The View From The Airport: CA World 2017

Good acquisitions put the company in a strong position for DevOps


It's time to say goodbye to CA World for another year and also to Las Vegas. CA Technologies has held its annual conference at the Mandalay Bay hotel for the past decade, but persistent rumours that the company will be moving the event to Miami for 2018 have now been officially confirmed.

This year's CA World has been largely focused on consolidation. CA has just about finished integrating the various companies it picked up as part of its mammoth $1.3 billion acquisition spree over the last year or so and is now in a position to start taking its newly expanded portfolio out to the market.

That was reflected in the content of the show, which leant heavily on DevOps, security and automation, powered by tools brought over from the likes of Veracode and Automic. This fits in well with the company's existing strategy of emphasising the importance of digital transformation and agile, although it was less bullish about the former than it was last year.

Instead, CA is throwing all of its weight behind its concept of 'the modern software factory'. Based on CTO Otto Berkes' book Digitally Remastered, the idea's over-arching principle is that in order to survive, businesses need to be able to rapidly adapt to new opportunities and market changes by quickly releasing new software.

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CA repeatedly emphasised over the course of the show that companies needed to be able to rapidly pivot their strategies, using agile methods and DevOps tools to increase their time-to-value. It's a sound principle and fits well with CA's strengths, so I'd expect this idea of 'the modern software factory' to figure heavily in the company's strategy for the foreseeable future.

It's evidently working, too; the event's keynote speeches included a laundry list of notable customers, with CEO Mike Gregoire and other executives name-dropping the likes of the FBI, Netflix and AMC, alongside many others. It's not surprising that the company is keen to show off how many high-profile organisations and government bodies.

CA's in-house accelerator programme got a lot more stage time this year, too. This interesting little unit basically operates like a virtual VC, and allows CA employees to pitch startup ideas. If they're aproved, these ideas are funded, managed and operated exactly like a normal startup, just within the confines of CA.

The accelerator was mentioned last year, but was still in its early stages. It appears to have grown and matured since then, and has started to bear fruit in the form of interesting technologies.

One of the least sexy parts of CA's business, however, is the company's mainframe division, and CA knows it. That didn't stop CA trying to make it a bit more interesting though, by talking up the potential impact of using mainframes for blockchain applications. While I'm not entirely sure this will catch on as much as CA wants it to, it's one of the more novel ways of keeping interest alive around mainframes.

Overall, CA World 2017 showcased a stronger CA than we've seen in recent years. Intelligent acquisitions have given them a strong footing in areas like DevOps, analytics and application security, and these elements have been brought together to form a confident and well-rounded package.

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Now that organisations have largely been sold on the value of agile and DevOps as concepts, CA's next job will be to get them on-side as customers. Expect a big push from the company over the next year as the company ramps up its efforts to get people on board.

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