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Users applaud CA’s integration plans

Nov 21, 20056 mins
Data Center

Customers turned out in droves last week to hear how after 18 months of internal restructuring, technology acquisitions and product development Computer Associates intends to win back their faith.

LAS VEGAS – Customers turned out in droves last week to hear how, after 18 months of internal restructuring, technology acquisitions and product development, Computer Associates intends to win back their faith.

The company’s first fee-based CA World drew more than 6,000 attendees; past shows, which were free, attracted about 10,000. Approximately 125 sponsors, including Microsoft, were there.

The company, which in the near future will officially change its name to CA, revealed the details of its Unicenter 11 release, announced an identity management product that uses Netegrity technology acquired last year, and let customers in on its sweeping integration plans. CA intends to incorporate in future software releases a common set of policies, workflows, databases and processes, which the company said will let its products more easily integrate with each other as well as with third-party and open source tools.

Also: Seen and heard at CA World

For a company that at one time claimed to have 1,250 products – although it now refuses to give a number – and that completed eight acquisitions in the last year alone, this level of integration is a significant investment of development time and dollars. The company spent about $650 million per year for the past five years, or more than $3 billion, to get this broad integration off the ground.

President and CEO John Swainson added that this is just the beginning: “We aren’t doing this because it feels good or because we like pain. We are doing this because it’s the best way to get where we need to go.” He said the company would continue to put “hundreds of millions of dollars” into its Enterprise IT Management (EITM) strategy.

CA announced 26 new and upgraded products, and sets of products bundled as suites, such as CA Service Availability, which includes an assessment service and products that can use a variety of tools across CA’s Unicenter management, eTrust security and BrightStor storage-technology portfolios. Management vendors have been moving away from point products toward delivering suites for some time, but last week CA customers seemed primed to take advantage of the most recent integration effort by the company.

“I plan to use CA technology to condense four management consoles down to one and then move my staff off the mundane task of watching multiple monitors,” said Linda Reino, CIO at Universal Health Services in King of Prussia, Pa. “I trust the automation they have built into the software. I have better things for my people to be doing.”

Reino expects to have Unicenter Network and Systems Management (NSM) 11 rolled out in three to six months.

Improving identity management

For Kevin Murphy, senior systems analyst at Reynolds & Reynolds in Dayton, Ohio, integration means his previous Netegrity Web access-provisioning products will work better with CA’s eTrust identity and access management (IAM) tools. With CA Identity Manager, announced at the show and set to ship by year-end, Murphy told show attendees he would be able to better install IAM processes across Reynolds & Reynolds dealer and customer networks worldwide. He is beta testing Identity Manager 8.

“As a public company, poor identity management practices put our company at risk and our customers at risk,” Murphy said. “CA’s integration of its eTrust technology with the Netegrity products will give me a centralized identity management platform.”

Keith Rabun, IS division manager at Austin Energy in Texas, said he went shopping for products to consolidate his service desk operations 18 months ago and decided to work with CA because of the company’s plans for integrating its disparate products into a suite. As a beta tester, he is hoping to roll out Service Desk 11 and Unicenter NSM 11 in the next few months.

“We were having a lot of trouble with preexisting legacy systems in terms of documentation and management. We had multiple entry points to manage assets,” he said. “It was too much administrative overhead and burden to maintain the multiple systems.”

Rabun said he expects to roll out more consistent workflows with Service Desk 11 and take advantage of the increased security available with SNMP Version 3 in Unicenter NSM 11. “As a utility provider we have stringent regulatory requirements, so any added security we can get in our management products is welcome,” Rabun said.

Integration is something Maurice Ficklin also is anxiously awaiting in Unicenter Wireless Site Management 11, except he’s looking forward to the idea of integrating wired network data alongside wireless statistics in one management console, he said. The director of network services within the IT department at Albany State University in Georgia said the next release of the wireless network-management software, currently in beta tests on his network, will speed the discovery of access points and report data more intuitively.

“The new version is using multiple protocols in its discovery, and it can find access points in 30 seconds instead of 10 minutes,” Ficklin said. “CA really put the time and effort into making sure this stuff would work before they put it out to customers.”

Single view wanted

Much of the effort went to establishing the CA Integration Platform, CA said. The premise behind the technology is to let IT managers get a single view of an asset across different systems. Integration Platform also supports a Web services-like flow of information among previously disparate products. The platform incorporates common policies, software agents and CA’s management database, which will store in a repository management data collected about networked IT assets.

For instance, various applications under the Unicenter 11 software umbrella, which have reportedly been beta tested by some 500 users, include upgraded agent software that can do the work of multiple agents. For customers that may have had three or four Unicenter software agents for different applications, one agent will replace them.

“The agent technology will be the same across products, and customers won’t need to have more instances, since the agent software will work with various management applications to collect data and take action,” explained Alan Nugent, senior vice president and general manager of Unicenter.

Despite optimism from customers, industry watchers warn that CA still has a long way to go.

“CA is trying to tell its network executive and high-level IT manager customers that a CA product purchase will help them prioritize and manage their systems and their IT investments more efficiently,” said Stephen Elliot, a senior analyst with IDC. “But with these releases, CA has to show it has at least 80% of what its competitors do right now, and then that it all does really integrate. There is still a lot of work ahead.”