NEWS ANALYSIS: CA's software connects a lot of dots for consumer transactions that few people notice, but it's those apps that keep everything running.
LAS VEGAS—CA Technologies isn't one of those companies mentioned often in cocktail conversations. When someone asks what exactly CA does, even longtime employees have to stop, take a sip from a drink, and think for a minute before carefully offering an answer.
Some folks familiar with the company roll their eyes when the name comes up. CA, a survivor of 40 years in the business—a veritable millennium in IT time—isn't known for making headlines in innovation sections of tech magazines. It is a steady performer with a widespread installed base, and while it may not be flashy, it is experienced in problem solving. Please note: Boards of directors who spend lots of money on IT systems like steady, experienced and dependable.
CA could use an accurate descriptor. Unless you're downloading or installing a function, software is taken for granted; the code gets loaded, the icon hangs around until you need it, then the app does its chore. That's the nature of the business. But this is a company that often gets lost in the marketing noise, which is exceedingly easy to do in the spinning-turnstile world of tech.
Point-of-Service Transactions Touch CA's Software
For example, when you swipe your credit card at a payment location, you're most likely hitting a mainframe somewhere in the world with CA's software that connects the dots for that transaction. The user sees Wells Fargo and Visa, for example, but certainly not CA, which is providing the handshake and perhaps the security authorization for the purchase.
CA also makes development and testing tools so that banking software works correctly every time you want to use a credit card. It develops high-end security authentication middleware and has an agile DevOps platform for new-gen software development. It has a highly successful API (application programming interface) products and services division. It has provided mainframe software for IBM z Systems and others for decades. All of these are important but not easily understood, thus they're often overlooked.
So CA, a veteran company that is in the early stages of a rebirth, is abundant with software only techies will ever know about. Still, it would be beneficial if it had a tagline to help identify it to the world at large.
To try and determine one, let's start with a few facts: CA is both a coach and a player in enterprise application and infrastructure development; it offers real-time products and services in addition to instruction and consulting in the same areas, based on more than a generation of real-world IT experience.
It is an enterprise platform enabler, a provider of agile developer tools, a distributor of new-gen software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, an API manager for all kinds of use cases, and a respected security authentication market player. It's also moving briskly into the big data management category.
Architect of the Application Economy?
CA World '15, which attracted an international audience of about 5,000 (up 25 percent over last year; 45 percent of whom were new attendees) last week at Mandalay Bay, was all about how the software-making world is being uprooted and replanted by new techniques. These all revolve around speed, automation, security and rapid iteration—attributes CA is now baking into all of its products.
In its own way, with all its new tools and services, CA has rebounded from an old-school approach to become an important potential architect of the application economy.
Every developer in every division of CA is creating, testing and deploying its software in an agile, continuous-delivery methodology, new CEO Mike Gregoire told eWEEK
. They're also looking at how to insert analytics capabilities into as many corners of the apps as possible.
CA bought Rally Software earlier this year for $480 million for its agile big data development platform, considered by many people as one of the best independent products of its kind in the business.
"If you want to take a look at what every forward-thinking company has got going, right now in their R&D lab, they're taking analytics a step further: They're getting into cognitive and machine learning," Gregoire, who took over as CEO in early 2013, said. "We tie those two things together; that's what you're going to see in systems of the future."
"The whole way you interface with a system that is cognitively aware and has a machine-learning component—which means it gets smarter as it gets more data—is going to be incredibly different for us three years from now. I don't know of any of our competitors on the higher end that aren't spending time and energy on those two things. We're obviously spending a lot of time and energy on those things as well."