CA goes in SaaS direction at annual conference

On-demand offerings and unified service desk package unveiled

CA has introduced a slew of product enhancements that industry watchers say reflect how enterprise IT executives want to buy management software these days: as integrated bundles and via subscription.

The company, while hosting 5,000 attendees at its CA World 2008 conference in Las Vegas this week, unveiled upgrades across several product suites and expanded its software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings by hosting more management applications and adopting subscription pricing options. Industry watchers says the company's move towards advanced integration — to the point of selling the applications as a cohesive package — shows CA hears customer complaints and is working to address them.

"CA is simplifying how companies can buy integrated capabilities. Instead of buying four different CA products, you have one package that incorporates the four products, you get everything at a lower per-user price point and you get the package implemented in a standardised way," says Jasmine Noel, a principal analyst at Ptak, Noel and Associates.

For example, CA Service Desk Manager 12 unifies service desk, change management, configuration management database, application dependency mapping, knowledge management, remote support automation and reporting capabilities.

"Customers are starting to buy all products related to a specific process, such as incident management, from a single vendor," Noel says. "Customers are shifting from a task-based approach to managing IT to a process-based approach. They don't want to deal with integrating a bunch of task-based tools into a cohesive solution supporting a repeatable process," she says.

CA has incorporated new features into the bundled product as well. It now includes role-based user interfaces based on the ITIL best practice framework that can be personalised depending on an individual's position. It also features a change management schedule that lets all users of the application see scheduled changes in a calendar view to better assess potential impact and minimise downtime due to changes. And the software now segregates data, processes and roles in a multi-tenancy manner to reflect IT support departments that service multiple internal and external customers, CA says.

"We simplified the licensing of the product and included playbooks that detail repeatable methodologies based on years of experience to help companies support ITIL or other best practice frameworks," says Kathy Shoop, vice president of CA Service Management.

Service Desk Manager 12 is scheduled to be available in December.

CA also announced at the conference that it will broaden is SaaS offerings with the release of Clarity PPM (Project & Portfolio Manager) On Demand, a hosted pay-per-use version of its Clarity PPM 12 enterprise project management software. This release marks the third application CA delivers via a SaaS model — the other two being CA GRC Manager On Demand and CA Instant Recovery On Demand — and company officials say a hosted services model currently works for more than 1,000 customers worldwide.

"Customers don't want to operate a lot of infrastructure and don't have the staff to learn new management applications or the time to maintain them," says Jules Ehrlich, senior vice president of CA On Demand. "It provides a rapid time to value for customers and frees them from worrying about how to operate the application technically," Ehrlich says.

The appeal of SaaS is amplified with the current economic climate, but industry watchers argue management software is an ideal candidate for hands-off implementation. That's why CA — along with competitors HP, IBM and BMC — has ramped up its efforts in this market. According to Forrester Research, SaaS makes up a little more than 1% of the US$18 billion (NZ$32 billion) IT management software market in 2008. But by 2013, the research firm estimates SaaS will represent 10% of the same market.

The management heavyweights are on-board with the delivery model to ease deployment and maintenance of their suites, but still, analysts say they will be challenged to compete with pure-play SaaS offerings.

"It will take more time and commitment from these vendors to replace their existing product architectures with a more typical SaaS-facing solution — one that is truly multitenant, billable based on usage and with a Web 2.0-style user interface," says Forrester's recently-published "How big is SaaS in IT management Software?" report.

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