Time travel promise at CA meet

Time travel will be an added feature in the next major release of Computer Associates' systems management product, Unicenter. CA CEO Charles Wang gave a sneak preview at CA's annual conference last week of how neural networks - what the company calls neugents - will be used in the next major release of Unicenter TNG, which will be renamed Unicenter TND (the next dimension).

Time travel will be an added feature in the next major release of Computer Associates' systems management product, Unicenter.

CA CEO Charles Wang gave a sneak preview at CA's annual conference last week of how neural networks — what the company calls neugents — will be used in the next major release of Unicenter TNG, which will be renamed Unicenter TND (the next dimension). Neural networks reproduce some functions of the human brain, such as learning, with mathematical models implemented in software.

"We will add a time control panel to Unicenter's real world interface which will look a bit like the control panel on a VCR. It will have a rewind toggle button to allow the user to go back in time and review the status of the system. They can then play back what has been happening at high speed and review the behaviour of the system over time," says Wang.

"However, it will also do predictions. Using neugents, Unicenter TND will travel forward in time and predict when and where a problem will occur in the system."

Neugents learn a particular task when given historical data relevant to that task, says Wang. During training, the model is tuned so that the neugent can generalise the relationships underlying the specific patterns in the historical data. Once trained, a neugent can be used to recognise a situation, make an evaluation, reach a conclusion or take action. "This technology allows us to better reflect the real world and we can build management tools using this technology."

Wang was discussing CA's strategy for product development over the next five to 10 years based around fuzzy logic, chaos theory and neural networks, and making clear the reason for CA's acquisition last December of neural networking company AI Ware. Unicenter TND will also feature a new management interface, integration with 20 to 30 third-party applications and a repository based on its Jasmine development environment, sources say.

Meanwhile, the company will be providing a "common infrastructure" through a product line called Harmony, says president and COO Sanjay Kumar. He says Harmony will be as important to CA this year as flagship product Unicenter TNG was last year.

The initiative is designed to let users tie legacy systems to new Internet and object-oriented technology.

Harmony's three main products are version 2.0 of the relational database Ingres; the purely object-oriented database Jasmine; and Opal — a product which integrates mainframe applications with client-server environments.

Although CA is pushing hard with its OO product Jasmine (released last September), Wang acknowledges that relational databases are going to be around for "at least another 35 years". Thus, the ongoing commitment to Ingres and relational technology.

Unicenter TND is scheduled to ship in 1999. CA is beta testing a neugent add-on for TNG 2.2 which will predict performance of Windows NT servers, which it expects to release early next year.

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates also announced at the conference that Unicenter's real world interface will be bundled with Windows NT 5.0.

Andrea Malcolm travelled to New Orleans as a guest of Computer Associates.

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