CA releases datacentre automation package

In-house developed product will compete with HP and BMC. Denise Dubie reports

CA has unveiled its datacentre automation product, which industry watchers say will help IT staff offload server resource-provisioning duties and give CA an advantage over competitive products from BMC and HP.

CA Data Center Automation (DCA) Manager r11.2. will let customers automate systems monitoring and resource provisioning. The software competes with technology HP acquired with Opsware and BMC bought with BladeLogic. CA developed its product in-house, which industry watchers say could give it an edge if competitors are still working to integrate acquired software.

"CA's seemingly slow progress on the DCA technology is a sign of an internal design approach which might just be the right one," says Evelyn Hubbert, senior analyst with Forrester Research. "Acquisitions are always challenged by architectures, which need to be matched or modified mostly to the disadvantage of the client. CA knows its architecture and can design integrations and extensions from the ground up."

DCA Manager will integrate software for network and systems management. It runs on a server and works with existing agents in a customer environment to gather information and trigger events. The software collects system software and hardware configuration information, discovers applications and their dependencies, and detects change across the environment. Integration with existing products also give the software access to network availability, application performance and business service management data, which CA says can help automate resource allocation based on demand.

Stephen Elliot, vice president of strategy for CA's Infrastructure Management and Datacentre Automation business unit, says: "The software includes algorithms and policy-based management features that, for instance, can compare how application performance correlates to resource consumption. Based on that information, DCA Manager can determine if resources need to be provisioned".

"Customers need to be able to allocate resources based on the business demand," he says.

DCA Manager monitors utilisation and performance across mixed-platform datacentre environments. The data can then be fed into customisable dashboards that give datacentre managers a view of their physical and heterogeneous virtual environments, which analysts say is a capability many vendors are looking to offer.

"It's unclear at this point if the market for datacentre automation products is tied to hardware, virtualisation platforms like VMware and Microsoft or third-party software that can handle heterogeneous hardware, operating systems and virtual technologies," says Mary Johnston Turner, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategies Group.

Naveed Husain, CIO at Queens College in New York, is conducting a proof of concept on CA DCA Manager. He says the software, which is not fully implemented, could help him manage more than 100 Dell servers running Windows and Linux operating systems and supporting more than 20,000 students, staff, faculty and other employees — without adding headcount. And with virtualisation on the horizon, Husain realised he couldn't postpone an investment in infrastructure monitoring and automation technology any longer.

"It's embarrassing to have built a high-availability environment with redundancy and failover and get calls because disk utilisation on a server is over 75% and you didn't know because you can't have human eyes on all the servers all the time," Husain says. "At the low end we would pay US$36,000 for a helpdesk position and then anywhere between US$60,000 and US$90,000 for senior IT staff. Because I can't invest in staff, I am going to invest in this automation tool because I believe it will make my staff's lives easier now and save us money while the work still gets done."

The DCA Manager software can also be used to provision resources on a scheduled basis, letting customers delegate duties. For instance, a self-service feature lets non-IT staff schedule desired resources for specific applications or events at the university. Once scheduled, DCA Manager will use images and templates built by Husain's staff to automatically provision the server capacity for the assigned function. When the need is no longer there, the resources can be reclaimed by IT.

"When it comes to management, IT decision makers list the impact on IT staff and cost as the top factors they consider. CA's self-service reservation management systems gets IT in part out of the workflow and lets end users schedule resources for themselves," Enterprise Strategies Group'sTurner says. "Technology that saves on staff time and keeps the business going is compelling, and right now investing in automation tools is really going to pay back for IT," she says.

CA is also boosting its capability in the identity management space, by purchasing IDFocus, a seller of identity management software.

IDFocus develops software that controls who can get access to corporate IT resources.

CA announced the acquisition last week, without disclosing how much it had paid for the company.

IDFocus' ACE software will be rebranded and sold as part of CA's Identity Management software.

The software will give CA customers a better way of controlling access to systems and better tools for documenting compliance to government regulations, according to CA. In particular, ACE will help Identity Management users do a better job of blocking staffers from getting access to inappropriate IT resources, such as keeping system administrators out of payroll database records, for example. In industry parlance, this capability is called segregation of duties (SoD).

Additional reporting by Robert Mc Millan

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