CA in virtualisation push

CA is set to announce a group of products aimed squarely at the new-world data centre and its growing ranks of virtual machines.

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CA is set to announce a group of products aimed squarely at the new-world data centre and its growing ranks of virtual machines.

The arena of virtualisation management tools has become highly competitive, with everyone from VMware to innovative startups such as Vizioncore rushing to build tools to help IT automate, manage and track many aspects of virtualisation technologies.

One factor is said to be playing in CA's favour: IT shops are reluctant to throw out the management and governance tools that they know and love from the physical PC and server world-tools for which CA is a market leader, along with HP, IBM and others.

CA will debut Data Centre Automation Manager 11.2, plus nine tools aimed at infrastructure, application performance and service management, as well as information governance.

Like many products in its category, CA's Data Centre Automation Manager tool seeks to minimise the amount of time IT spends caring for virtual machines, while improving agility and efficiency.

It includes elements such as a rules-based policy engine and the ability to analyze performance measures and configuration details from apps and systems, while integrating with other CA tools including CA AutoSys Workload Automation, CA NSM, CA Service Desk, and CA Wily Introscope. The new products will all be available within a few weeks.

But what does CA have to offer IT managers that other virtualisation tools vendors do not? "Our position of strength is the view of end-to-end management," said chief executive John Swainson, noting that his customers look to CA to manage systems ranging from large mainframes to modest clients.

Swainson also said CA will emphasize its experience with the largest IT shops. "We understand the problems of managing this stuff at scale," he says. "In the virtual environment, frankly, scale is even more important."

VMware, no stranger to the fact that customers want to use management tools from multiple vendors, introduced its plans for a Data Centre OS at VMworld last month. The company envisions this OS as a layer into which other tools vendors can plug, using APIs.

CA sees the data centre OS as a worthwhile idea, says Swainson, who said virtualised shops were not leaning toward all VMware or Microsoft virtualisation management tools for simplicity's sake.

"Do you honestly think VMware and Microsoft are going to work together to create an end to end management solution? I don't think so," Swainson said. "We can provide a higher-value layer on top of those environments."

CA is not the only company that can do so. HP takes a similar approach to CA's, not making hypervisor technology itself like VMware or Microsoft, but offering hardware that makes sense for highly-virtualised data centres, as well as already-known management tools that can pull data from virtualised environments as well as physical ones. HP, with its acquisition of EDS also has a large services organisation to help customers with virtualisation projects.

The largest enterprise IT shops are still in the early phases of virtualisation, said Swainson, who estimated less than 20 percent of his customers are using virtual servers in a production environment, as opposed to a test environment. That number seems low compared to results from CIO.com's most recent survey on virtualisation adoption ; but remember, CA's customers are some of the very largest IT shops, Swainson notes.

Those customers include some of the financial industry firms whose futures are being rewritten due to the ongoing market crisis. How is it affecting CA? "I don't completely know yet," Swainson says. "The dust hasn't settled. We do best in situations of scale. Our customers historically have been the largest users of IT. Whether it's under Lehman's brand or someone else's brand, people will need systems to drive transactions."

Given that these large financial firms have been some of the earliest, most aggressive adopters of VMware's technology, does CA really have lessons of scale to offer customers that VMware does not?

"It's not really a lesson of scale we're talking about but assuring the performance, availability and accurate configuration of the business service," said Donna Scott, VP at Gartner. "Of course large shops have to scale as well. VMware manages VMs but not the broader business service. Large financial shops need both tools to manage the business service and those that manage VMs. One approach will not do."

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