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Optinuity Streamlines Routine Technology Maintenance

By Andrea Caumont
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2004; Page E05

Scott Stouffer, chief executive of Optinuity, says his three-month old Bethesda company wants to make it easier and less expensive for a company's information technology department to respond to system failures or security breaches.

His company's program, to be launched in the second half of January, automates and streamlines the diagnostic procedures that employees usually do manually.

In Profile

Name: Optinuity

Location: Bethesda

Big idea: Makes software that streamlines how an information technology operations group responds to security problems, system failures and other events.

Founded: October 2004

Web site: www.optinuity.com

Who's in charge: Scott Stouffer, chief executive, and Rachid Sijelmassi, chief technology officer and founder.

Funding: The company raised $6.5 million in its first round of venture financing from New Enterprise Associates, Venrock Associates and Mid-Atlantic Ventures. It won't look for more funding until the end of 2005.

Employees: Seven; the company hopes to add 15 to 20 workers over the next two months, including sales engineers, tech support specialists and development engineers.

Origin of company name: "It doesn't have to mean anything," Stouffer said. "But it could mean the combination of operations and continuity."

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"We've seen a ton of organizations overwhelmed by the fact that the bulk of their staff is consumed by supporting ongoing maintenance," Stouffer said. "It's ironic that the very staff that is there to support all of this technology uses somewhat antiquated techniques for doing it. We're trying to provide a tool that leverages the expertise that's in the organization now."

The result, Stouffer says: Senior engineers will have more time to focus on big-picture issues, and companies will be able to reduce the number of staff members devoted to these routine fixes.

Rachid Sijelmassi, chief technology officer and founder, said the key difference in this product is its ability to capture what makes one company's infrastructure different from another's. "Everyone's focusing on providing out-of-the-box solutions to standard problems," he said. "We allow you to implement what would otherwise be in binders," referring to a company's particular standard operating procedures.

"People have brought out products that are supposed to automate software distribution," Stouffer said. "But what these kinds of prepackaged automation tools are good at is environments that are standardized. We play in complex environments that run homegrown applications that are not standardized."

Fixing a technical glitch can involve thousands of tiny technical steps, Stouffer said. "It can take 20 people a day" to complete a recovery and restore the system. Optinuity's program automates many of those tiny steps so "if you're in recovery mode, you get back to optimal operations a lot faster," Stouffer said. "That's important when you're looking at high-end applications that are running the business."

Sijelmassi gave an example: "When there is a virus, you have to go scanning around different servers and machines to find it. Typically, people would have procedures to handle it and would walk through the procedures to isolate the virus. Once you know the architecture, you can script the reaction and have it start automatically. Once the procedures have been defined, it doesn't require human intervention, but it allows it. It depends on how automated you want it to be."

Stouffer, a start-up veteran who founded Rockville-based Visual Networks, said Optinuity plans to spend most of 2005 rolling out its product. He predicted revenue of $1 million to $2 million next year and said that number would climb to "well north" of $50 million in three years.

"This whole network-systems-management industry has always been interesting in that it's often been littered with small companies," Stouffer said. "I don't see that changing too much. This is a complex challenge. Essentially our industry exists because the infrastructure industry has been unsuccessful in putting their stuff together in a seamless fashion to make it work."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company