CA "needs to think bigger", new exec says

Mark Barrenechea became senior vice president of product development at Computer Associates International in June after leaving his previous position as a senior vice president and a member of the executive management committee at Oracle

Mark Barrenechea became senior vice president of product development at Computer Associates International in June after leaving his previous position as a senior vice president and a member of the executive management committee at Oracle.

Barrenechea, who exited Oracle on the day the software vendor announced its hostile bid to acquire rival PeopleSoft — a coincidence, he says — spoke this week with Computerworld about his first 100 days at Islandia, N.Y.-based CA. Excerpts follow:

Is there anything about Oracle's corporate culture that you're trying to instill at CA?

The thing I liked about the Oracle culture is it's a big company, and it dominates in particular spaces. CA needs to think bigger in many, many ways. So if there's one aspect of the Oracle culture that I want to replicate, it's to think big. We can change a lot of things with an integrated suite of management software.

Conversely, is there anything about CA's culture that you think would be useful at Oracle?

CA has a very unique culture. It's a collegial environment, which is a breath of fresh air. You can share ideas in an open forum; you can debate in an open forum. He who yells loudest isn't the one that's heard — it's a good way to run a company. I'm not suggesting Oracle isn't run that way, but perhaps not as much so.

Sun Microsystems recently introduced a per-employee software pricing plan. What's CA doing to make life easier for IT managers in this area?

Pricing is complicated. Sun is making it as simple as they can, which is a good thing.

You look at Microsoft — one of the things that frustrates me about Microsoft pricing is we have 16,000 employees at CA. Each one licenses Office, but at any given time, maybe 11,000 to 13,000 employees are using it. So my high-water mark for using Microsoft software is a good 30 % to 40 % below what I'm paying. And I don't like it. That cannot stand over time. The Microsoft model has to change.

CA took some very aggressive moves two and a half years ago when we moved to usage-based pricing. We believe that the best way to charge for software is based on what (customers) use.

We made that transition. Microsoft hasn't made it; Oracle hasn't made it; IBM hasn't made it. Sun looks like they're starting to make that transition in the one lever they know how to pull, which is per-employee. I think you'll see more of this in the industry, because CIOs will demand it.

How important is Linux in CA's product strategy?

If you look at the IT infrastructure of the future, you can easily envisage three major platforms: big-iron, enterprise-class mainframes for data protection and transactions; (Windows) NT for domain access, security, email and maybe some file sharing; and large-scale Linux clusters for storage and applications. Linux is fast and inexpensive; it's relatively easy to manage. Clustering is getting simpler and simpler, to make 100 Linux machines look like one.

Unix is conspicuous for its absence from your list. What's the future of Unix?

It's Linux. I firmly believe it. I think we're one to two years away from massive Linux clusters becoming the second or third (most) prominent architecture within an IT infrastructure.

CA Ships First Piece of Sonar Technology

Starting to deliver on the automated management tools strategy it announced in July, Computer Associates has quietly begun shipping new software that's designed to collect information about network traffic and then analyse the data for IT managers.

The Unicenter Network Forensics product is one of the initial components of Sonar, a planned set of tools partly based on software that CA acquired from defense contractor Raytheon in Lexington, Massachusetts, during the summer.

CA demonstrated Sonar at its CA World 2003 user conference and said the technology will support on-demand computing installations, in which servers can be dynamically allocated to run different applications as data processing needs change.

Unicenter Network Forensics became available earlier this month.

Mark Barrenechea, CA's senior vice president of product development, said the software can send reports about the network data it gathers to CA's Unicenter management console for use by IT administrators.

CA is also working on a related product called Unicenter Network Diagnostics, which is due next year. The diagnostics software will be designed to examine network traffic patterns in real time and compare them with historical data in order to establish performance benchmarks, Barrenechea said.

A third product in the wings is Unicenter Business Process Maps, which will give IT workers a graphical view of their corporate computing resources. That application should be ready for release in the first half of 2004, Barrenechea said.

Clark Ammons, a production and systems manager at Washington University in St. Louis, said he has yet to fully research the Sonar products to see if IT officials at the school can justify a purchase of the technology.

But, he added, the mapping tool sounds particularly interesting."I'm a visual person," Ammons said. "I like to see things."

However, Amy Wohl, an analyst at Wohl Associates in Narberth, Pennsylvania, said potential users may be confused about how Sonar technology fits with CA's existing Unicenter suite.

"The fact is, there are lots of tools from CA, IBM and HP to analyse data," she said. "So IT managers will have to figure out how Sonar works and how to use it with old tools, or which ones to replace."

— Marc L Songini and Matt Hamblen

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