CA readies for user show

Computer Associates International Inc. Monday announced a new service desk product and will next week highlight more products at its annual user show where the company plans to announce storage and service-level management (SLM) software.

CA’s Unicenter ServicePlus is a new software suite that comprises five tools: Service Desk, Customer Service, Collaboration Tools, Predictive Tools and Knowledge Tools. The tool kit gives users a means of providing their customers and end-users with “self-service” tools they can use over the Internet for fast problem resolution, the company says. The software tools can free up IT operations staff to work on more technical or mission-critical problems, while users can take advantage of the Web to answer some of their own questions, the company says.

The new product suite comes a week before CA plans to host about 10,000 attendees at its annual CA World user conference in Orlando. The company plans to once again woo users to Orlando with technical sessions and company news.

Among the announcements, industry watchers say CA will talk up the company’s plans to focus on SLM, a challenge many management vendors have undertaken in recent months. Jean-Pierre Garbani, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., says although the company offers SLM software already (most recently with a release of Unicenter SLM 3.0 in February), CA still has work to do.

“True SLM hasn’t happened yet. Many companies say they can do it, but not in terms of what the users sees from an application,” Garbani says. He says SLM is a difficult discipline that not many IT professionals have mastered manually, making it difficult for vendors to create software that automates the process of discovering all the pieces that make up an application and reporting on each component’s performance from an end-user perspective.

Service-Level Management 3.0 featured enhanced out-of-the-box web-based service level analysis and reporting for disparate IT resources including network infrastructure devices, and SAP R/3, Windows 2000 and Microsoft Exchange services. Users can also customize the metrics to be monitored.

Other new products will debut from the BrightStor side of the CA house. New storage management offerings from CA include BrightStor SAN Manager and Enterprise Storage Manager. The company at last year’s show in July introduced its BrightStor brand.

SAN Manager will let users perform device and zone discovery, and provide a console for monitoring storage-area networks. This software product works on Microsoft Windows and also includes business process views to help users ensure their networks stay up and running, CA says. Enterprise Storage Manager, generally available at CA World, gives users a centralized view of their storage tools, applications, resources and networks. The software integrates with systems management tools and can show users how much storage specific applications consume.

In terms of SLM, CA will have to compete with start-ups, as well as the company’s usual competition, such as IBM Tivoli, Hewlett-Packard and BMC Software. Hurwitz Group analyst Jasmine Noel says CA is ahead of the pack in terms of managing the network with business goals in mind, and the company will re-iterate its strategy for this type of service or ‘business-related’ management.

“In the past few years, I think CA started to listen to its customers and is now starting to give them products they need,” Noel says. “Tivoli is playing catch up to CA right now.”

For example, the company just recently started paying more attention to the product it acquired from Platinum, Noel says. CA recently released two new database management offerings it acquired from Platinum in 1999.

CA announced Advantage Data Transformer and ADT Enterprise MetaData Edition in late March. The products, formerly known as InfoPump from Platinum, helps users perform data transformation, replication and integration. The company says ADT can help with developing e-business data marts and warehouses, deploying enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management applications and integrating complex systems.

Also from the Platinum acquisition, CA upped its Unicenter Autosys 4.0 product, which shipped to beta testers in January. Hurwitz’s Noel says CA had ignored the product for years, losing some customers to start-ups.

“It’s job scheduling, and CA should be the market leader, but they let it slide for a couple of years. [CA has] finally gone back and given it some attention,” she says.

Last week, IBM Tivoli announced upgrades to much of its management software portfolio and introduced a product to manage services across systems, databases, networks and servers. The company also included IBM’s popular database software in all products free of charge, which Giga’s Garbani says could give Tivoli a slight edge.

“SLM depends on data collection from lots of sources. Having a data repository built into a management product is a plus,” Garbani says. “CA’s database is mostly Ingres, which has all but disappeared in the market.”

Garbani adds that being able to integrate and manage many databases, aside from the Ingres database, will help CA manage third-party tools that include other databases, such as DB2. That’s why Garbani says the company will also be upping its database management products to include support for more than the Ingres database offerings. Users should expect to see more support for third-party tools such as IBM’s DB2 and WebSphere product portfolios, as well as Microsoft’s .Net initiative.