CA's CTO Al Nugent: "Enterprise IT is like a lasagne"

On the eve of the closing day of CA’s annual user conference, its chief technologist talks about the strategic and technological direction of the management software firm.

We're not going to start trying to get into the firewall business, but we do work in the growing identity and access management (IAM) space. We traditionally spent a lot of money developing software for the bottom part of the stack too.

But now we're more focused on picking domains in which we can excel in a more business-oriented fashion.

Overall, taking the recipe metaphor further, I'd say EITM is like a lasagne; multi-layered with many different ingredients. But you can't make a lasagne without first making the tomato sauce, then the bchamel sauce and so on. It depends on what particular cuisine you're aiming for too. Let's say that, whatever recipe' the business chooses, it will most likely use IP [internet protocol] addressable devices, and how you govern, manage and secure that is going to have profound implications for other areas of the IT and business.

Can you give us a tangible example of how the CA approach to EITM has evolved to where it is today?

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Take employee on boarding'. It's just one part of the lifecycle of an employee identity. So we've created an abstraction from the processes needed to support employee on boarding that takes a set of pre-existing ingredients to combine them, like the lasagne, to be interoperable according to this particular process. It's still work in progress, but we've been building products that will be out early next calendar year that will provide an integration platform for managing such processes.

The good news is that, if these tools are used at any point, they will add value if you decide to rip and replace existing products or not. We're one of the few vendors committed to making sure the IT organisation doesn't have to rip out [BMC] Remedy, for instance, in order to use our monitoring and automation products. It would be a fool's errand to suggest companies do that, because the likes of these management tools create processes that become more sticky over time. We're designing our products in a way that you don't have to touch the underlying operational processes that already exist if you don't want to.

Not many vendors make as much of the interoperability of your products with those of other vendors. Given the growing complexity of modern enterprise IT architectures how have you managed to develop products that you know can deliver on this promise?

It's all about getting the early design work done generically enough that it can be content driven. For example, our data centre automation product manages just data centres right now. But could we do an IAM automation product using the same engine? Absolutely. The engine handles the automation of the services. But it only takes on a certain behaviour when you apply content to it. How you provision the engine is art of it.

But we've also had our people go out there and share the content requirements with real business people. The essence of the success of this approach is that, in order to be good at designing engines like this, you have to hire real' architects. That's meant with no disrespect to other IT architects.

But take construction, for example. An architect will design the house, but not build it. They rely on construction experts for that. But they still have to know how to design that house in order to be buildable'. We only have maybe a couple of dozen architects like this in an organisation of some five thousand people. So they have an important job to play in mentoring and interacting with the business architects. We're in the business of practical innovation.

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