Sun Microsystems is buying IT services company SevenSpace for an undisclosed amount of cash, helping to expand its support for operating systems outside of Solaris.

Privately held SevenSpace specialises in remotely managing and monitoring IT systems and applications. It was of particular interest to Sun because its managed services technology will let Sun provide support for software from Oracle, SAP and PeopleSoft on a wider variety of operating systems, said Scott Woods, Sun's VP of customer integration.

"We've been primarily a Sun-based shop," Woods said. "This gives us a full range of heterogeneous capabilities from the physical network layer all the way up through applications." That will make Sun more competitive with industry heavyweights HP and IBM which already provide similar managed services offerings, Woods said.

"We've been playing in the edges of remote managed and monitoring services, however we had limitations in our current product that were keeping us from being competitive," Woods said.

Though managed services vendors have been struggling, the market has been showing positive signs recently, said William Martorelli, an analyst with Forrester. Managed services has been one of the fastest growing divisions within HP, for example, which saw 35 percent growth in its most recent quarter. And Cisco recently invested in managed services through the acquisition of network monitoring company NetSolve.

SevenSpace's remote management technology, and not its staff of approximately 100 employees, ultimately may be the most interesting component of the deal for Sun, Martorelli said. The technology could, for example, be integrated into Sun's existing services offerings.

Woods declined to comment on Sun's strategy but said that details would be provided after the close of the acquisition, which is expected to occur by the end of March 2005.