Most MSP software platforms are evolving beyond PC and server management to include cloud monitoring. But some platforms, such as Opstera AzureOps for Windows Azure, were designed from the ground up for cloud monitoring. Opstera claims more than 100 customers now use AzureOps to monitor Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Azure metrics. Is this the start of a bigger trend?

The AzureOps cloud monitoring service is only three months old, but the Opstera team has extensive cloud experience. In many ways, Opstera is the successor to Cumulux, a cloud solutions provider.

Opstera CEO and Co-founder Paddy Srinivasan has held cloud and product development positions at Cumulux, Oracle and Microsoft. Similarly, technical leader Ranjith Ramakrishnan founded Cumulux after a 10-year career at Microsoft. Fellow Microsoft veteran Ryan Dunn was a technical evangelist for Windows Azure. And Doug Rohrer has been programming for more than 20 years.

Those team members claim Opstera is the only cloud-based operations management provider for Windows Azure. AzureOps can monitor the underlying Windows Azure platform, the application itself, and the dependent cloud services, Opstera asserts. Moreover, Opstera claims AzureOps monitors more than 100 million Windows Azure metrics per month.

At times, I'm skeptical of cloud monitoring tools because the tools can't really control whether a third-party service (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, Office 365 or Windows Azure) is available. And when a cloud service such as Azure goes dark, only Microsoft -- rather than a third-party monitoring tool -- can bring it back online.

Still, Opstera is quick to note that its monitoring software allows customers to proactively scale third-party cloud services up or down based on real-time demand.

Opstera's AzureOps service costs from $50 per month (for up to 5 instances) to $800 per month (for up to 100 instances). Pricing for a top-end enterprise offering, also for up to 10o instances, is undisclosed.

As of this blog entry, MSPmentor does not know how Opstera is funded nor do we have a good feel for the company's first 100 customers.

Either way, the Windows Azure monitoring market seems to be growing. Additional options include Paraleap Technologies' AzureWatch, ManageEngine's Azure Performance Monitor Tool, Nimsoft Monitor for Windows Azure, and Microsoft System Center Monitoring Pack for Windows Azure Applications, among others.