profiles software giant CA Technologies and takes a look at its technology, strategy and acquisitions.

Enterprise IT is a jungle. Inside every large organisation is a mess of servers, mainframes, storage and networking which has grown up, unchecked, over the years. Managing this chaos is one of the biggest headaches facing the CIO and the IT team – and that’s where CA Technologies has made its business: the company aims to help tackle the tech jungle with software that allows its customers to manage increasingly complex computing environments.

While CA Technologies started out managing mainframes, as its customers’ computing infrastructures have developed the vendor has added more products to manage the jumble of different technologies that have sprung up as a result.

And as its users now start to extend their IT infrastructure beyond their own four walls and onto the internet by adding elements of software as a service (SaaS), CA Technologies intends to follow them by extending its management tools into the cloud as well.

A bit of history
A four-person start-up more than 30 years ago, CA Technologies is now one of the world’s biggest software companies with 13,200 staff and revenues which hit nearly $4.4bn in its 2010 financial year.

CA Technologies was founded in 1976 as Computer Associates International, selling a product called CA-SORT for mainframes – a market which continues to be vital to the company today.

In the subsequent decades, CA Technologies expanded into broader systems management software: for example, introducing its Unicenter software in 1985 and Unicenter TNG 10 years later, which integrated network and systems management.

Since then it has continued to add products and its software can now be used to manage mainframe, distributed, virtualised or cloud environments.

Many of its products are sold on a subscription model and it counts the likes of Tesco and LV= among its customers.

CA Technologies Islandia photo

CA Technologies’ headquarters in Islandia, New York
(Photo credit: CA Technologies)

What’s in a name?
Back in 1976 it was plain old Computer Associates International, but the decision was taken in 2006 to shorten the company’s name to CA.

In this search-engine age the renaming proved to be something of a mistake, as typing CA into Google can deliver up many things including the State of California and Cocaine Anonymous. In a bid to improve its online visibility and make its handle a little more memorable, CA became CA Technologies earlier this year.

What about the products?
These days CA Technologies positions itself as a company that can help its customers deal with the complexity of their IT infrastructure, either by governing IT policies and practices or by managing and securing systems.

Its huge array of products – which now runs into the hundreds (you can find a CA Technologies product list here) can be grouped under a series of broad headings.

Under IT management, its array of offerings include service automation and assurance (its Wily, Spectrum and eHealth products), service management suite (including its Service Desk Manager and Service Catalogue), and project and portfolio management software (including CA Clarity PPM) that helps organisations evaluate and prioritise projects.

Back-up software includes its CA ARCserve family of products, while its IT security offerings include its identity and access management and data loss prevention technologies.

It recently divested itself of its…

…information governance business, which included CA Records Manager and CA Message Manager, to Autonomy.

Most importantly, CA Technologies has also recently been investing in cloud technology: this year it bought service level management software company Oblicore; cloud software provider 3Tera and monitoring tools company Nimsoft as part of its efforts to follow its customers into the cloud.

CA Technologies – head in the clouds?
Around half of CA Technologies’ business comes from its mainframe heritage, and the ageing mainframe workforce is another ongoing opportunity for CA Technologies, according to Jessica Breen, analyst with research house TBR.

“As experts in mainframe technology reach retirement age and leave the workforce, CA will use process automation to perform day-to-day tasks to help firms sustain mainframe service levels with fewer employees. With this value proposition, CA has noted an increase in its new customer base,” she said in a recent research note.

While the legacy of mainframes remains a profitable business for CA Technologies, the company has its eyes on a number of new technologies, including identity and virtualisation management.

But potentially the biggest trend to impact on CA Technologies is the growing enterprise focus on cloud computing.

Cloud computing – which allows data to be stored and processed using an internet platform rather than on an organisation’s own infrastructure – holds out the promise of cheaper and more efficient corporate IT.

Because cloud-based applications don’t require buying hardware or complex integration, it is easy for individuals or departments within an organisation to use them without alerting the IT department. However, as a result, the IT department may be unable to do the due diligence around that would usually take place. CA Technologies sees this as an opportunity to extend its products, both to manage the cloud and manage via the cloud – prompting its acquisition spree this year.

Use of cloud services is increasing, according to CA Technologies co-founder Russ Artz, whether CIOs like it or not: “It’s growing in adoption every day and sometimes companies don’t even realise they are using it. It’s going to grow very rapidly and we want to be there to be the experts in the field.”

And while delivering applications over the internet is not a new concept, Artz thinks that the technology is set for take-off, he told “Things have changed a lot in the last six or seven years. We have better technology to enable this and broadband is fast so that models like SaaS make a lot of sense because you can get instantaneous response times.”

CA Technologies recently unveiled plans for a suite of products for corporate IT departments to manage the cloud services in use across their company.

Its Cloud-Connected Management Suite is made up of four products: CA Cloud Insight, CA Cloud Compose, CA Cloud Optimize and CA Cloud Orchestrate. Cloud Insight and Cloud Compose are expected to be available at the end of October, with Optimize expected in April 2011 and Orchestrate in the following quarter.

But will it work?
So far, industry watchers have been…

…positive about the move.

Breen at TBR said the acquisitions of 3Tera, Oblicore and Nimsoft – along with the 2009 buy of NetQoS, which makes network performance management and service delivery management software – are key for CA, and added that these cloud and SaaS capabilities can also be integrated within CA’s “core IT process automation offering to drive greater adoption across its entire portfolio”.

CA Technologies security offerings such as Identity & Access Management and CA Access Control will also help CA to drive adoption of cloud and SaaS “as it eliminates the largest barrier to customer implementation” by tackling the security concerns Breen said.

According to Clive Longbottom, service director of business process analysis at Quocirca, CA Technologies has made some “inspired” acquisitions in Nimsoft and 3Tera to provide the missing capabilities it needed to give a rounded cloud offering.

But, by announcing the Cloud-Connected Management Suite so far ahead of its actual release, CA Technologies CEO Bill McCracken is taking a bit of a gamble, Longbottom said: “Is this too early and people will forget in the intervening time? Is it allowing CA’s competitors to pull the message apart and come up with suitable rebuttals as to CA’s messaging?”

CA Technologies Bill McCracken

CA Technologies CEO Bill McCracken on stage at the CA World 2010 conference
(Photo credit: CA Technologies)

Longbottom added: “Overall, I think that he has made the right decision: CA can still sell 3Tera and Nimsoft as point solutions, and migrate people to the full Cloud-Connected Management Suite as and when it comes through, but can also work with customers, prospects and partners to ensure that it is hitting all the pain points people will need addressing with such a cloud solution.”

But who wants to be the Betamax of Cloud computing?
But the right technology isn’t enough, and CA needs to differentiate itself from other vendors racing to fill the same technology niches, argues Quocirca’s Longbottom. It’s often the case, the customers don’t head to the supplier with the best technology, but the one with the best story around its technology – and CA Technologies’ rivals are already looking at similar strategies.

As Longbottom warned: “Without some solid and hard hitting up-front messaging, CA may be the Betamax of the cloud world – the best solution around, just not the one that people buy.”

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