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Senior Editor

What users want from Computer Associates

Dec 16, 20027 mins
Data Center

With the Securities and Exchange Commission sniffing around its books, an angry investor trying to overthrow its board, and Chairman Charles Wang calling it quits after 26 years with the company, Computer Associates made plenty of headlines this year. Unfortunately for the company, many of them had little to do with its broad range of management, security and other technologies.

Forum: What’s a top your CA wish list?

“Poor CA. They seem mightily distracted with all the negative reporting on their booking and financial practices,” says Jasmine Noel, principal at consulting firm JNoel Research.

To help the company refocus for the new year, we’ve polled CA customers and watchers to find out where they would most like to see the 26-year-old software giant put its efforts.


Peter Farquharson, manager of technology integration for the city of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, wants to see CA develop a better pricing model and licensing structure for customers looking to consolidate servers.

“We’re trying to consolidate onto fewer servers but are forced to pay high prices based on the processor size regardless of the number of users,” he says.

Farquharson says he also wishes CA would change the way it prices software for Microsoft clusters. With two-node clusters, both nodes require CA licenses even though only one is in use at any time, he says. It would be fairer to charge for just one node, he says.

Jim Farmer, manager of systems administration and telecommunications for cable manufacturer Superior Essex in Brownwood, Texas, calls CA’s licensing schemes “troublesome.” At times, it has taken as long as a month to purchase a valid license for CA software. He would like to see the company streamline the licensing process, perhaps by creating an online licensing service or system.

Farmer also finds having to separately buy Unicenter and the agents it uses to manage infrastructure components to be unnecessary. “Unicenter should have the operating system agents bundled in” as opposed to licensing them per server, he says. “This would get you out and touching lots of machines.”

CA changed its licensing model two years ago to let customers purchase software on a month-to-month basis and change contracts when their business needs changed. And the company in 2001 started offering its Unicenter management product in smaller chunks to address specific needs, but customers want to see more give in the company’s software licensing.

“Charge for agents for Exchange, Ingres, Oracle and other specialty packages, but give us the infrastructure,” Farmer adds.


Ben Ettlinger, president of the New York Enterprise Modeling User Group, says he hopes CA will help its customers implement and get the most out of their Microsoft .Net products.

“Aside from trying to clearly understand what .Net is all about, IT departments want to leverage the products they already license and see how CA’s other offerings will help with .Net,” Ettlinger says.

While CA is a Microsoft partner, consultant Noel agrees that CA needs to focus on technologies such as .Net and Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition.

“As those application and Web services environments get more complex, today’s application management solutions will break, and a new approach will be needed,” she says.

Farquharson agrees CA should tie itself closer to Microsoft, not only to get a better handle on newer technologies such as .Net, but also to ease customer deployments of other Microsoft tools. Changes in Microsoft’s SQL Server 7.0 threw Farquharson’s CA software for a loop, he says.

“CA’s implementation had some issues” with how SQL Server communicated with the software, he says. And his staff actually learned the fix from Microsoft technical help and passed it along to CA’s support staff for future reference.

Customer service.

While CA has spent the better part of the past 18 months trying to drive home its customer service message, the fruits of that labor have yet to be enjoyed by all its clients.

Take Simon Samaha, vice president of IT and CIO at Cooper Health System in Camden, N.J. He would like CA to improve upon its customer relations, at least in its mainframe division.

“Their noise about customer service is nothing but noise,” Samaha says. “It was disappointing to see that what everyone complains about is actually true, at least in the [mainframe] division.”

Samaha says a CA mainframe sales representative refused to negotiate a price and offered only one licensing agreement: “either prepay and overpay if I undersize or pay a penalty if I overgrow.” He says he would have preferred further discussion and less pressure. Samaha wishes for CA would “be serious about changing culture and customer management.”

For its part, CA established its Client Relations Organization (CRO) earlier this year and dedicated 500 people to the task of addressing customer needs. Stephen Richards, executive vice president and general manager at CA, says his company still sees a “healthy ‘prove it to me’ attitude” from customers.

“We are working to dramatically change our relationship with customers,” he says. “And bit by bit, we’re proving we’re serious about doing the right things.”

Technical support.

Customers Ettlinger and Farmer want to see CA put more time into technical support.

Ettlinger applauds CA for launching the CRO, but he’d like to see the company take its customer directive further.

“Having technical [customer relations managers] that will help customers leverage licensed products will go a long way in showing that CA is not just interested in the bottom line, but also interested in the welfare of its software licensees,” he says.

Farmer wants to see CA completely do away with its management framework mentality and offer a “quick-start program.”

“When you bring a new product in-house, it would be nice to have a packaged deal that would allow you to get the product up and running quickly with a modicum of design, training, mentoring and installation assistance,” he says.

More intelligence.

Farquharson also wants CA to delve further into content management and filtering. The company’s intelligent software agents, or Neugents, can search through data sources to find patterns of activity and predict outcomes. But he would like CA to produce a Neugent that also “would recognize spam mail and pornography.”

“I’m not talking about a traditional list of bad Web sites and spam mailers,” he says. “I mean pattern recognition and adaptive learning.”

CA might want to look further into partnering with hardware vendors to add more intelligent tools to its portfolio, says Jean-Pierre Garbani, a research director with Giga Information Group. Garbani says he hopes “CA seeks an alliance with a major hardware manufacturer to balance the IBM Tivoli and Hewlett-Packard OpenView unfair advantage when it comes to autonomic and utility computing.”

While IBM and HP each have a hardware component in their automated management tools, CA’s Richards says CA will support the emerging intelligent infrastructure differently. “We plan to integrate our tools with the information side of the business. And we’d most likely be sitting on top of something like IBM’s utility-based model,” he says.

Storage management.

Customers also are looking to CA for storage management expertise.

“I’d like to see them put hierarchical storage management in the mainstream,” Farquharson says. He explains that while CA has software that monitors storage and offers a portal to view storage resources, and that Microsoft addresses storage management with some operating system features, he has yet to see a complete product that is easy to maintain and upgrade.

“It seems that too many companies, both end users and vendors, have given up on managing storage and are quite happy to simply add more, which fuels the back-up management issues,” he says.

CA officials insist the company has not given up on storage management at all. Last year, the company created its BrightStor brand and pulled all its storage management software and tools into one product portfolio.


Analyst Noel says CA needs to better integrate its network and security management technologies.

“Network traffic management now has a heavy denial-of-service and encryption component to it, and more security managers need event correlation systems,” Noel says.

CA’s Richards says the company will showcase its strength in the security market in 2003. “The market perception that companies such as Symantec are the leading providers of enterprise security is not what we like to see,” he says. “We are making a strong push in the next 12 months to make it very clear that we are a security leader.”