Thursday, October 11, 2007

Beltway Bet: Opnet Technologies

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In March, we suggested that the pressure on the federal government to upgrade its computer networks was a good reason for investors to get into network equipment stocks. So far, the market hasn't proved us wrong; shares of the two companies highlighted in that story, Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems, have advanced a hearty 96% and 24%, respectively.

If you believe that the network trend still has legs, consider shares of a smaller company on the software side: Opnet Technologies (nasdaq: OPNT - news - people ). The Bethesda, Md., outfit ranks 167 on our list of America's 200 Best Small Companies, published Thursday. A slowdown in sales has hurt the stock, but the weakness could be a buying opportunity.

In business since 1986, Opnet sells systems that help big organizations map out their networks, analyze the network interaction of different devices and applications, and troubleshoot when things crash or get sluggish. Chief Executive Marc Cohen, 44, paints his company's offerings as indispensable.

"The lights must stay on," he says, "and the networks must continue to hum."

Opnet has certainly hummed in the government market. Nearly half of the $245 million (market value) company's sales comes from big government contractors and federal agencies such as the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State. Last August, Opnet's user conference in Washington, D.C. drew 2,000 people.

Full story at