Opsware Ups Management Ante

Opsware has new data center management software that goes beyond server automation

March 8, 2005

3 Min Read
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Data center software vendor Opsware Inc. is casting its net beyond its core server automation technology with the launch of a new network management product. And word has it the new software, which is said to be capable of handling 400 network devices from 18 different vendors, could prompt a flurry of M&A activity from rival vendors.

Opsware has long been regarded as a trailblazer in the server automation space. Its Network Automation System was among the first products to enable IT managers to tweak their data center kit to provide additional capacity without spending time and money reconfiguring hosts individually.

Now Opsware's hooking on to a trend toward adding routers, firewalls, and switches to the mix (see Opsware Intros NAS 4.0). The new verison of Opsware's flagship is built on the TrueControl technology Opsware acquired when it bought network management specialist Rendition Networks back in December, in a deal described as a major step forward for Opsware (see Opsware Opens Its Wallet and Opsware to Buy Rendition). TrueControl tracks and regulates changes across routers, switches, firewalls, and load balancers.

According to Opsware execs, vendors covered by the new software include Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR) and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), as well as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), and F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV).

Rival data center management vendors IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA) can't claim a direct analogue to Opsware's new software. But with all fighting to win more market share, Glenn ODonnell, program director at Meta Group Inc., believes Opsware's announcement could prompt further releases.”To do data center automation these days you need to do more than just automate servers,” he says. “It’s kind of a shot across the bows of the other vendors. I fully expect the other major vendors to make some moves in this space.”

Some may buy their way there. Rendition may have been snapped up, but there are plenty of other startups doing this type of thing, according to the analyst. These include AlterPoint Inc., Voyence Inc., and Intelliden Corp.

However, there also been plenty of speculation that even Opsware itself could get gobbled up by one of the major players. HP, in particular, has been cited as a possible candidate, thanks largely to its Adaptive Enterprise strategy, which aims to help businesses change their technology infrastructures on the fly. IBM offers similar solutions as part of its portfolio of On Demand products.

“It would be a good fit for Opsware and a good fit for HP in general,” says O’Donnell. However, there is one major hurdle in the path of a possible acquisition -- price. “Opsware’s valuation is still high,” he adds. Today, Opsware’s market cap was rated at $444.3 million.

Just to complicate matters, Opsware execs are not ruling out the possibility of another Rendition-style deal. Eric Vishria, the company’s director of product marketing, told NDCF in a recent interview: “We are always looking at different technologies but our focus now is to bring the [Rendition and Opsware] technologies together.”Nonetheless, Vishria confirms that the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor is particularly interested in services and storage management technologies.

As far as server automation is concerned, the company is planning to launch a new version of its Opsware System product this summer (see Opsware vs IBM Battle Brews and Opsware Intros System 4.5).

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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