Computer Associates: A World of Change

 
 
By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2005-11-13
 
 
 

Computer Associates: A World of Change


Computer Associates Inc. will use this weeks CA World conference to reveal the results of a massive management shake-up and a slew of acquisitions designed to narrow its technology and business focus.

The company will also outline the strategy that senior executives say will return CA to a place of prominence in the software industry.

CA World in Las Vegas will be the first such show under the guidance of President and CEO John Swainson, who joined CA last year in the wake of the resignations and indictments that swept through the Islandia, N.Y. companys executive suite last year.

Swainson, a former IBM executive, said the event will be the coming-out party for CAs renewed focus on product integration and the importance of partnerships.

"Its going to have a very different look and feel, much more focused on customer value and much less focused on glitz and glitter," Swainson told eWEEK.

Computer Associates swings to profit. Click here to read more.

"CA World is about making sure we exhibit the kinds of behaviors as a company that customers want in their business partner [because] the challenges on them to deliver more with less are greater than theyve ever been."

Admitting that CA in the past was too internally focused when customer concerns should have been the No. 1 priority, Swainson said the company has made a major effort to reverse that trend.

"One of the things I recognized when I joined CA [was] we had a very mixed relationship [with customers]. We had [relationships] that were as good as any in the industry, and some less so," Swainson said.

"We needed to beef up the partnerships we had with customers and ensure we were working on things that were relevant to them."

Those efforts involved a number of initiatives to remake the beleaguered software company from the top down.

Organizational moves included the hiring of executives from leading IT companies to change the face of the company; aligning sales teams more tightly around specific business units; and spending millions of acquisition dollars to beef up and eventually link more closely its four primary technology areas of systems and network management, security, storage, and business services optimization.

Customers looking for simplified management tools to help solve tasks extending beyond IT infrastructure toward areas such as compliance, permissions, access, policies and procedures are seeing changes in CAs strategy.

"We have noticed there is more focus and more direction in their products. We dont know how much baggage theyre going to carry from before, but all in all weve noticed there have been a lot of changes," said Sorrel Jakins, chief engineer in the Office of Information Technology at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah.

Swainson said that in addition to trying to repair its relationships with customers, the company will give part of the floor at CA World to a host of technology partners, a major departure from past CA World shows and an indication of how heavily the company plans to lean on its myriad partners going forward.

"A new message at CA World is were going to be there hand in hand with a whole series of partners, from Microsoft [Corp.] to IBM, Accenture, BearingPoint [Inc.] and a host of others, and those partners will be talking more than we will," Swainson said.

Last years CA World show was abruptly canceled while the company searched for months to find a suitable replacement for former CEO Sanjay Kumar.

Kumar resigned from CA in April 2004 following an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission into a series of accounting improprieties at the company over the last several years.

He was later indicted on charges of securities fraud, obstructing justice and conspiracy in connection with the multimillion-dollar accounting scandal. If convicted on all counts at a trial scheduled to begin in April, Kumar could face up to 100 years in prison.

Swainson said he expects CA to remain under its deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government for about one more year. But he hasnt let the weight of past events slow his work on reshaping the company.

During an enormous spending spree over the last 14 months, CA acquired a number of companies, including Netegrity Inc.; Concord Communications Inc.; PestPatrol Inc.; Niku Corp.; Tiny Software Inc.; Qurb Inc.; and, most recently, iLumin Software Services Inc.

CA faces the daunting task of trying to integrate all the new technology into its Unicenter technology platform.

Specifically, Netegritys technology is intended to shore up CAs eTrust identity and access management security portfolio, Concords software will be worked into CAs network and systems management business unit, and Nikus technology will address IT governance.

CA is building up its technology arsenal to simultaneously affect core applications, as well as storage, security and systems management functions, Swainson said.

For example, tasks such as patch management could involve multiple CA product areas working together in a unified offering.

"Thats the bet were making by delivering superior products that will cause [customers] to buy more of our stuff," said Swainson. "Weve got more technology rolling out over the next 30 to 60 days than, frankly, anyone can handle or, frankly, anyone can use."

Next Page: Speeding up installations a priority for CA.

Speeding Up Installations a


Priority for CA">

Brigham Youngs Jakins said he believes the integration direction CA is taking will make it easier to work with its products.

"We had a hard time fully implementing all the features of Unicenter [in the past] because it had too many bits and pieces," Jakins said.

"With R11, were very encouraged by what we see. [Unicenter Network and Systems Management Release 11] installed within 2 hours. Thats a first for working with CA. Were impressed with it."

Click here to read about CAs acquisition of iLumin.

So far, the changes are making an impression on customers. Jakins said he is happy with the job Swainson has done to corral CAs vision and businesses.

"We like the fact that he seems to be bringing structure and organization to where we saw some looseness before," said Jakins, adding his organization is pleased to see the integration CA is bringing to the Identity and Access Management product line.

However, the heart of CAs integration effort, its MDB (Management Database), could fall short as users try to scale their implementations, according to Tom Bishop, chief technology officer at rival BMC Software Inc., in Austin, Texas.

"It sounds as though theyre trying to put all the management data in one place. Thats pretty courageous [or foolhardy]," said Bishop. "Different products have different uses for data, and trying to unify all that into a single, universal record that describes everything is, frankly, not scalable.

"Being able to have all the data in one place makes some problems simpler to solve, but we view the [configuration management database] as quickly going to have to deal with pretty ugly scalability issues relatively early in its life. Thats why we took on the scalability issue first with a federated approach," Bishop said.

In addition, the redesigned database could require that users working with existing versions of Unicenter using their own databases "rip and replace" those databases, Bishop added.

Click here to read about CAs Brightstor storage management suite.

Still, Glenn Exline, IT and telecommunications manager for Patrick Air Force Base, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., said that he could easily take advantage of new common discovery features and a common management database built into Unicenter.

"The ability to do common discovery and [use] common data sources across the enterprise is a major step forward for CA. Thats something weve been asking for, for quite some time," he said.

"Currently, we have to run two discoveries, one for BrightStor SAN Manager and one for other [enterprise] information. It would be nice to run a single discovery and pull together all the information, and having a shared database would make things even easier for queries and reporting as well."

A Unicenter customer for the last seven years, Exline said he is very interested in the prospect of new predictive capability tools within Unicenter. However, he cautioned that predictive capability features hes seen in the past were, at times, too spotty.

"If we were to determine a particular drive in a particular server is going to die, the information being collected and analyzed, and [the product] making a prediction based on that requires historical knowledge that certain events lead to a particular event," Exline said.

"That could lead to [incorrect] actions taken or false findings ... Its kind of like predicting the stock market, but if vendors get it right, I think it could be great."

Patrick AFB runs Unicenter on all its servers to monitor status movement on the TCP/IP side, as well as for event management and correlation.

By recognizing that automated management capabilities will be paramount within customers increasingly heterogeneous environments, CA is taking steps to ensure its technology can coexist with rivals software and hardware, industry analysts said.

"CA has successfully moved from a tools- and products-focused company to one that spends in terms of the customers purchasing interest," said Rich Ptak, principal at Ptak, Noel & Associates, in Amherst, N.H.

"The customer operates in heterogeneous environments where integration within a vendors product set and outside of that set is critically important. CAs enterprise systems management solution will integrate with the other Big 3 [management] vendors: BMC, [Hewlett-Packard Co.] and IBM."

But the attention CA has focused on improving relationships with customers has not spread to smaller accounts, and its layoffs have distanced CA from those smaller customers, said Joseph Baugh, program manager at Sierra Southwest Electric Cooperative Inc., in Benson, Ariz.

"We totally lost our account team. We formerly had a great relationship with CA. Now were in limbo with them. I dont know how well their strategy is working," Baugh said.

"We havent had a whole lot of contact with CA in the last six months. If they can get that integration working across the product lines, itll bring real value back to their software."

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