CA bets on cutting edge for competitive edge

By Eugene Grygo, InfoWorld |  Software

COMPUTER ASSOCIATES may not be the first IT vendor that users call to capitalize on e-business, but the quiet giant of the software industry is looking to change that.

At its CA World user conference in New Orleans next week, the company will kick off a series of products and strategies aimed at getting a bigger piece of the Internet business pie -- and convince its customers that it can innovate beyond its current strength in systems and network management.

In addition to key product updates, an internal reorganization will result in a new CA a year from now, promised Sanjay Kumar, the company's president and chief operating officer. A major overhaul of CA's products and services organizations is just the first step. Introducing the Web to internal processes, such as selling software online, is also on tap.

"The single biggest driver is that our core business is changing," Kumar said. CA's break with the past means that its core Unicenter systems management offerings and other technologies, notably its Jasmine ii application development infrastructure, will be "focused on the Web," Kumar said.

However, analysts and users said CA needs to walk the walk of e-business by backing up its embrace of the Internet with actions.

"At CA World last year, there was a lot of talk about e-business, but they didn't have a lot to show for it," said Patrick Dryden, an analyst at Giga Information Group, in San Jose, Calif. "Now they have much more that they can deliver."

CA is hitching its e-business fortunes in large part to the successful integration of its neural-network agent technology, called Neugents, across its product line. Used to spot trends in data and predict potential outcomes, Neugents are being incorporated in Unicenter to predict performance bottlenecks on network nodes.

Now CA wants to use Neugents to solve business problems. With Jasmine ii, which includes a kit for building "business Neugents," CA is betting that it has found an effective and compelling mix -- an application server with intelligence that is also an application development and deployment environment, said Anthony Picardi, an analyst at IDC, a market data research company in Framingham, Mass.

"With Jasmine ii, CA is now at the cutting edge," Picardi said. If the claims about Jasmine ii's capabilities, such as pattern recognition, modeling, and alert mechanisms, pan out, then "that is a real breakthrough," he said.

One user of Jasmine ii, Hugh Armstrong, vice president and CIO of American Hotel Register, a non-food hotel products supplier based in Vernon Hills, Ill., has been running a preliminary deployment of Neugents for two months.

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