CAs Balancing Act

Company to push Unicenter 3.0 at CA World, as business woes persist.

Embattled Computer Associates International Inc. will try to put on its best face this week at its annual users conference, opting to emphasize enhancements to its Unicenter product family while downplaying persistent business woes.

At CA World in Orlando, Fla., the software maker will trumpet its progress in making the Unicenter 3.0 enterprise management tools more modular and easier to deploy with a series of early-user testimonials and a rollout of added features.

At the conference, the Islandia, N.Y., company is expected to discuss Unicenter Version 3.0, which includes a new bridging feature that allows users to create regionalized management domains that feed into a central repository.

"[Version] 3.0 to us is a major jump in functionality for Unicenter event management," said a user at a major CA customer who requested anonymity. "Things like the portal technology and global configuration technology for agent configuration are very advantageous to us."

Another Unicenter user applauded the tools simplification but said he believes moving away from the unpopular "monolithic framework" opens CA up to greater competition. Sorrel Jakins, associate director of infrastructure engineering at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, said the changes "make it easier to plug in competitors products."

Any product discussions next week, however, will be made against the backdrop of CAs financial challenges. In addition to posting six consecutive quarterly losses, CA has been plagued recently by an ongoing investigation into its accounting practices by the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as Department of Justice antitrust inquiries into its acquisitions of Sterling Software Inc. and Platinum Technology Inc. The company has also faced challenges to its board of directors and senior management from disgruntled shareholders.

Jakins acknowledged that CAs business troubles could affect product support, but he is not concerned. "There is the danger that as they feel stress, theyll jettison some products," he said. "Even if CA were to disappear completely, there would still be people running that software."

Other CA customers were even more sanguine about the vendors future. "Im just as happy not hearing it," said Joseph Locascio, director of computer services at Loyola University, in New Orleans. "Im more worried about the software," Locascio said, referring to CAs BrightStor Backup and mainframe tools.

CA will continue to build functionality into the more modular Unicenter, which premiered last July, according to company officials.

Debuting this week is an enhanced version of the Unicenter Network and Systems Management tool, which provides Active Directory and cluster management features; a new Microsoft Corp. Windows Management Interface; support for Linux on IBM mainframes; and management support for AS/400, HP-UX, AIX and Intel Corp.s Linux platforms.

In addition, CA will introduce Unicenter AutoSys Job Management 4.0 , which adds a Java-based interface, visualization features, integration with enterprise resource planning software, and performance and scalability improvements, officials said.

Also on tap for CA World is Unicenter Database Management for Open Systems, with enhanced database administration and Oracle Corp.s 9i support; Unicenter Management for WebMethods, with monitoring and automated error detection and recovery; and Unicenter Web Infrastructure Management, for monitoring Java applications and server health. CA last week announced a re-branded Unicenter ServicePlus tool that can predict workloads and forecast service-level-agreement violations.

Additional reporting by Evan Koblentz

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