CA is expected to announce a product and services initiative titled "Mainframe 2.0" on Tuesday at its CA World 2008 conference in Las Vegas.
Along with IBM and BMC, CA is pushing tools and services aimed at making mainframe computing easier. This goal is said to be pressing because the mainframe workforce is graying, and the academic pipeline isn't healthy enough to replace those workers.
Meanwhile, due to lower-cost mainframe options from IBM, renewed interest in the platform for its perceived stability, and potential energy cost savings over large, distributed data centers, mainframes seem to be enjoying a resurgence.
"The strategic importance of the mainframe is the same as it was back in the '80s," said Chris O'Malley, executive vice president and general manager of CA's mainframe business unit.
CA will discuss this week how it plans to make its mainframe management software easier for inexperienced IT workers to use; give the products a uniform, browser-based front end; work on automation that deals with the complexities of the IBM z/OS mainframe operating system; and provide "turnkey" services for filling gaps in the skillsets of in-house IT staffers.
The last offering might be the one most needed, according to a CA-commissioned study of Fortune 2000 companies. The survey found that 80 percent of respondents had mainframe staff eligible for retirement now or within two years.
However, the mainframe workforce may not shrink as quickly as some believe, according to Richard Ptak, an analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates.
"Given the state of the economy, there are probably a lot of people who thought they were retiring who aren't going to be," he said.
But there is "a definite need" for the types of products and services being developed by CA and others, he said.
The market is also evolving in a way that benefits customers, he said. CA, BMC and IBM are "all trying to reach the point where they have a unified, consistent platform that will pull together all their tools as well as plug in others," Ptak said. "Their vision is all the same."