and knew he wanted to use NS/ElitePlus.

"We were very interested in a company innovative enough to produce a 32-bit product " Jones said. "When you're dealing with a graphics-intensive environment the greater speed is important."

Jones said he contacted NSA to purchase NS/ElitePlus and paid about $90 per seat for 50 users.

Dekin said the arrangement with Microsoft began about six months ago when his company began searching for ways to add some new twists to its product line. "While this is a sizable market it is not burgeoning " he said.

"We had been looking at adding functionality on top of our emulators and we embraced the Microsoft platform to give us credibility in some markets."

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