Microsoft buys Opalis to strengthen cloud management capabilities

Software giant buys automation vendor for an undisclosed sum

Moving to strengthen its management tools related to virtual environments, Microsoft Friday said that it has purchased IT process automation vendor Opalis for an undisclosed sum.

Microsoft said the acquisition, which had been rumored for nearly two months, adds to its System Center portfolio needed tools that can manage highly automated and scalable virtual environments. The tools complement Microsoft's strategy to stretch its management tools across on-premises environments and the cloud.

It is also the first major acquisition for the server and tools business since it absorbed the Windows Azure cloud assets and created a new server and cloud division.

"Advanced workflow processes will be vital for optimization and to avoid potential virtual server sprawl," Brad Anderson, corporate vice president in Microsoft's management and services division, wrote on the System Center team blog. Anderson noted that Opalis technology already integrates with System Center tools, and said, "Opalis will allow System Center to integrate with other infrastructure software from CA, BMC, HP and others to integrate across an IT organization."

Todd DeLaughter, president and CEO of Opalis, is an industry veteran who ran HP's OpenView business unit for four years, and Charles Crouchman, CTO, was formerly senior vice president of development at CA.

DeLaughter wrote on his blog, "Automated response is a core building block for the future of IT -- closed loop remediation of IT issues. It also happens to be the foundation for the automation necessary to deliver cloud computing."

Microsoft's strategy is to extend its System Center portfolio of tools, which include Configuration Manager and Operations Manager, from the enterprise into the cloud. At its Professional Developers Conference in November, Microsoft made a brief mention of something called "System Center Cloud," but provided no details. A beta is expected sometime in 2010.

During his PDC keynote address, Bob Muglia, president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, briefly touched on System Center "cloud" almost as an aside saying it would sit below the virtual machine layer and work across the cloud an on-premises infrastructure.

Opalis lets users manage that virtual machine layer, providing automated processes for "self adjusting pools of computing resources that can be tuned based on real-time events," according to DeLaughter's blog. "This is actually possible today with virtualization software, such as Microsoft Hyper-V Server, and automation tools, like Opalis and Microsoft System Center. The vendor who pulls this together with the cleanest, simplest approach will bring cloud computing to the masses."

DeLaughter's prediction certainly aligns with Microsoft's stated goal for its cloud computing initiative anchored by Windows Azure and SQL Azure. The Azure platform goes live as a production environment on Jan. 1.

On Wednesday, Microsoft created a server and cloud division that is under Muglia, who also has responsibility for the System Center management tools.

"The new organization ...signifies that we've moved beyond an advanced development project to an important and growing business for Microsoft," the Windows Azure team wrote on its blog on Wednesday. Opalis is the first major acquisition for that growing business.

Microsoft said Opalis will continue to fulfill commitments to existing customers and continue to deliver support during the transition. The company has over 300 customers including Chicos, Dow Chemical, Xerox and Kawasaki. Opalis will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary.

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