CA puts SOA at the heart of Unicenter overhaul

CA Inc. is introducing a new integration platform in its latest Unicenter release, following the software industry trend in placing standards and services at the heart of its systems management suite.

Software vendors have for years preached the gospel of simplification and integration, but the technology is finally starting to deliver on vendors' promises, CA customers and executives say. CA is the new name for Computer Associates International Inc.

"Talking about it is fine, but we have actually been able to connect the right pieces together," CA Enterprise Systems Management General Manger Alan Nugent said in a presentation at the company's CA World user show, before rattling off a list of technologies like development kits and Web services interfaces that CA is introducing in Unicenter 11. "The technology has finally gotten to the point where the integrations are more probable."

Unicenter 11 beta tester Linda Reino, chief information officer of Universal Health Services Inc., said her health care management company tangibly benefits from the centralized single database CA introduced in its Unicenter update. IT asset status information and alerts can now be centralized, incorporating data from both CA's assortment of applications and third-party software. Reino said she appreciates CA's respect for legacy applications and heterogeneous environments, which means she can take advantage of Unicenter's centralization features without replacing her existing applications.

"Those deployments are sound," Reino said. "This now lets me lift that into an architecture where we're going to be able to see that in a consolidated fashion. [Unicenter 11] has the service orientation and the standards to support that."

Every major applications and middleware vendor has begun incorporating an SOA (service-oriented architecture) approach in its software, a design decision aimed at letting customers more easily combine disparate IT components. CA is using its show this week to kick off a major branding campaign around a message of technology unification and simplification. CA Chief Executive Officer John Swainson called this week's batch of releases, built on a common back-end, the "largest single integrated product announcement in CA's history."

CA has extensively overhauled its existing Unicenter suite and introduced several new applications, such as an Asset Intelligence product that helps IT managers assess their IT inventory. Harry Butler, support center manager for electronics supplier EFW Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, said Asset Intelligence helped him trim his software licensing and support costs by pinpointing fallow licenses and out-of-date software. "I had 13 unused Microsoft Advanced Server licenses and six different versions of Adobe Acrobat," he said.

Unicenter 11 begins shipping this week after more than a year of customer testing. CA has incorporated a host of automation, integration and monitoring features into the software in an effort to make it the industry's most flexible and user-friendly management software.

CA is also bringing new resources to bear on the problem of helping its customers best make use of its vast software portfolio. This week the company introduced EITM (enterprise IT management) Accelerators, a set of blueprints based on industry best-practices that are aimed at helping customers begin streamlining and optimizing their technology infrastructures.

Right now, Unicenter 11 supports the Ingres database CA spun off last week to an independent organization. Early next year, it will add support for Microsoft Corp.'s SQL Server and then for Oracle Corp.'s database.

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