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A new world order at CA

Nov 28, 20055 mins
Data Center

* CA takes a structural approach

At CA World in Las Vegas earlier this month, Computer Associates introduced a number of product and structural enhancements as well as a new branding initiative. Starting with the latter, which is by far the easiest to grasp, CA will no longer be called “Computer Associates” but just “CA.”

Its new logo couples the letters together in a more tightly knit fashion, symbolizing tighter integration across its portfolio as well as across third-party products. CA’s management direction is now summed up as “Enterprise IT Management,” or “EITM,” a slight variant on the prior term, “Enterprise Information Management.” CA is petitioning the world to “believe again,” in both the power of technology, and in itself to deliver the management systems to maximize that power – a not so subtle reference to the troubled prior years involving legal challenges to key CA executives.

The next two stories – CA’s structural and product initiatives – are orders of magnitude more complex and it is fair to say, in my opinion, that their combination heralds a new world order within CA. This new world order is albeit the evolution of trends that have been in process for at least three to four years, when CA took seriously the need to clean up its portfolio, reduce the multiplicity of products, and achieve a point of integration where any management application might, based on policy and appropriateness, harvest the data gathered from any other. This direction demanded consistent data schema and CA and its product managers swallowed that bitter pill-requirement which, after years of effort, has resulted in its Management Database (MDB) as manifest in its R11 release. The MDB is currently shipping with 26 tightly integrated products and 60 more loosely integrated ones. But there is no reason to believe that the priorities set around the MDB as a significant competitive advantage are going to dissipate now that this initial big blast announcement is over.

Along with the MDB, CA’s structural approach to integration is summed up by its “Integration Platform,” which is an outgrowth from its Common Services and which includes the MDB. Along with the MDB, other “services” incorporated in the “Integration Platform” include workflow, messaging, UI services, discovery, scheduling and identity and access management, among others. Unfortunately for CA, the term “Integration Platform,” is something of a misnomer, since it is really not a separate, monolithic purchased platform, but rather a common set of services embedded with all CA application suites within its broader portfolio.  In other words, it is not a harking back to the old (not so good) days of framework imperialism, but a much more cellular set of enabling capabilities that all of CA’s management applications share.  This is good news, but may take some reminders and reassurances before the truth pierces through first impressions.

Structurally, CA also has a lot invested in analytics (watch this space), stemming from both its Aion business intelligence and OLAP capabilities, as well as those achieved through investments in inferencing and correlation from the Concord/Spectrum acquisition, to neural networking, to flow-based anomaly detection and baselining its Sonar technology (acquired from Silent Runner from Raytheon in 2003), just to name a few.  I point this out to stress that the role of the MDB, naturally at the heart of CA’s configuration management database (CMDB) strategy, is an enabler for, among other things, role-sensitive analytics.  So from a structural approach, CA seems to be doing a lot right.

From a product perspective, CA has reassembled the Lego-like components of its product set to exploit new integration capabilities, minimize redundancies, and enhance new functions. However, product details were scant at the announcement.  This was deliberate on CA’s part, as it wanted to make a point of being portfolio oriented rather than lost in 1,001 technical details. It did stress new capabilities such as, for instance, “Asset Intelligence,” where the power of the MDB to enable a merry-go-round set of role-sensitive views for an asset, or class of assets, were graphically demonstrated. For instance, a single asset or class of asset could be understood cohesively in terms of costs and contracts, customer/line of business owners, operational owners and maintenance contracts, Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) and Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), configuration and license information, as well as understood in terms of state – available or not, degraded in performance, or not, etc.  This fluidity highlighted the new integrated design point for CA’s product portfolio spanning enterprise systems management, business service optimization, storage and security.

However, the scant attention to technical and product detail was also a double-edged sword in communicating the total value of the announcement. As you review CA’s new portfolio – and there are of course many aspects to consider, not in the least the effective, first-phase integration of Concord and Aprisma into its broader Unicenter solution  – you may want to poke and probe at specifics. It was almost as if CA was gun shy of exposing the true power of some of the analytics and insights it could deliver, for fear of causing anxiety in IT buyers still struggling with day-to-day reactive problems and too burned by grand, Wagnerian hype in the past. 

So don’t be shy yourself. Poke and probe as you like. There is still a lot to rationalize and integrate in CA’s product set and I suspect more than a few dangling non-sequitors still remaining, but R11 is definitely a watershed for CA, and a healthy, structurally-oriented example of well-architected planning.