• United States

CA’s hub and spokes

Jun 07, 20044 mins
Data Center

* Implications of Computer Associates’ hub-and-spoke architecture

I make it a point not to write two columns about a single vendor within a few months. But with all the attention being given to Computer Associates in the media, as well as the fact that CA World synched up with the production-ready version of EMA’s “Next Generation Management Architecture” report at the end of May – the temptation was too great to resist.

First of all, I would like to reiterate my belief that CA will stay healthy and will navigate through the audits and the lawsuits relatively well – assuming it retains its focus on critical new product, architectural and customer-interfacing directions that first surfaced several years ago. At CA World, I was very much encouraged that this would be the case. And in a few key areas, I was surprised at the progress and discipline behind its new directions.

CA introduced what it called a “hub-and-spoke” architecture, radiating outwards from its CA Management Data Base (CAMDA) – the concept of a “Management Data Base” being in line with a term from the IT Infrastructure Library. CA has been working aggressively on data transformation and data sharing for a new database design, and in the last six to eight months this program seems to have become pervasive and accelerated.

While most individual CA products still have their own databases today, this patchwork quilt is quickly about to dissolve – in forced-march mode – to a much more integrated design. The CAMDA is built from CA’s Ingres Enterprise Relational Database, which is now tuned to management and the sharing of data across Unicenter applications, as well as ultimately across BrightStor for storage and eTrust for security. In fact, CA directly asserted its commitment to the integration of security and management as a set of interrelated services, which regular readers should recognize as one of Enterprise Management Associates’ more actively evangelized themes.

This database is the “hub” of CA’s hub-and-spoke design – which reaches out through common services across all CA applications. The services include data gathering and transport, visualization and other supporting services for better efficiencies in application development, easier data sharing and consistent approaches to visualization.

Also part of the plan, although I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to it, is the intent to leverage the hub and spokes to integrate third-party management applications. Presumably, this would involve event imports common today, but also data transformation across multi-vendor environments for import into the CAMDA.

The implications of this hub-and-spoke architecture for CA – assuming execution continues apace – are fundamental to its market position and dramatically positive. It would mean CA could assume a manager-of-managers role in a cellular, native fashion. In other words, it would mean customer choice plus unique powers of integration – with CA in the driver’s seat.

HP’s recent focus on architecture – while significantly different in specifics – shows similar long-term promise and similar levels of investment. And this overall direction is, I believe, absolutely positive for the marketplace. 

EMA’s vision of next-generation architectures, as introduced in the new report “Next Generation Management Architecture,” is not specific to any implementation. Rather than explicitly trying to tell vendors how to build their products, it provides a model to measure industry investments and progress. More like the rings of Saturn than hub-and-spoke, it posits layers of management services that are ideally designed as a modular stack – from data gathering, to data transformation, to data store, to cooperative analytic engines, to automated actions, to service management, to business process management, to visualization. However, it is not incompatible with hub-and-spoke. One is a true product architecture; the other is a semantic model designed to assess product strengths and weaknesses, vendor integration strategies, partnerships, and ultimately deployment and consolidation strategies for IT organizations and service providers.

The fact that the market is beginning to evolve structurally – in more than just an unconscious way – will only benefit IT organizations and service providers seeking choice, power and insight. I have to applaud CA for taking a firm and consistent hand in making its modularized design not only a deliberate and articulated strategic direction, but also a near-term product reality.