CA's Barrenechea talks about life after Oracle

FRAMINGHAM (09/23/2003) - Mark Barrenechea, senior vice president of product development at Computer Associates International Inc., assumed that position in June after leaving his post as senior vice president and executive management committee member at Oracle Corp. Barrenechea, who left Oracle on the day the company announced its intention to acquire PeopleSoft Inc. -- a coincidence, he stresses -- now reports directly to CA CEO Sanjay Kumar. He spoke with Computerworld Tuesday about his first 100 days on the job.

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

The thing I liked about the Oracle culture is it's a big company and it dominates in particular spaces. You can do great things when you're part of a big organization like that, with lots of resources. 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.

Is there anything you've discovered about the CA corporate culture that you think would be useful at Oracle?

To be useful, it would have to take root and grow. CA has a very unique culture. It is 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.

Any misperceptions about CA that were dispelled once you got there?

You don't appreciate the breadth of the offering until you really spend time studying it. In my first 100 days, I've gotten a greater appreciation of the art of the possible. For example, integrating security and asset management is something I wasn't thinking about before I got to CA. Most environments that are attacked by viruses or intrusions come from machines that aren't inventoried or managed properly within an organization.

Do you have data to back that up?

CA's CIO is also part of my organization. We only inventory about 60 percent of our assets at CA, and it's because we don't try. It's because you have developers who plug things into networks -- it's not misbehavior, it's just the culture and what's in their DNA. So we're continuing to extend our software to do network sniffing, like (CA's) Sonar (automated asset management technology). We're looking at lighter-weight discovery mechanisms so we don't intrude on the development culture to get that 60 percent up to 90 percent and then up to 95 percent, for example.

What's the closest thing to Sonar that's being offered by a competing vendor?

I really don't know of one. It was technology that we acquired (earlier this summer) out of Raytheon (which was using it) for government work. We went through a lot of steps to move it out of the government, into the public domain. There were certain portions we could not move for reasons of national security, and it's highly unique.

Raytheon retained the part of the technology that could not be commercialized?

Yes, they're continuing to run with that portion, and we're running with what we can move commercially.

Sun Microsystems last week announced a radical new pricing plan under which it bundled its back-end software and now licenses it based on the total number of employees a company has. 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 percent to 40 percent 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 you use. We made that transition; Microsoft hasn't made it, Oracle hasn't made it, IBM hasn't made that transition. Those are painful transitions. 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.

CA is one of many large vendors pushing on-demand computing. How are you distinguishing yourselves?

We're taking a more comprehensive, cross-platform approach to on-demand. For example, Oracle is basically Linux-(centric). If you look at (the Oracle) 10g (product line), I think the trouble with 10g is it relies completely on a homogeneous environment. It has to be all Oracle, and it has to be all Linux. That's not reality. Reality is these are complex environments. The one difference we have, compared to Oracle and possibly other vendors, is we're agnostic to the platform.

What direction is CA taking with respect to Linux?

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; NT for domain access, security, e-mail 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. It's a compelling performance-cost ratio.

Unix is conspicuous for its absence in 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 prominent architecture within an IT infrastructure.

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