New CA software will ‘build bridges’ between business and IT

CA Technologies is releasing software that will include a social networking feature that will involve non-IT staff in the evaluation of cloud computing services, say company executives.

The newly renamed Islandia, NY-based software firm plans to release CA Cloud Insight and Compose this October. They will be followed by two more applications – Cloud Optimize will be released in April 2011 and Orchestrate in fourth quarter of 2011 – to make up the new Cloud Connected Management Suite.

The suite is CA’s debut of software capabilities it picked up when it acquired 3Tera, Oblicore and Cassatt over the past months.

Insight will give IT departments visibility into their organization’s use of cloud computing. CA hatched the idea after a survey of customers found half of them were unaware of how many cloud applications staff were using. Often, this can be explained by an ad-hoc user who simply side-steps the IT department by tapping a cloud-based service on their own.

“IT departments need access to relevant data about cloud services,” says Chris O’Malley, executive vice-president of cloud products for CA. “We’re starting to look at IT as a supply chain management challenge … improving the business means building a better supply chain.”

The tool makes sense for larger organizations where IT might move slowly to respond to certain time-sensitive department requests, says Chuck Gorder, chief technology officer at New York-based – a 3Tera customer.

It could turn rogue users into collaborators with IT departments.

“Sometimes there’s a fight between IT and line-of-business workers,” Gorder says. “Those tend to become emotional arguments and that’s not really relevant for the business.”

Insight will integrate with CA’s Cloud Commons community, a newly launched Web site that offers standardized scores of hundreds of cloud-based services. The program presents a user-interface that allows users to compare graphs and scores of cloud-delivered services on six different characteristics: quality, agility, risk, cost, capability and security.

Carnegie Mellon University developed the Service Management Index (SMI) with funding from CA. They are presenting it as an industry standard for evaluating cloud-based IT services.

The software will also be used by non-IT staff. Line-of-business workers can be called upon by IT department workers to participate in a pilot project, and help evaluate a potential new service.

The program offers role-based access to non-technical workers similar to a social networking site, says David Hodgson, senior vice-president of cloud products for CA. The user interface will be easy to use.

“It feels a bit like a blog,” he says. “They’d be taking part in assessing things using the SMI framework. They would be asking questions or looking at data and drilling down through the characteristics.”

Insight wouldn’t be a good fit at because the business is so focused on one thing, Gorder says. But the independent technology consultant sees it as being useful in a larger organization where there are more competing interests.

“It creates a nice migration path and allows customers to evaluate applications based on their own merits,” he says. “It sort of brings the small player into the enterprise in a way that’s democratic.”

Gorder has been approached several times by line-of-business workers – usually in marketing – who want to go around the IT department. Now they might now have too. But it will be important for the SMI to gain critical mass if it’s to become a useful evaluation tool, he says.

Cloud Commons launched Sunday night, and will have six months to collect data before Insight hits the market, Hodgson says. CA has already fed data into the community with a study conducted by analyst firm IDC. There will be more studies to come.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) working with CA could also soon embed an interface into their services that would directly report information back to Cloud Commons.

“It’s a win-win because they get to collect data on the quality of the service they provide,” Hodgson says. “The community gets more data to evaluate the services on.”

CA also released details on the functions of the other three products in its upcoming Cloud Connected Management Suite:

  • Cloud Compose will liberate applications from physical hardware by virtualizing them and providing management tools. Metering, operations monitoring, and management capabilities will be included with this software.
  • Cloud Optimize will use SMI concepts and Cloud Commons information to help users make best use of external and internal IT services and infrastructure.
  • Cloud Orchestrate will provide workflow control and automation based on inputs from the other programs in the software suite.

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