Opsware works toward its automation empire

* Opsware is successfully implementing an acquire and build-in-house approach for expansion

If you like mergers and acquisitions, then you must enjoy following the management market.

Not only do the big four -- BMC, CA, HP and IBM -- pull out their checkbooks regularly to snatch up smaller players (HP and IBM have the highest tallies), but companies such as Opsware also keep industry watchers guessing who could be the next acquisition target. Last week it was run-book automation start-up iConclude.

Opsware announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire iConclude for about $30 million in a cash and stock transaction. Opsware officials said the not-so-big deal, monetarily speaking, would add iConclude's process-based operational automation to Opsware's suite of data center automation (DCA) products. That should be seen as more of a big deal, according to industry watchers.

"DCA products quickly evolved from simple packages designed to assist with server provisioning and software distribution into offerings that encompass a broad set of functions including IT process automation, asset management, and compliance auditing," reads a recent Forrester Research report.

The iConclude buy falls in line with Opsware's past moves in the DCA market that show the vendor is willing to acquire technology to fill in the holes of its portfolio. Opsware, born out of managed services provider Loudcloud, has in the past five years built up its technology arsenal beyond server provisioning software to include network, storage and system automation technologies.

The company in 2004 set its sights on Rendition Networks and its TrueControl network change and configuration management product, which equipped Opsware with technology to develop its Network Automation System.

Then more recently in another financially small deal, Opsware acquired Creekpath in July 2006. At the time, Opsware said Creekpath's technology would serve as the foundation for Opsware Application Storage Automation System, a new product scheduled to be available some time in the first half of this year. Opsware said it would build its Application Storage Automation System on Opsware SAS, making the products fully integrated, but offer the storage management capabilities stand-alone as well.

Now, onto iConclude. The company's OpsForce software is said to automate the repair of some known problems based on predefined scripts. And the software provides diagnostic aids to speed problem resolution by administrators or staff. IConclude also included processes based on the best practice framework IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) in its technology, which Opsware officials said was particularly appealing. By adding iConclude to the Opsware Automation Suite, Opsware officials say, customers can have help implementing product repair processes that align with the guidelines established in ITIL.

Opsware seems to be on the path for offering one of the broader suites Forrester mentioned in its recent report. "DCA suites will continue to develop and expand their scope of features. Opsware, for example, has successfully pursued an acquire and build-in-house approach to expanding into areas like network and storage management," the report reads.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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