New Era at CA Gets Under Way

Swainson embarks on mission to rebuild software maker by restoring credibility, focusing on system management, security.

After months of uncertainty sparked by corporate scandal, Computer Associates International Inc. earlier this month embarked on a new era, naming CEO-elect John Swainson to his official post as president and chief executive. A veteran of IBMs software division, Swainson said he comes prepared to restore credibility and accountability at CA by paring offerings to a few core technologies and remaking the culture of the Islandia, N.Y., company. Swainson sat down with eWEEK News Executive Editor Chris Gonsalves and Senior Writer Brian Fonseca before his appearance at LinuxWorld in Boston last week to discuss the job ahead.

How would you characterize your role at CA? Is it rehab, rescue, maintenance, other?

It sure as hell isnt maintenance. Maintenance implies Im here to protect things. I dont think thats at all why the board brought me here or what people are expecting. Rescue may be overstated and overly dramatic, but its more to the point.

CA has a troubled past. Companies dont voluntarily get themselves into this kind of dilemma where 15 of their senior executives are indicted or otherwise implicated in accounting fraud and various other nasty things, including trying to mislead the government. This is a company that has some serious problems to remedy, and, in that sense, I am coming in as part of a team that is doing that. Its not John, personally, is the savior of the world. Its me and the management team and the employees working together to fix some problems and to build a new CA.

Of late, weve seen companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. get into trouble by being pretty good at a bunch of things and excellent at very few. How will CA, with its notoriously large portfolio, avoid that trap?

Well concentrate on a small number of things that we can get really good at. In our case, its two: system management and security. Today, we are the market leader in system management, and were tied for leadership in enterprise security, so weve a got a decent starting place. Were going to build on that by acquisitions, as you saw with Netegrity [Inc.]. Were also going to build by investing in development of products in those segments. Were going to try to do those two things astonishingly well and use that to rebuild the franchise.

We have a very important install base of mainframe database customers, but Id be quick to tell them that the mainframe database is not where were going. Well support them as long as they want us to, but were not going to really fight that battle. Its yesterdays battle.

As CA has wrestled with its internal issues, its competitors have been making strides with products and customers. How concerned are you about the likes of the combined Symantec Corp. and Veritas Software Corp. challenging CA in what youve identified as a key area?

Symantec is strong in anti-virus and intrusion detection, but thats not core to our franchise, except that our enterprise customers need some way to protect their infrastructure. We have anti-virus products to do that. So we compete with [Symantec] around the edges. What they are missing is the core infrastructure. They are missing the ability to tie that stuff together, to record, to analyze for patterns. They dont have anything like we have in Unicenter.

I dont think the combination of Symantec and Veritas makes a whole lot of sense, but that doesnt make it into a weaker company. Veritas is [not] going to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow.

One of the things I like is that the market is fragmented. Were the largest player in enterprise security, and we have less than 10 percent market share. Wheres the rest? Spread out over a thousand guys. So I look at that as a huge opportunity. Were going to be very focused, and I think we can do very well. IBM is clearly a strong competitor, but they arent as focused as we are.

With the market fragmentation, do you think the suite approach still works, or will CA have to find another way to package and deliver the solutions customers are seeking?

Its mostly fragmented in security because no one has put together a real end-to-end offering. I do believe a more integrated set of products that goes from desktop to the mainframe or big server is something that has been missing in security, and thus the fragmentations. I think weve put together pretty close to an integrated environment for security in the enterprise. Unicenter already had that from the systems management side.

Next Page: The wisdom of realignment and reshuffling.