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Opalis Buy Plugs Hole for Microsoft System Center

Analysts say Canadian data center automation vendor's code helps Redmond catch up to competitors.

The acquisition of Opalis Software positions Microsoft to bring its Microsoft System Center product line to parity with competitors in the area of automating tasks as part of a cohesive process, according to analysts.

Microsoft acquired Mississauga, Canada-based Opalis in December for an undisclosed sum. The company will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft.

Opalis makes data center process automation software that Microsoft plans to integrate into Microsoft System Center. Opalis' products include prepackaged workflows, as well as integration solutions that work across various servers and management systems.

The move is a "very competitive" one for Microsoft, according to Andi Mann, vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. Microsoft was able to automate individual tasks in System Center, but it still needed Opalis' technology "to really put them together into cohesive and automated processes," he said.

"That has been -- especially over the last year or two -- a serious competitive differentiator for [Microsoft's] competitors," Mann said. "Especially BMC, CA, HP, Novell and NetIQ -- all have acquired this capability over the last year or two, which has left Microsoft behind the curve."

Microsoft took a huge step forward in acquiring Opalis, which Mann described as the leading independent solution provider in the IT process automation field.

System Center products still lack "significant help desk and problem workflow solutions," according to Donald S. Retallack, Ph.D., research vice president for systems management and security at Directions on Microsoft. However, Microsoft will be addressing those issues in its upcoming products.

"The Service Manager product, due in 2010, will introduce the people part of problem resolution (trouble ticketing, escalation) but the Opalis acquisition adds automated processes (for example, moving virtual machines when resources get scarce or managing other vendors' products)," Retallack said in an e-mail.

Microsoft System Center and Virtual Machine Manager products already work with Opalis software via integration packs.

In addition, Microsoft will be able to leverage the ability of Opalis software to integrate with other infrastructure management products, such as solutions from BMC Software Inc., CA, Hewlett-Packard Co. and others.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.