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Opsware vs IBM Battle Brews

Opsware Inc. (Nasdaq: OPSW) yesterday announced extended platform support for Opsware System 4.5, the data center automation software package that it launched last month (see Opsware Extends Platform Support and Opsware Intros System 4.5).

The announcement itself isnt exactly earth shattering, but what’s going on behind the scenes could be, one day.

In a nutshell, Marc Andreessen is taking another crack at outgunning an industry behemoth, this time IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), in what looks a little like a rerun of his Netscape adventure, when he eventually succumbed to the might of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).

Andreessen is one of the founders of Opsware, previously known as Loudcloud, and right now, the company appears to be making a lot of the running in an emerging market for data center automation. The need for automation has arisen from the proliferation of Web applications and servers, which has increased complexity to the point where administrators are overwhelmed with tasks spanning the whole IT lifecycle.

Opinions differ on whether administrators are ready to take the plunge with automation technology right now, but the size of the potential market for products such as Opsware's was validated last year, when IBM entered the fray with its acquisition of Think Dynamics, according to Gregg Speicher, an analyst with Farmhouse Equity Research LLC. "This market is going to happen," says Speicher. "The question is, can Opsware continue to capitalize?"

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