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Moving beyond befuddlement into cloud comforting – CA World

CA & Cloud

[IT is going to become] a manager of a dynamic supply chain of internal and external resources to deliver business services to internal and external clients.
–Ajei Gopal, CA World day two keynote

CA’s a favorite whipping boy for IT insiders. Their giant, long-lived portfolio and name change inducing events gets most people to snicker when you mention “CA.” They’re a classic big spend enterprise vendor: comprehensive, enterprise priced, and rarely innovation-leading. So, their string of acquisitions of relatively young and hip companies in recent past has left folks befuddled. What exactly is CA doing with 3Tera, Nimsoft, NetQoS, Oblicore, and others?

Stated reasons have been access to new markets (SMB and MSP with Nimsoft) and jamming in cloud (3Tera and, to an extent, NetQoS). The first few days of CA World in Las Vegas have reinforced that messaging: CA is all over the cloud, but with the experienced hand of an elder company. They’re not going to shatter the peace of your glass house…unless you want them to. The cloud is here, but we’ll trickle it in, or gush it in – you pick the speed. Hybrid clouds are the thing, getting around security concerns like “I don’t know where my data is.”

Cloud Comfort

The tone and agenda so far indicates that CA believes their customers are afraid of using cloud technologies, unsure about it. Both keynotes have revolved less around technology, and more around soothing IT about becoming cloud friendly.

It’s like the old folk-lore about instant messaging in enterprises. “No one in my shop is using IM!” CIOs would decry as employee installed and used public IM clients by the thousands. More important, the ease of installing that technology and the heightened communication it brought made IM invaluable, no matter how non-enterprise (that is, not under the control of the corporation for purposes for security, compliance, and SLAs).

So far, CA’s doing a good job talking the cloud talk – even with rational insertions of technologies that do the visionary stuff. At least in presenting, they seem to understand the mapping of cloud practices – mass-automating, charge back-cum-metered billing, etc. – to existing IT management practices and their own technologies. Most folks CA’s size would skim over the actual products you used to put cloud theory into practice.

Steady as she goes

All of this has to be tempered with some reality, of course: CA has just recently latched onto all this cloud hoopla, and to think that they have a “solved” portfolio is silly. Indeed, CA is charting out maturity, adoption cycles. As Ajei Gopal put it, CA wants to “to work with our customers, at the rate and pace they’re comfortable with” when applying cloud.

Their cloud community, Cloud Commons is all about the comforting approach to applying cloud: talking with peers to figure out what works and doesn’t work, moving beyond the “put all the servers on eBay” IT-by-headline freakout…that sort of thing.

CA clearly believes that cloud is a future for IT. At the same time, they know there’s no end of legacy IT that you can’t just throw out. They want to provide their customers a gradual path, nothing too dramatic.

Legacy IT Cloud Anchors

Mandalay Bay

The joke at IT management shows is that “IT never goes away.” Getting beyond that is what the original hope of the cloud was – finding an excuse to trash all that old stuff that’s become calcified, expensive to run, and whose business value is unmeasurable. You’ve got all those old systems, and there’s no way to figure out the risk of moving away from them vs. the cost of keeping them. How do you run the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” analysis?

That core problem hasn’t been addressed too well by existing vendors, where-as new ones like a more slash and burn approach. As larger, existing vendors get into cloud computing, the driving question for big shops is one of transformation and enabling new projects. Never mind preserving the legacy anchor you have, how can you eliminate the drudgery of infrastructure management (old and new) so you can focus on actually building new IT to tool new business ideas and plans?

You can smell big consulting deals looming around there: 6 months to discover all the IT services a company has and then sort out road-maps for cloudizing – or not – each. Then a cycle for acquiring technologies to manage and run the cloud, and so on.

How do you make an in-run around that buzz kill cycle? No one really know at this point. The middleware plus infrastructure portfolio that VMWare is building up starts to look interesting: slapping up a bunch of light-weight interfaces on lumbering legacy and, hopefully, allowing new development to keep legacy IT from tricking into schedule friction. Or you could isolate the old from the new. Who knows? Being caught in this quagmire is the whole point. The guiding question is how any cloud-tooler, like CA, is going to help prevent IT from getting stuck with more legacy IT, cloud-based or not.

Categories: Cloud, Enterprise Software, Systems Management.

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