You might remember Opsware Inc. (NASDAQ:OPSW) as Loudcloud, the technology outfit that burst on the scene -- backed by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen -- at the height of the dot-com boom. That's the loud. The cloud follows shortly thereafter -- in the form of a total IT sector collapse.

Today, Opsware, which has changed its name and its business by moving away from hardware, is a leader in data center automation (DCA) software. This is highly technoid stuff, but critical, as companies struggle to manage a growing number of servers, while protecting them from viruses and allowing for patches for faulty software.

Little wonder things are looking up for Opsware, which sits on $56 million cash and two consecutive months of positive cash flow in software operations, most recently on revenues up sequentially from $4.3 million to $5 million. A product launched in September is gaining traction, and its new XML protocol for data centers appears on its way to becoming a standard. This lends both credibility and an edge in attracting new customers.

Best of all is the acquisition of Tangram Enterprise Solutions -- a rinky-dink bulletin-board company -- for a measly $10 million. Cheap because it's struggled to leverage its products to a large enough scale, Tangram has been around since the mid-1980s and has industry-leading technology. It's a terrific fit.

Consider, Tangram's technology supports more than 30,000 software products, which in sprawling IT setups, is extremely valuable. The company also offers sophisticated techniques that prevent unauthorized access to business systems and applications, a functionality that extends to the desktop, including Windows, Linux, and UNIX systems.

Granted, software is legendary for cutthroat competition and rapid change. Among others, Opsware must contend with high-profile players IBM (NYSE:IBM), Computer Associates (NYSE:CA), BEA Systems (NASDAQ:BEAS), and BMC Software (NYSE:BMC), but that's just for starters.

Enter Tangram's client list, which is nearly 200-strong (25% in the Fortune 100), to which Opsware plans to upsell its higher-priced systems. And why not? Opsware learned about Tangram from its own customers who raved about the products. Now Opsware has many more customers to listen to -- and sell to.

Tom Taulli is the author of six books on investing and finance, such as the Complete M&A Handbook (Random House). He is also a professor of finance at the USC School of Business (don't worry, he does come out of his ivory tower). You can reach him at