Computer Associates International has something big up its sleeve for CA World 2005.
At the annual partner conference, held in Las Vegas Nov. 13-17, CA will explain how its restructured management, vendor acquisitions and a year-and-a-half of product development have positioned the company to grow quickly, the same way SAP did in the mid-1980s, said Mark Barrenechea, CA’s executive vice president of technology strategy and chief technology architect.
Islandia, N.Y.-based CA stands at "the same crossroads" SAP did when its SAP R/3 product began to enable the transformation of computing from mainframe to client/server, Barrenechea said. "[SAP] took a risk, and they won," and CA is about to do the same thing, he said.
Although Barrenechea declined to say exactly what type of risk CA aims to take, he said a key role will be played by Unicenter r11, an improved version of CA's flagship product suite that will be heralded in during the conference. Unlike past versions of the suite, Unicenter r11 does a better job of turning CA's network configuration, storage and security technology into a unified platform by gathering network data into a common database where management and reporting can be administered, according to CA partners familiar with the product.
At its heart, Unicenter r11 is the embodiment of CA's own brand of an IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which CA prefers to call Enterprise IT Management (EITM). What makes Unicenter r11 different from competing ITIL approaches is the common database and the way CA has chosen to concentrate network configuration, management, reporting and performance data within it. CA competitors such as BMC Software, on the other hand, deploy ITIL across multiple databases that are integrated together.
Improvements to CA's eTrust security products, BrightStor storage products and Business Service Optimization (BSO) offerings also will also be announced at the show, Barrenechea said. "We have integrated these products into what I call functional suites," which will better optimize each product family to work with one another and feed into Unicenter, he said.
The partner conference will be the first CA World to feature CEO John Swainson, a former IBM executive who joined CA about a year ago. Swainson's first year at the helm of CA has been “all about focus--focus on the markets that are strategic and relevant for our customers and those markets we can be a global leaders in,” Barrenechea said.
During Swainson's term, CA has worked hard to clean up its image, which was soiled by an accounting scandal that was settled in federal court in September 2004. That led to the guilty pleas of former CA CFO Ira Zar and two senior vice presidents of finance. Former CEO Sanjay Kumar and head of worldwide sales Stephen Richards still face a nine-count indictment. Kumar's trial is scheduled to begin in April 2006, according to prosecutors.
The increase in corporate discipline that has taken place under Swainson has been noticeable, said Lewis Needham, senior account executive at Advanced Technology Solutions Group, a CA partner in Albany, N.Y. "Things have tightened up," Needham said, adding that accounting and sales paperwork is much more thorough under Swainson.
CA has also changed in the way it approaches customer problems, transitioning from a point-product mind set to more of a solution-oriented one, according to Needham. As a result, sales cycles for CA products are longer, but the sales are more lucrative for partners, he said.
Steve Moisoff, vice president of sales at Computer Network Solutions, a CA partner in Plainview. N.Y., also has noticed a positive change at CA under Swainson's leadership. "There's been a huge change. It's been strange that there's been such a turnaround," he said.
But a line drawn between CA's enterprise partners and its SMB partners seems to separate those who have a positive view of the vendor and those who don't, Moisoff said. CA is an excellent partner to have when selling to enterprise customers, but when it comes to CA's SMB effort and lower-tier Affiliate partners, the company has "no attention, no focus," he said.
Many of CA's Affiliate partners say CA's online sales efforts with its SMB products compete with channel partners too directly.
Tim Ulmen, product manager of CDI and Digital Home PC, a Wichita, Kan.-based custom-system builder and integrator, said he offers CA's SMB products simply because he has room to put them on the shelf. CA's products are good, Ulmen said, but as for the company, "they are just a mystery to me."