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Is CA Serious About Software Development?

Think of CA, once the definition of the serial-acquirer software company, and "organic development" doesn't leap to mind. But a homegrown mobile-device management tool CA has in beta is a sign of things to come, its CTO says. He's promising to show off more such work this week at CA World.
Think of CA, once the definition of the serial-acquirer software company, and "organic development" doesn't leap to mind. But a homegrown mobile-device management tool CA has in beta is a sign of things to come, its CTO says. He's promising to show off more such work this week at CA World.First the tool itself, then what it could mean about CA's buy-versus-build strategy.

Here's why people need mobile device management software. Asked how many smartphones CA has, CTO Alan Nugent says "We've probably got 4 or 5,000. Probably more than that, we probably have 10,000." Many a top IT exec must have that feeling these days. Smartphone use is exploding in companies, and managers of mobile IT are scrambling to keep up.

CA's mobile device management tool isn't available yet; it's in beta at CA with a few hundred of its employees, and with a half dozen or so customers. Nugent says it will do tasks like inventory all mobile devices, allow remote data wiping, do e-mail backup, and allow wireless software management on the devices. The first version will work for BlackBerry devices, with Windows Mobile to follow.

The product's intriguing on its own, but it'll mean more if it indeed represents CA striking a more balanced mix of acquisition versus internal development. Nugent says all the in-the-works projects he'll highlight in a talk at CA World later this week will be internally developed.

CA has more than 4,000 engineers and engineering managers, and the company's ramping up expectations for them to create new products. "We're going to leverage that to do more organic development in the future," Nugent says. "… We are focusing our talented people on building creative offerings, rather than reaching for our checkbook."

It'll still reach for the checkbook, he says, for two reasons: Speed to market-the mobile management product has taken about 20 months-and "market adjacency," a gap in its product line that another company has neatly filled. CA used to be notorious for acquiring a company for the customers and cash flow, but putting no effort into nurturing it. Nugent promises to make acquired products part of a larger portfolio: "We're integrating these products much more quickly and completely than we ever did before."

There's a reason for such a pledge. In our profile of CA a year ago, one customer told us: "When we hear that CA has acquired a product used in our environment, we sigh."

Nugent's outlook is what CA's customers want to see in action.