Today's focus: What to look for in CA-Concord deal

By Dennis Drogseth

Just in case you needed a reminder that network management is an
area still worth real investment, you can take heart from
Computer Associates' move to acquire Concord Communications.

CA is investing $330 million with an assumption of debt of an
added $20 million. Concord had itself recently acquired Aprisma
Management Technologies for $93 million from Gores Technology
Group in January - and Aprisma's Spectrum, with its advanced
root-cause analytics, is one of the most critical jewels for CA.

The investment, although not at all out of line with the value
of the portfolio and client base (3,000 Concord customers and
1,000 Aprisma customers, some of whom overlap), is substantial
and shows CA's real commitment to network management. And this
is "network management" in the more enlightened sense: going
beyond an element-centric view of the world to include broader
infrastructure interdependencies and supporting system,
application and service performance management.

CA has been struggling to assert itself in network management
and has made advances in its traditional Network Performance
Option and Advanced Network Operations products, which will be
further enhanced with announcements later this year.

CA has also invested in a technology, which it calls "sonar,"
derived from the 2003 acquisition of Silent Runner. Sonar,
initially a security product integrated with eTrust, does
advanced packet sampling and analysis to map anomalous
application flows across an infrastructure. It may shore up one
of Concord's weaknesses in performance management, bringing more
advanced application flow monitoring. CA will introduce sonar
capabilities in the context of advanced network diagnostics to
complement current offerings in security and service management.

Before the Concord acquisition, CA's network management products
were approaching respectability on their own, but there were
still some gaping holes. Root-cause analytics was and is
probably the single biggest area for improvement.

Root-cause analytics aside, there are still plenty of areas of
potential overlap between CA's network management portfolio and
that of Concord/Aprisma. CA has invested, for instance, in more
advanced auto-discovery, and certainly has made advances in
capturing performance issues across a network with reasonably
good visualization and nice toggling between past and present
performance information. But what CA gets with Concord and
Aprisma is a much-enriched portfolio and, above all, credibility
and brand recognition as a respected "network management"

Nevertheless, once you get past the initial blush - which is in
my opinion likely to be strongly positive for CA - the roadmap
that CA presents will be telling. Are we looking at two
virtually separate lines of business that are melded together by
services and bi-directional event sharing (a situation which
already exists between Spectrum and CA), or are we looking at a
daring move to integrate best-of-class technologies creatively?

This last question is especially significant given the draconian
but admirable direction CA has taken in pushing towards a
consistent data schema across its full portfolio - the so-called
"Management Data Base" (MDB). This will herald an era of
flexible data sharing across virtually all of CA's products,
with the Unicenter product suite (including network, systems,
applications, asset and service management) taking the lead. MDB
should bring CA a versatility and flexibility in seeing, for
instance, if a given asset is available, relevant to a service,
appropriate to a user, configured correctly, and performing
optimally - with different role-sensitive options to support
help desk, asset management, capacity planning, change
management or service-level management, etc.

If that sounds a lot like the industry directions toward a
Configuration Management Database (CMDB) for a single standard
data resource to support multiple management disciplines, well,
that's not entirely a coincidence, even though CA's initial
motive was architectural rather than process-centric as per the
initial CMDB guidelines of the IT Infrastructure Library.

It's worth noting that Concord is just now planning the
integration between its eHealth suite and Aprisma's Spectrum.
This integration in itself presents a complex set of options.

But beyond this, it will be interesting to see how CA leverages
Concord's powerful capabilities for visualization and analysis
across networks, systems and applications; Spectrum's rich
auto-discovery and analytics across networked infrastructure;
and both companies' capabilities in business service management.

What will we hear more about - MDB or professional services? The
difference will be the choice between a solid tactical
acquisition with a strong near-term blush that may eventually
fade, and a potentially brilliant and creative attempt to
redefine CA as a total solutions provider.


CA snaps up Concord
Network World Fusion, 04/11/05

Microsoft to unveil parts to grander management plan
Network World, 04/18/05

How vulnerable is the 'Net?
Network World, 04/18/05

Copyright Network World, Inc., 2005

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008