Ten things I learned about CA

I spent part of last week at CA’s (Computer Associates in the old days) industry analyst meeting. My overall impression is very positive. CA is a complicated company with a complicated history. Often when a company has a near death experience, it either dies or changes. I have seen many companies that wither away — even if they don’t die completely. CA seems to be one of the exceptions. While it is hard to translate two full days of discussions and interactions into a couple of hundred words, I will put it in context with some of the ten key things I learned.

One. A focused approach. CA has selected three areas of concentration: enterprise management, governance, and security. This is a far cry from past decades where CA focused on hundreds of markets with thousands of product offerings. CA still has a boatload of mainframe products that it still sells but it has moved these products under a separate business unit.

Two. Enterprise IT Management remains a lynch pin offering. Management software has long been at the core of CA’s product offerings. The company has now divided its management portfolio into six discrete areas: service management, project and portfolio management (Clarity), application performance management (Wily), infrastructure management, security management, and datacenter automation (built on performance management and configuration management). Like IBM, CA is putting forth the idea that a customer can start with any one of these areas and then move to the next. Perhaps the fact that CEO, John Swainson started life inside IBM had something to do with that change. CA is building a case that it is architecting these product areas with a common foundation. It is an ambitious goal but a necessary one.

Three. The mainframe is still a money maker. CA remains committed to the mainframe market. It is experiencing strong growth — especially with the introduction of the z10.

Four. Focus, focus, focus. CA is getting very pragmatic under the operational leadership of president and COO, Mike Christenson. The company is focusing on its top 4,000 customers.

Five. Focus on systematizing governance. OK, so everyone is selling governance. CA is making good use of its Niku acquisition (reborn as Clarity) to become a player. In addition, the company is using some of its management technologies to support automation of governance. This is clearly an area where CA is investing.

Six. Security as core. The Netegrity acquisition has served CA well. It plays well in everything from SOA, governance, and virtualization. Securing highly distributed environments never goes out of style. ID Management is one of the key enablers across the portfolio.

Seven. Data Center Management is the most mature area of Enterprise Information Technology Management. I sat through a two hour deep dive about CA’s datacenter management offering. This is a big area, not just for CA but for everyone in the management space. The overall “vision” is to provide an overall unified infrastructure management platform. The offerings range from traditional systems management to network management. The focus of the team seems to be on providing integration points between modules across the product line — an ambitious plan.

Eight. CA likes Virtualization. CA is focused on virtual systems management. They are working to integrate virtualization management into their own offerings as well as offerings from partners. CA’s focus is around packaging management as a service — an obvious requirement if you are going to be a player in virtualization.

Nine. Getting focused on business services. CA is focusing a lot of attention on the area of business service management. I liked the approach of having a formal policy based automation engine. CA claims its differentiator is its ability to implement dynamic server provision.

Ten. CA does SOA. CA has been relatively quiet about SOA in the past. It was interesting that rather than producing a SOA product offering, CA is retooling its technology offerings as a set of SOA services with web services interfaces. Obviously, creating the interfaces is the easy part. But it is a step in the right direction.

The bottom line. CA is clearly a company on the move. It is living in a rough neighborhood with tough competitors. But I am impressed with some of the new thinking and some of the architectural approaches that are the foundation for the company’s product directions. CA has made the right acquisition moves that are paying off. Now, the proof will be in what acquisitions come next and the way CA will execute on the vision and directions.

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