CA WORLD - CA takes next step with on-demand

At its annual user conference this week, Computer Associates International Inc. will announce an initial set of four management software modules that use the Sonar on-demand computing technology detailed by the company last July.

One of the Sonar-based products, a tool called eTrust Network Forensics that can identify links between IT infrastructure devices from a security perspective, was quietly shipped last December but has yet to be formally announced. The other modules are due to become available this summer or in the fall.

Sonar was designed to add increased automation capabilities to CA's security, storage, network and application performance management product lines and to help integrate functions within each of the four offerings.

In an interview last week, Yogesh Gupta, CA's chief technology officer, focused mainly on one of the new tools -- an add-on to CA's Unicenter NSM product that's called SmartBPV, shorthand for Smart Business Process Views.

SmartBPV, which is in limited beta testing, is designed to automatically create and update graphical views of the servers, routers and other devices on corporate networks and show IT managers which business processes they support, Gupta said. For example, it could identify all the Microsoft Exchange servers on a network, as well as connected networking devices, he said.

"Once this SmartBPV is matured, it will be a big, big deal," said Chris Poole, a senior analyst at Convergys Corp. in Jacksonville, Fla., and president of the Florida CA Users Group. Poole said he wants systems management tools that can detect packets being sent across networks from specific applications or databases to help him quickly spot and locate problems when they arise.

Poole, who plans to attend this week's CA World conference in Las Vegas, said he envisions using SmartBPV to pinpoint a specific instance of an Oracle or SAP application that's encountering problems on a server that's running 10 different installations of the same application, for example. He said he is currently able to use the Unicenter tools only to locate the server that is reporting the trouble.

A Wider View

Hamed Omar, senior vice president of technology infrastructure at Sallie Mae Inc., said the educational loan provider has been running SmartBPV in a test lab for about six weeks and will probably roll it out in the fall.

Sallie Mae's network has about 10,000 components, said Omar, who works at the company's offices in Fishers, Ind. He noted that SmartBPV and related Unicenter tools should give him a view of all the network devices and how they relate to business processes, "so that when I make a change to a component, I know the complete business service at risk."

AmeriCredit Corp. may replace homegrown tools with SmartBPV, said Charles Kruse, vice president of IT services at the Fort Worth, Texas-based automobile financing firm. AmeriCredit wants to guarantee response times for Web-based loan applications and is deploying Unicenter NSM at its 90 branch offices to help make that possible, he said. Kruse added that the company's IT staff could use SmartBPV to make sure the branches have the network and computing resources they need should problems develop.

Sonar is based on technology CA bought from Raytheon Co. last year. The Sonar-based products CA is developing automate the process of data-packet analysis, said Dennis Drogseth, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo. Rival management tool vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. are working on similar technology, he said.

Also at the conference, CA will announce plans to better integrate its four main product lines. In addition, it will try to reassure users who have concerns about last month's ouster of Sanjay Kumar from his position as CEO in connection with investigations of CA's accounting practices.

Poole, Omar and Kruse all said that they think CA is sufficiently addressing the management and accounting issues.

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