CA claims new handle, launches Cloud Commons

CA Technologies has created a Web-based community and new methodology to rate delivered IT services in a bid to demystify cloud computing.

The Islandia, NY-based enterprise software vendor also announced a name change from CA Inc. The newly-branded firm’s first announced initiative is Cloud Commons – a place they hope will bring together industry analysts, IT professionals, CIOs and vendors to serve as the go-to place to research cloud-based services.

The basis of the community is Service Management Index (SMI), a new rating methodology that provides a score out of 100 to hundreds of available cloud services. CA worked with academic partner Carnegie Mellon University in Mountain View, Calif., to develop the system.

“Think of this like IMDB [Internet Movie Database] where you might go to get people’s opinions about a movie,” said David Hodgson, senior vice-president of CA. “The value is the community, the bringing together of experts and partners.”

CA is “footing the bill” on the new site, but leaving it open for other companies to contribute and tap the resources of the community and SMI, he added. “We’re not using it as a vehicle to sell CA products. It’s really about the issues of the cloud.”

Partners on the project include consulting firms Forrester Research and Gartner Inc. as well as vendor Red Hat. The site is now live at cloudcommons.com and its tagline is “Cloudsourcing the future of IT.”

Even defining cloud computing can be a tough conversation in the IT industry. Every department seems to have a different version of the truth to describe the phenomenon of reaching beyond an organization’s firewall for computing power to deliver applications, services or infrastructure.

SMI will get vendor competitors to work together collaboratively by creating an industry standard index, says Jeff Perdue, a senior scientist at Carnegie Mellon. The standard definitions will also help IT departments assess the quality of a cloud service.

“In some cases there are compelling cost and quality benefits, but in some cases there aren’t,” he says. “We’re hoping to quantify when there are advantages to moving to the cloud and when there are not.”

The tool has a 50-50 shot at actually being adopted by IT professionals, David Norfolk, practice leader development at London-based Bloor Research says. But such a tool is a necessary one for cloud computing to have a shot at widespread adoption, and compatible with compliance requirements.

“Unless you adopt something like this, you’re going nowhere,” he says.

CA’s choice to work with Carnegie Mellon will help curb the perception it’s a self-promotional tool, Norfolk adds. Now that CA has supplied the funding and initiative to start SMI, the best thing it can do is keep its hands out of it.

“To gain critical mass, you’re going to have to attract people into this,” he says. “They don’t trust CA because they’re a vendor, so they have to get out of the loop.”

Cloud Commons features Web 2.0 tools such as user comments and ratings, and personalization of the interface. Its front page features reports from partner analyst firms and other sections delve into cloud computing topics including security and private clouds.

CA conducted research with North American IT professionals to identify 3,000 cloud-based services, says Laura McCluer, vice-president of cloud community at CA. A complementary star rating system was started with a survey of 500 respondents.

“We’ll be feeding it at first,” she says. “But it has to be viral and it’s there for others to use.”

SMI is a complicated chain of ratings on different attributes of a cloud-based service. Cloud Commons users will be able to drill down into a rating to view its score in terms of security, scalability, cost, and other factors. Users can also choose to read the assessments of specific feedback groups – such as IT professionals, CIOs, or analysts.

CA is just one member of a consortium that will continue to use SMI ratings. Other members will become clear over the next several days.

So why did CA changes it’s name to CA Technologies?

“I got tired of Googling ‘CA’ and getting California as the top result,” says Bill McCracken, CEO of the firm.