10 start-ups to watch: OpTier

OpTier offers CoreFirst, software for managing transaction workloads across heterogeneous infrastructure tiers, such as Web and application servers, legacy systems and databases.

Location: New York

What does the company offer? CoreFirst, software for managing transaction workloads across heterogeneous infrastructure tiers, such as Web and application servers, legacy systems and databases.

How did the company get its start? Three former Memco Software and Compuware executives founded OpTier in December 2002. Israel Mazin, chairman, co-founded Memco Software, a security vendor that after two acquisitions in 1999 became part of Computer Associates , which ultimately incorporated the company's technology into its eTrust security management suite. Yori Lavi, CEO, served as a chief architect at Compuware, where he was responsible for database products. And CTO Amir Alon headed up development at iRadius, a company dealing in Web site deployment. Before that, Alon served as chief architecture analyst at Memco.

How did the company get its name? Named for the problem the company plans to address. The software will automatically "optimize" performance across all "tiers" of the infrastructure based on pre-defined business priorities.

How much funding does the company have? $16.1 million, including a $7.5 million second round that closed in February 2004. Backers are Carmel Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Pitango Venture Capital.

Who's leading the company? Yori Lavi.

Who's using the product? A handful of unnamed companies have bought or are testing the software, including a Fortune 50 financial institution, a large cellular operator and a government agency.

Why is this company worth watching? OpTier executives liken their adventures in starting the company to those of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in "The Blues Brothers." Early on, the team decided they were "on a mission to solve another huge problem" for IT infrastructure managers by first gaining visibility into the transaction level of IT applications and services, and then by automatically allocating resources across heterogeneous environments based on pre-defined business priorities. For example, a business may assign a higher priority to transactions supporting credit card authorizations than, say, those transactions used to process a departmental report.

If the goal sounds familiar, that's because it is. Management heavyweights such as BMC Software, Computer Associates, HP and IBM have been singing a similar tune in the past 18 months. OpTier executives admit "we're now in the chase part of the movie," and industry watchers say the start-up might run into even more obstacles than their on-screen counterparts.

Yet with a unique twist on an existing problem, the newcomer could best the competition.

"This is an interesting technology that expands the notion of quality of service and prioritization of the workload," says Jean-Pierre Garbani, a vice president at Forrester Research. "The concept of looking at all the resources globally and establishing a way to prioritize some critical transactions over less critical ones is appealing."

OpTier executives say they are up to facing the challenge from the big management vendors, as well as to distinguishing the company among other start-ups venturing into IT automation, such as Optinuity and RealOps.

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