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3/3/2010
10:59 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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CA's O'Malley: Cloud Taking On Mainframe-Like Role

CA aquired cloud startup 3Tera in a move that is not characteristic of the company. For one thing, it reportedly paid a lot of money for a 20-employee firm, somewhere around $90 million, and CA rarely pays a premium. To Chris O'Malley, executive VP, the purchase is emblematic of a new day at CA.

CA aquired cloud startup 3Tera in a move that is not characteristic of the company. For one thing, it reportedly paid a lot of money for a 20-employee firm, somewhere around $90 million, and CA rarely pays a premium. To Chris O'Malley, executive VP, the purchase is emblematic of a new day at CA.Change has come to CA, the former Computer Associates of Islandia, New York, in the form of a new chairman and CEO, William McCracken, at the end of January. Former CEO John Swainson announced plans to retire last September. In addition, CA is looking ahead at what the enterprise software market is going to look like in 2-3 years instead of just aiming to pick up the customer base of another aging company that's run out of ideas. It's skating to where the puck is going to be, instead of fending off the attackers.

An emerging voice of that changed company is Chris O'Malley, executive VP of CA's cloud products and solutions line of business. I sat down with Chris at the Intercontinental Hotel last week as he visited San Francisco and noted the change in tone.

"There's an effort underway to look at, not what we've been, but what we could be… If you're going to center on the needs of your customers, you've got to be disruptive to yourself as well as to the marketplace," he said.

At CA, that means figuring out what system management looks when cloud computing becomes a standard practice of the data center. It means raising the focus on what's important in the software stack a notch. If you used to worry about whether the operating system was running or the database performing at acceptable levels, now you need to worry about application performance, whether that application is running on premises under your nose or in a distant data center.

Salesforce.com has had a big impact on how IT -- and CA. IT doesn't have that much to do with Salesforce CRM applications because the members of a company's salesforce can access them on their own and they run in a Salesforce.com data center.

O'Malley became senior VP of CA's new mainframe business unit in 2007 and executive VP in mid-2008, at the heart of CA's core business. Now he's moved over to become executive VP of the Cloud Products and Solutions Business Line, which to him looks like the future core of the CA product line. He says the thinking behind cloud software is different from the mainframe, but not always in the way you would expect.

The mainframe was a highly engineered environment in which there was almost always surplus capacity. To this day, he says, mainframe users are continuing to expand their MIPS because surplus capacity is part of how they meet peaks in demand. Likewise, the cloud is assumed to have surplus capacity on demand, by balancing out customers' ebbs and peaks. The "elasticity" once relied upon in the mainframe is moving out into the cloud because of the cloud's favorable economics.

The mainframe is highly secure, but O'Malley doesn't simply assume that the cloud is highly insecure. It can and will be made more secure, and one differentiator in service and pricing is likely to become the level of risk you want to entertain for a workload sent to the cloud, he said.

"It's not enough to say the cloud is insecure (and dismiss it). Some employees are going to put company data out in the cloud, whether you know it or not," and managing risks in cloud computing will be one of the new roles of IT. "We believe IT will go from being a monolithic supplier of services to the business to the supply chain metaphor," where assembles many services coming from the outside. IT will evaluate, configure and monitor services coming from the cloud as well as developing software and keeping the lights on in the data center. "You won't see data centers as big as football fields anymore. You've got to right size everything," he added.

To O'Malley, one symbol of that changeover is the recent 3Tera acquisition. 3Tera represents how applications will be assembled as virtual appliances and deployed across a cluster, whether inside the data center or outside. The purchase was pricey. He wasn't at liberty to say what was spent, but the 451 Group's Rachel Chalmers, in a Mar. 1 report titled, "CA aims to strike 3Tera into the hearts of its not-so-cloudy competitors," said CA was reported by different sources to have paid 30 times 3Tera's $3 million in annual revenues.

With 3Tera, O'Malley has a tool, if not a weapon, with which to compete anew on the emerging cloud landscape. It's AppLogic "makes it much easier to create and deploy composite applications" in a virtual environment, Chalmers noted. CA can get a step ahead by tying AppLogic back into its Spectrum Automation Manager for governing VMs and its CA-Unicenter systems manager. It can supply other tools for monitoring and maintaining the network connections through its NetQoS acquisition, so cloud computing, if you should choose to accept it, can become an adjunct to the data center. "We need to redefine what IT is, a collection of internal and external things," says O'Malley. He's someone who understands the mainframe very well and is now busy connecting the old enterprise infrastructure to all that activity going on in the cloud.

InformationWeek's Informed CIO series lays out 10 questions to ask before proceeding with data center automation. Download the report here (registration required).

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