Computer Associates Jumps Into The Grid Computing Fray

Software giant Computer Associates wants to be known as the company to turn to for grid computing.

The company made its public debut this week in the on-demand computing space with a rollout of six products, and a keynote speech on the topic by CEO Sanjay Kumar at NETWORLD+INTEROP in Las Vegas.

The products, three of which are available now and three of which are in beta, include Unicenter Network and Systems Management (Unicenter NSM) 3.1, which CA says now allows IT organizations to view IT infrastructure based on the services it supports, and to keep those views current in a dynamically changing environment. This information is vital for on demand computing, where resources are continually re-allocated to services based on demand.

Unicenter NSM also now features a dynamic reconfiguration option, which can monitor business service levels, anticipate when more capacity is needed to improve performance, and trigger the immediate allocation of more capacity.

That’s key, says CA Chairman and CEO Sanjay Kumar, because one of the big challenges facing IT departments today is getting computing power to the right place at the right time.

“The majority of hardware deployments today are overengineered,” Kumar says, “because customers are managing to peak demand. They are running boxes with 25 percent utilization. Some of these boxes are under utilized, some of them hit peak capacity very quickly, and customers spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure out which box is out of capacity, and how to reconfigure it, or get another one online.”

The other products include tools for managing webMethods 3.0, an asset management tool, a program to alert service desk personnel to problems in the grid, and an automated software delivery and provisioning package designed to accommodate the demands of grid computing.

The products announced by CA will enable customers to manage their computing resources like a utility within their own enterprise. The goal, says Kumar, is “to allow customers to logically pool these computing resources to take advantage of the common components that are in the computing infrastructure.”

CA has been working with customers on utility computing for a year, says Kumar, and sees these products as only the first phase in CA’s on-demand computing strategy.

“Much of what technology companies are talking about [with grid computing] is still some years off,” Kumar says, “so CA’s aim is to get them better positioned to take advantage of some of the innovation that’s going to come.

“Our job,” he says, “is to help customers get ready for this on-demand paradigm, and get tools in place to make it a much easier transition.”

At least some CA customers are counting on the new products to help them get better use out of their IT infrastructure.

CSX Technology, for example, the IT arm of CSX, the largest railroad in the eastern U.S., has several hundred Unix servers, and more than 700 Windows NT servers scattered across the Eastern seaboard, says Cynthia Luman, vice president of operations for CSX Technology.

“At any given point, we probably have 10 to 15 percent utilization,” says Luman.

CSX is hoping to rearchitect its IT environment, and retire about a third of its existing infrastructure, says Lumen. Moving to an on-demand environment will help it get better utilization and increasing the availability of the remaining systems.