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CA makes virtualisation push, stays above VMware vs Microsoft fray

CA makes virtualisation push, stays above VMware vs Microsoft fray

CA, a vendor that made its name with tools for managing complex data centers long before virtualization became a household word, Tuesday will announce a group of products aimed squarely at the new-world data center and its growing ranks of virtual machines. Can CA convince customers that it's a knowledgeable and steady kind of Switzerland for virtualization tools, while VMware and Microsoft continue to throw marketplace slugs? Hewlett-Packard is taking a similar approach with success thus far. But it may not be easy.

The category of virtualization 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 virtualization technologies.

One factor playing in CA's favor: 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.

With Tuesday's announcement, CA debuts Data Center 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 Center Automation Manager tool seeks to minimize 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 virtualization tools vendors do not? "Our position of strength is the view of end-to-end management," says CA CEO John Swainson, noting that his customers look to CA to manage systems ranging from large mainframes to modest clients.

Swainson also says 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 Center 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 center OS as a worthwhile idea, says Swainson, who pooh-poohed the idea of virtualized shops leaning toward all VMware or Microsoft virtualization 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 says. "We can provide a higher-value layer on top of those environments."

CA isn't the only company that can do so, of course. 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-virtualized data centers, as well as already-known management tools that can pull data from virtualized environments as well as physical ones. HP, with its acquisition of EDS also has a large services organization to help customers with virtualization projects.

The largest enterprise IT shops are still in the early phases of virtualization, says Swainson, who estimates 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 virtualization 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 doe 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 doesn't?

"It's not really a lesson of scale we're talking about but assuring the performance, availability and accurate configuration of the business service," says Donna Scott, a VP and distinguished analyst 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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