About Face

CA's alive with new people, products, and practices, but old habits--and impressions--die hard.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

March 3, 2006

4 Min Read

Part of the shelfware problem was that Unicenter was a bear to deploy. The configuration management component lets administrators customize various parts of Unicenter from a central location. New discovery capabilities also mean that when the software finds a server, a series of customizable rules lets users decide what level of management is appropriate and deploy it automatically. Products that formerly required kernel rebuilds or system reboots for installation no longer do.

All that said, Nugent--a former poker pro and a straight-talker like Swainson--admits installation still could be easier. "What people want is to drop that DVD in and have it installed by the time they get back from lunch," he says.

CA will keep acquiring, but not like in the old days, Christenson says.

The new Unicenter also is easier to use than its predecessors. Beta testers forced that issue with complaints that r11's network and systems management consoles looked different from each other, spurring CA to develop a uniform Web front end for the final release. Users of older versions often had trouble with tasks as simple as finding the help file, which also has been fixed.

While born at CA, Unicenter continues to be improved through acquisitions. Network management capabilities from the acquired Concord Communications' eHealth and Spectrum products are integrated into the latest version, and Nugent says CA is looking to acquisitions and organic development to improve server provisioning and application configuration management. "R11 is leaps and bounds ahead of whatever they had before," says Andres Carvallo, CIO at Austin Energy. "Obviously, they have an integration challenge, but I have confidence in what they're doing."

Even the Unicenter name may change: Nugent's 11-slide presentation on r11 doesn't even mention Unicenter, though CMO Friedman thinks the product marketing team may be getting ahead of itself on that front.

Security Inside And Out

Security management is another major focus. The eTrust line is the industry leader in identity and access management, with 20% of a $450 million market that IDC expects will grow to $4 billion by 2009. CA also leads in security and vulnerability management and is third overall in security behind Symantec and McAfee, according to IDC.

In our survey, customers scored CA highest on security--giving it a 7.0 out of 10--even though vulnerabilities in several of its products have been exposed of late. In the last two months, multiple products in the Unicenter, BrightStor, and eTrust lines were found to be open to denial-of-service attacks, though they were patched. Security researchers last year found that CA had embedded back-door passwords into its BrightStor ARCserve backup software. CA released a fix, but it was an embarrassment--most enterprise software companies removed that type of security hole from their products a decade ago.

Even with CA's focus on security, storage, systems management, and other fast-growing areas, it's still the No. 1 provider of mainframe software, which accounts for more than half of its $3.3 billion revenue. Although it's a mature business, the number of mainframe sites CA supports is increasing. The market, however, is stagnant: IDC expects mainframe software sales to ease to $2.94 billion in 2009 from $3 billion in 2004.

CA is truly a mix of old and new. Its insatiable appetite for risk-taking and acquisitions brought in customers in droves throughout most of its 30-year history. Along the way, though, by neglecting innovation, its own financial house, and those same customers, it pushed many away. Scandal ultimately could become CA's savior, as new management drives the company beyond its freewheeling origins.

"My people like them. They're very impressed with their service," Austin Energy's Carvallo says. "Everyone knows their history. It's really history." He pauses. "Or at least in Texas." He pauses again. "At least in Austin, it is." Carvallo seems to grasp that even if he's happy, the journey for CA will be taken one unhappy customer at a time.

Continue to the sidebar:
From Cooked Books To New Look

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights