CA Reaches For Unified Network Management

Unicenter r11 was launched at CA World 2005, the Islandia, N.Y., company's annual customer conference. The new product now consists of four separate modules and two ancillary products under the Service Availability umbrella that can be used together to control a network.

With its Service Availability solution, CA wants a platform that reaches out into mixed network environments, collects every bit of data regarding all hardware and software, and then presents the findings through a single interface. From that single interface, and the central database that mines and correlates network data, nearly every network management task can be achieved, be it service and patch management, security and performance management, compliance and reporting, access configuration and task automation, said Russell Artzt, CA's executive vice president of products.

The components of the Service Availability solution are Unicenter Network and Systems Management (NSM) r11, Unicenter Advanced System Management (ASM) r11, Unicenter Service desk r11, Unicenter Service Metric Analysis r11. Those products can be coupled with CA's eTrust security and BrightStor storage management software as well as integrate with third-party software applications, according to Alan Nugent, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise systems management at CA

Granular inspection of network data is a key characteristic of the new CA offerings. For example, the Desktop and Sever management view of NSM give administrators a view that extends beyond a PC's available memory, processor type, and OS licensing, and can tell how many available slots there are on the board, said Artzt. Leveraging a central database, software inventory data can be correlated with hardware descriptions to tell, for example, how many servers with system hardware that doesn't require a Microsoft Advanced Server license are running the OS. This type of management insight can save companies millions of dollars, said Artzt.

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Quickly being able to integrate existing, "owned" network data with new "discovered information" adds a proactive edge to EITM, said Artzt. Also, not having to rip-and-replace any existing IT investment is another plus, he said. CA has integrated a number of open standards, including SNMP, XML, and SOAP, and opened the APIs of Service Availability to enable third party hardware and software to be managed under the same roof, said Artzt.

Like any new technology, CA's Service Availability solution has its skeptics.

At the conference, Michael Neimark, system engineer with Elbit Systems, a CA partner and builder of defense technology in Israel, said he might just recommend to his firm that they wait until the next version of Service Availability - the one that has all the bugs worked out - before committing to the platform.

"The idea is a beautiful idea to have everything in one view, in one interface,' said Neimark. "But in practice when you drill down into the data (within Service Availability) you begin to discover things that are missing."

Neimark added that CA's focus of centralizing all network management under one roof conjured up the old fear of being stuck with a "single point of failure."

Service Availability's reoccurring theme of centralization led some CA partners to recall the vendor's mainframe roots.

Ayman Dalloul, who was attending CA World 2005 as a representative of Comium Services, a CA partner and solutions provider in Beirut, Lebanon, said EITM "is a move back to the mainframe mentality" for CA. This wasn't a bad thing, said Dalloul. Comium itself runs a large, distributed, mixed vendor network, and a centralized management solution would be a plus, said Dalloul. "We want a common NOC to control everything," he said.

Another attendee at CA World 2005, a storage administrator for a large banking organization and CA customer in Buffalo, N.Y., that has over 300 sites across the country, said his organization has been moving from a distributed computing model back to a mainframe model over the last year. The main reason for the transition to more centralized computing was more reliable storage backup, he said.

Alan Teil, who was at CA World 2005 as a representative of the Westfield Group, a large shopping mall conglomerate headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., said he hoped CA's new solution would do everything the vendor promised. Westfield's network is complex and diverse, and the company "is looking for a single solution," he said.