CA jockeys for stronger position in security, management markets

Software maker introduces three products, updates five others to help customers better manage identities, remain compliant and automate tasks

CA launches a slew of products in its security and management portfolios to help customers better manage identities, software licenses and compliance as well as take on heterogeneous virtual environments and automate IT processes.

CA this week is set to unveil a slew of security, management and automation products that have industry watchers and IT managers speculating the embattled software vendor may succeed at making its technology better integrated and easier to use (see slideshow).

The company plans to announce three new software products and updates to five others that it says enhance capabilities to secure identities, manage complex environments and automate processes across IT domains. Industry watchers see the product news as part of a bigger comeback story for the software maker.

"CA has made tremendous progress over the past few years. In the past, the technology was presented in disconnected silos; they didn't seem to have a clear view of customers and the product strategy was not very well-orchestrated," says Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates. "CA has done well with its Wily and Netegrity acquisitions and continues to really work to address the requirements of managing and securing hardware, software, services and networks."

Corporate overhaul

Hurwitz credits CEO John Swainson and his history with IBM as the catalyst for change within CA, which had to recover from previous executives' accounting scandals and a negative reputation among customers. The March 2008 appointment of Michael Christenson as president and COO also bodes well for the company operationally, Hurwitz says, as CA focuses on cross-selling software to its 4,000 largest customers. In addition, leadership from former Novell CTO and current CA CTO Al Nugent enabled the software maker to restructure more than 1,000 seemingly disparate products into targeted technology portfolios, which CA has spent the past few years working to streamline, integrate and equip with a common agent architecture and shared underlying platform.

Chart of CA products

"CA is moving their products from islands of functionalities toward a comprehensive set of software tools designed to address customer demands," says Jasmine Noel, principal analyst at Ptak, Noel and Associates. "Over time it has become less and less about products and acquiring the most software, and more about what it is that customers need to do and how CA can translate its technology into successful implementations."

Still, competing for security, management and automation customers directly against competitors such as HP (fiscal 2007 revenue exceeded $104 billion) and IBM (fiscal 2007 revenue neared $99 billion) would challenge any company the size of CA, Hurwitz says. CA reported revenue of $4.277 billion for its 2008 fiscal year, which ended in March, an 8% increase over $3.943 billion in fiscal 2007.

"CA is a $4 billion company, which is nothing to laugh at, but the direct competitors are much larger than that and CA needs to continue to evolve their approach to managing a highly distributed environment to better compete," Hurwitz says. "The thinking around managing complex environments is changing. All the management vendors need to stay ahead of that thinking."

Partner, customer progress

Several of CA’s latest product announcements are around identity and access management and security compliance, both technology areas in which CA historically exhibited strength but recently joined forces with a niche player to enhance. (Compare identity management products.)  

For instance, CA updated its Identity Manager software and introduced a new product dubbed Security Compliance Manager, which scans environments for policy and compliance violations and automatically triggers resolution through third-party software applications such as a help desk system.

CA partnered in May with entitlement and role management vendor Eurekify to complement its Identity Manager software with automated role provisioning and identity life-cycle management capabilities. CA is reselling Eurekify Enterprise Role Manager, but industry watchers speculate the partnership could develop into an acquisition in the future. Regardless, the addition of this type of automation in CA's identity management arsenal will help customers reduce costs and improve outdated processes around identities to meet current compliance and security requirements, analysts say.

"One of the biggest and most expensive aspects of enterprise-class identity management is defining roles and assigning access," says Scott Crawford, research director with Enterprise Management Associates. "Taking the role-based approach Eurekify offers streamlines that process, automates defining roles in a large end-user population and makes auditors happy because with fewer, more well-defined roles, access is more accurate, meaning fewer chances for unauthorized access."

Paolo Ginervo, identity and access management project manager at UniCredit in Milan, Italy, uses CA's Identity Manager product to define roles and authorize access for 80,000 users across mainframe and distributed platforms including RACF, Active Directory, Exchange, Sun One LDAP and SQL tables. He says his organization needed to automate the user identity life cycle and account provisioning, and manage connected systems from one central location. Features such as automated account provisioning "help reduce administration costs" and self-service capabilities lessen help desk costs for UniCredit.

"One of the important aspects is definitely the possibility to see from a single interface which systems a specific user has access and with which privileges," Ginervo says. "CA Identity Manager has improved significantly over the years and now we could say it's stable and scales well in our environment."

Ginervo, who also evaluated BMC products (the company has since ceased investing its identity management technology), says CA won UniCredit over with customer service and commitment to further developing its technology.

"No product is free of issues, but what's important for us is that they get quickly addressed to cause the least impact possible on the production environment and UniCredit's business needs," Ginervo says. "And we usually find that CA cares about our needs and is responsive to our requirements."

Industry watchers argue that CA's biggest challenge will be convincing customers the company is invested in their success and ensuring CA's broad technology portfolio is applicable to real-world IT issues.

"CA has a comprehensive portfolio that is pretty responsive to industry demands for identity and access management. There isn't a technology issue. CA needs to continue to rebuild its image among customers to compete against IBM, Novell and Oracle," Crawford says.

Gaining ground

Despite playing catch up with BMC, HP and IBM in areas such as data center automation, CA is gaining ground quickly, industry watchers say. And the vendor is considered ahead of the competition when it comes to virtual systems management.

A partnership earlier this year with data center automation vendor Opalis helped CA deliver its IT Process Manager software, which helps CA compete with HP and BMC and plugs an automation hole in the vendor's product portfolio.

"With Opalis, CA has a mature product that already includes integrations into multiple third-party systems. With IT process automation, it is critical to connect into many systems to automate a cohesive process," says Andi Mann, research director with Enterprise Management Associates. "This software provides the glue to tie CA's automation toolset together and extends CA's automation capabilities out to third-party systems."

Another product winning over analysts and customers is CA's Advanced Systems Management, or ASM, which the vendor updated with support for more virtualization platforms including Sun Logical Domains (LDOM) and IBM's HACMP cluster technology. The management application also integrates with VMware VirtualCenter. Considering the market for virtual systems management is beginning to demand a heterogeneous product, Mann says CA is ahead of the competition.

"CA and Microsoft stand out as the two vendors taking on heterogeneous virtual systems management," Mann says.

Customers agree that CA's attitude toward integration and partnerships helps the company succeed in technology and product development.

"Even CA realizes they can't do everything; they work with third-parties to tie back into the core CA products to make it possible for customers like me to get integration and capabilities across a distributed environment," says Harry Butler, IT project manager at Elbit Systems of America, a defense manufacturing company in Fort Worth, Texas.

Butler manages 14 locations with centralized IT systems and a core team, as well as IT staff in disparate locations. He says CA's technology advances, such as Software Compliance Manager, and partnerships enable him to stay ahead of problems in his environment. He is beginning a beta implementation of the new software application in a couple of weeks and says he is happy CA earmarked software license compliance as a priority.

"We get audited twice per year and we do quarterly internal audits. Our method of using spreadsheets to manage software licenses won't stand up against all the compliance requirements we have to deal with. CA sees that customers are challenged by this and are fearful of lawsuits," Butler says. "We kept asking, 'Isn't there a more automated way to do this?' and it seems CA is answering that question."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.