Computer Associates

The newest version of Unicenter has a lot in common with Lego building blocks, Sanjay Kumar told CA World attendees earlier this month.

The Computer Associates International (CA) president and CEO unveiled new functionality in Version 3.0 of the company’s flagship enterprise management software product at the company’s user conference in Orlando, Fla., stressing its modularity and flexibility as two of its key enhancements.

“We are focused, in Unicenter 3.0, in moving the management of the infrastructure into the infrastructure,” he said. “This means we have to make Unicenter more flexible than ever before. [It’s] also more modular than ever before. Combined into a new business model, it allows customers to participate in Unicenter efforts and the value [it] can deliver.”

Kumar said that customers will now be able to get the product in “more incremental chunks” than in the past, and will enjoy more scalability and reliability as well.

Kumar also announced that the company will now focus on four core brands: Unicenter; eTrust, for enterprise security; BrightStor, its newly dubbed enterprise storage brand; and Jasmine, its portal technology and knowledge management technology.

“Portals will become the new eyes for CA software,” Kumar said. “More and more of our products will be shipped with portal technology, and the portals will become your eyes to the computing world.”

Mike Stevenson, an enterprise administrator for computer services with the Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ont., who is beta testing parts of Unicenter 3.0, said the new flexibility announced about the product appeals to him.

“(Modularity) would interest me because then I could implement certain software for let’s say one year and I could (use that time to) convince upper management that’s it’s a good software,” Stevenson said.

“Right now, I’m in a very difficult situation – to ask for (software about which) they have had no feedback. They would say ‘yes, it could be good, but…’ We need a testing period in order to get support.”

Beta testing is offering some opportunity for that, he said, but having the software available in smaller modules on a trial basis will be even better. Stevenson has been beta testing the product for about three months and said, so far, the product seems more reliable, with slicker interfaces and better integration with software from other companies.

Rob Hailstone, analyst, IDC in London said he felt CA’s strategy announced at the conference was too complex, and that not enough time was devoted to explaining it to attendees.

“I think there are still people that are going away from this conference who are confused by [CA’s layered product management] strategy. I couldn’t sit here and explain it again without referring to notes. That’s bad for something like this – a strategy should be simple enough so that everybody that sat through a couple of presentations [at the conference] should have understood it intuitively,” he said.

“I think it’s doubly confusing because they’ve got six vertical threads there and four products. Jasmine is the one that is a multiple thread product, and I think that’s going to confuse the hell out of people.” Jasmine is being touted as both an information management tool as well as portal technology, he said.

“Jasmine has been rebranded too many times, and people still remember it by it’s first and second evolution. I know the name is very important to Charles (Wang, CA’s chairman – Jasmine is named for his daughter). But I think it’s time they thought of actually rebranding the products – making it more obvious from their names what each of the products do.” The new brands names for the storage and security products – BrightStor and eTrust – are well-named, he added.

Valerie O’Connell, an analyst with Boston-based Aberdeen Group, said she found that each announcement at the conference was significant in its own sphere of influence.

“Since I follow the management space, I of course, find the Unicenter announcement the most interesting. Unicenter TNG was ahead of its time when CA released it. The framework vision,which was pre-Internet, is still valid today – cross enterprise/cross-platform management visibility in alignment with business objectives,” she said.

“CA is leading the way again by instantiating that vision in a modular set of offerings based on a set of common services built for the Internet era. Good for CA.”

The closing keynote at the conference was given by retired anchor news icon Walter Cronkite, who was met by long applause and a standing ovation by the audience. Cronkite answered attendee questions fielded by Wang, in a “fireside chat” style interview. Cronkite spoke of famous events he had the opportunity to cover over the years including the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam war, the moon landing and the fall of the Soviet Union. At one point he mentioned the progress of technology and how it has served to shape and change the way news, especially with regards to war, is reported and perceived.

“Satellite miniaturized cameras – so you can go in with the troops – have changed things completely. Today, even the worst war can be carried into the home even as it’s happening. And that has a powerful effect on the public’s horror of war and bloodletting,” Cronkite said.