CA Wants to Be the Enterprise Watchdog in the Cloud

Let’s be honest, systems management vendor CA doesn’t exactly inspire visions of innovation (heck, until 2006, it went by the not-so-intriguing Computer Associates moniker). That’s about to change, however. Over the past year, CA has been buying up thought leaders across a variety of disciplines -– notably Cassatt, NetQoS and Oblicore –- each of which plays a critical role in CA’s mission to become the undisputed leader in managing cloud-connected IT departments.

According to Chris O’Malley, executive vice president of CA’s new Cloud Products & Solutions business line, the company’s goal is to give its customers everything they need in order to analyze the available cloud solutions, figure how to integrate them into those customers’ existing environments, then make sure they perform as expected. Ultimately, O’Malley believes, even mission-critical workloads will be delivered as services, and ensuring such services stay live is where CA believes its will have the competitive advantage. It wants to provide the guards watching over the enterprise crown jewels.

This is where CA’s new intellectual property comes into play. As Jasmine Noel of Ptak, Noel & Associates noted to me, “They’ve picked up some gems with their acquisitions,” which include:

  • Cassatt: Cassatt’s software automates the movement and scalability of applications across an organization’s pool of resources, based on a variety of user-defined policies, which means service-level agreements (SLAs) for on-premise applications are all but guaranteed because the software scales to meet demand.
  • NetQos: NetQoS helps ensure that the network isn’t a weak link affecting an application’s performance. This is increasingly important today, when applications and services might span physical, virtual and even cloud boundaries. Personnel across various IT disciplines need business-level information to help them monitor performance without having to decipher technical data they might not understand.
  • Oblicore: If IT departments are going to act like service providers they will need the tools to translate technical metrics into actionable data. Oblicore provides reports, dashboards and other tools that make it easy to figure out, even predict, which services are living up to their guarantees. For instance, O’Malley notes that CA currently utilizes 60-plus external services on top of its internal ones, which is a lot to track in real time without software to help.

What’s Next? We’ll Know More in May…

Although CA was happy to announce its newly found cloud ambitions, it won’t be releasing any specific details until CA World in May. There, according to O’Malley, the company will introduce initial products and its cloud road map — and customers can expect to see an increase in SaaS options. After that, CA will plans to roll out new capabilities at an “aggressive,” SaaS provider-like pace, with an eye to getting ahead of the cloud management market.

For now, the plan is to develop many new capabilities internally. “The scale of innovation that’s going on within these four walls is probably at a rate and pace and depth that we haven’t had in many, many years,” said O’Malley, a 23-year CA veteran. However, he didn’t close the door on acquiring new ones. In fact, although he declined to elaborate, O’Malley admitted that he sees some “interesting companies” selling capabilities that align with CA’s cloud vision. This seems in line with new CEO William McCracken’s plans to spend at least $300 million both this year and next on cloud computing and security acquisitions.

So who else should CA buy? Here are a few possibilities:

  • Eucalyptus: A startup selling software that lets companies create their own Amazon (s amzn) EC2-style infrastructures internally, Eucalyptus would give CA a soup-to-nuts cloud computing solution. While Cassatt’s technology and CA’s current products let customers manage services across existing infrastructure, Eucalyptus’s technology would allow customers to provision new virtual resources as the need arises internally. Plus, it would make connecting to EC2 even easier should customers seek hybrid cloud platforms.
  • Cloudkick: Oblicore lets CA customers manage SLAs across cloud services, but Cloudkick’s dashboard would let them monitor the underlying service provider performance in real time. Assuming it expanded the scope to cover additional cloud platforms, Cloudkick’s service would let CA customers troubleshoot and possibly make real-time decisions about which platforms on which to launch any new services. Additionally, CA could fulfill its SaaS dreams by selling the service even to businesses that don’t use CA for systems management.
  • Appirio: Appirio would bring a much-needed services angle to CA’s cloud offerings. Managing and monitoring services and infrastructure is great, but helping customers transition to cloud computing and/or SaaS, even helping them develop new cloud-based applications, adds an incredible amount of value to any company serious about pushing cloud solutions. Appirio also offers Cloud Connectors, which bridge (s crm) applications with Google Apps (s goog), Amazon Web Services and/or Facebook. But the services business would be the real key if CA made this move.

Whatever it decides, CA had better live up to its promise of aggressively advancing its cloud-computing business. The other big systems management vendors -– IBM (s ibm), HP (s hpq) and BMC (s bmc) -– are not asleep at the wheel. Indeed, 2010 could bring, as Ptak, Noel & Associates’ Noel put it, a race to see who can actually get companies to sign checks for cloud solutions.

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