Loudcloud Beefs Up Opsware, Faces Suit

Company readies 60 new management modules with built-in intelligence.

As Loudcloud Inc. works to build momentum behind its operations management software licensing initiative, issues from the companys roots as an MSP may dog the effort.

Loudcloud, which is in the midst of changing its name to Opsware Inc., will announce this week the addition of some 60 modules to its namesake platform that deliver such capabilities as automated provisioning, deployment, configuration and change management for servers and applications.

The application- and server-specific modules are aimed at large IT shops looking to make fast and frequent changes while avoiding conflicts among system components.

But of particular interest to observers is the companys new Intelligent Software Modules, which provide valuable operational intelligence about what works together and in what order changes must be made.

"Configuration management is one of the most manual frontiers of IT," said Corey Ferengul, an analyst with Meta Group Inc., in Chicago. "Loudcloud is trying to automate the process with built-in intelligence. It can tell you things like The Oracle [Corp.] package you want to install is incompatible with this version of AIX unless you have this patch."

Loudcloud isnt alone, however, in the intelligent configuration management space. The company competes with vendors such as Jareva Technologies Inc., BladeLogic Inc. and Moonlight Systems Inc., although those vendors are focused more on provisioning.

But as Loudcloud strives to distance itself from its MSP (management service provider) past—it sold that business to Electronic Data Systems Corp. last month—an incomplete merger with Frontera Corp. is coming back to haunt the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

Los Angeles-based MSP Frontera filed suit against Loudcloud last week over an alleged failure to meet contractual obligations set out in the acquisition agreement inked earlier this year. Damages havent been specified yet.

Frontera officials claim Loudcloud backed out of the deal after selling the MSP business to EDS and after it announced the companys new software focus.

Based on the agreement, "Frontera altered the nature of its company down to its bare minimum," said George Borkowski, outside litigation counsel for Frontera at Mitchell Silverberg & Knupp LLP, in Los Angeles. "Frontera [still] wants the merger to close and its customers to be taken care of. If Loudcloud is exiting the managed services business, then it makes sense that Fronteras customers go to EDS."

Loudcloud officials said they are working toward a compromise. "We continue to work with Frontera to resolve the issue," a Loudcloud spokesman said. "It does not affect the business future operations of the EDS transaction."

Still, the suit could become a "fly in the ointment" of Loudclouds transition to Opsware, giving users pause when considering its technology, said Meta Groups Ferengul.