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Mission Critical Software jumps 60 percent on debut

In the wake of such an IPO, what was once thought of as esoteric software "plumbing" could now be a springboard to success for several firms, according to industry observers.

Mission Critical Software jumped almost 60 percent in its debut on Wall Street today, underscoring the increasing interest in tools that take advantage of underlying "directory services" technology.

In the wake of such an IPO, what was once thought of as esoteric software "plumbing" could now be a springboard to success for several firms, according to industry observers.

A directory serves as an underlying "white pages" where information is stored about users, computers, and software. Some have equated the emerging market based on use of directories with the emergence of standardized databases.

Directories have become a key component in corporate-oriented operating systems, such as Novell's NetWare and Microsoft's Windows NT, as well as strategies from software providers such as Oracle, IBM, and AOL subsidiary Netscape Communications. Many would argue that the most important feature of the forthcoming NT upgrade---now called Windows 2000---is the addition of the business-class Active Directory.

As such, underlying directory software is being used by third parties to provide a more sophisticated set of management, migration, security, and business application products. Essentially, independent software vendors, or ISVs, take advantage of the plethora of information housed in the directory to provide sophisticated tools for businesses.

Mission Critical Software makes directory-based migration and management tools focused on Windows NT. Microsoft has licensed Mission Critical's migration software for its Windows 2000 upgrade to alleviate issues associated with the move from NT to 2000.

After debuting at a price of 16, Mission Critical's stock nearly doubled at one point for the day before closing at 25.44.

"There are going to be plenty of opportunities in the space," said Jamie Lewis, president of industry consultants the Burton Group. "It's a sign that the market is starting to mature."

What is driving interest in directories is their position within a corporate information technology (IT) strategy, according to analysts. Increasingly, network managers view a directory as a central repository for a variety of information that can be used to track users and third parties who want to access internal information. In this scenario, many view a directory as a key security and administrative software tool for e-commerce going forward.

"I think a lot of it is being driven by [Internet-based business commerce]" said Lewis. "There's these parallel tracks: You have to simplify your internal network before you can extend it into e-business relationships."

Given the position of the directory, third-party software providers are latching on to the corporate interest. Firms such as Oblix, FastLane Technologies, and Entevo, among others, have all developed products for the niche, with high expectations as directory adoption gains steam.

Some, like Oblix, expect to go public sometime next year and are watching Mission Critical's stock performance closely.

"That certainly bodes well for companies that are building value around directories," said Ron Palmeri, vice president of business development for Oblix. "We just see a phenomenal opportunity in this market."