Even Microsoft is sometimes faced with the decision of whether to "buy or build." This time it chose to buy. With the acquisition of Opalis Software announced yesterday, Redmond in one stroke takes a major leap in data center process automation. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Major announcements by
Dell and EMC last week put Microsoft behind by at least six months when it comes to IT automation; according to reports, it will be mid-2010 before we see a Microsoft-branded solution.

Opalis's flagship is Integration Server, which automates data center processes--such as those for provisioning a server or other network resource--so as to reduce the human errors that the company claims are the cause of 80 percent of infrastructure downtime. The idea is to bestow Microsoft's System Center with the ability to automate processes normally documented in the data center's "run book." System Center contains modules for managing configuration, data security, operations and virtual machines. Opalis Integration Server also would introduce integration with enterprise management systems from BMC, CA, HP, IBM, NetIQ and VMware.

Opalis, has become a wholly owned Microsoft subsidiary, and its operations will remain in Toronto. Though financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, a the 451 Group had the figure at around US $60 million.