Focus should be on mobility, Kumar says

Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) reinforced its commitment to extend enterprise management to mobile devices with a three-way mobile service partnership and a new product that accelerates the mobilization of existing enterprise applications, both announced Tuesday at Comdex Chicago.

In the kickoff Comdex keynote address, CA President and Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Kumar announced a partnership with integrator CompuCom Systems Inc. and mobile network operator Sprint PCS Group. Under the terms of the partnership, the companies will each contribute a piece of a mobile service desk package to enterprise customers.

Mobility “is driving a whole new paradigm shift in computing by enhancing customer service and enabling a new way of communicating,” Kumar said. As such, 99.99 per cent or 99.999 per cent availability of mobile applications is no longer acceptable and enterprise management applications must stretch to embrace this technically challenging environment to boost service levels, he said.

To this end, CompuCom’s bundled, integrated offerings will feature CA’s Unicenter Service Desk software for managing wireless LANs and WANs (wide area networks), including the Sprint PCS network, Kycocera Wireless Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. smart phones, and Sprint wireless modems, he said. CompuCom will supply customized software and hardware to enable enterprises to set up mobile service centres for their user and customer bases.

To help enterprises quickly mobilize applications, Kumar also announced a product that extends Internet portal capabilities to wireless phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and pagers. The Advantage Wireless Integrator, which Kumar said is currently in beta, is aimed at enabling enterprises to take existing Web applications and rapidly re-engineer and host them for access by mobile devices with smaller displays.

The tools embedded in the product to enable that capability include support for markup languages XML (Extensible Markup Language) and XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language). XSL is a language, sanctioned by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), for expressing stylesheets. It includes, for example, a language for transforming XML documents into other formats, such as WML (Wireless Markup Language) and XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language), which enable clipping and consolidating content from a Web page for presentation on small mobile displays. The product also reportedly supports SOAP (Simple Object Application Protocol) and the IDE (Integrated Development Environment).

“It’s not realistic to rewrite all the applications that have been around for years for (a) mobile (environment),” Kumar said, adding that instead enterprises need a way to quickly transform and “rehost” them.

Kumar pointed out that mobile devices carry their own set of security and manageability challenges. “Increasing volumes of corporate data stored in mobile user devices are making them more valuable and takes security exposures to a whole new level,” he said.

So IT departments need a way to make sure that mobile devices are synchronized with corporate servers, so that critical transient information is not lost, either by cradling the devices regularly or by over-the-air synchronization.

“Storage is a big issue for mobile computing,” he said. “As in the past, IT departments tend to focus on backing up servers and PCs. The same thing needs to happen, say, with the (Research in Motion Ltd.) BlackBerry. CA is working on solving this issue.”

Enterprises are looking for turnkey products that let them get up and running with mobile technology as quickly and painlessly as possible, according to Stephen Drake, program manager for market researcher IDC’s Mobile Infrastructure Software service. He indicated that tightly integrated alliances between software providers, professional services organizations and wireless carriers will accelerate enterprises’ ability to extend core management solutions to the mobile and wireless environment.

IDC is a division of International Data Group Inc., parent company of IDG News Service.

CA, in Islandia, N.Y., can be reached at