News Stay informed about the latest enterprise technology news and product updates.

CA reborn with new tools and new focus

When Alan Nugent, senior vice president of enterprise systems management joined CA nearly a year ago, the company was still reeling from an Enron-esque scandal in 2004. The event scorched the company's financial credibility and prompted CEO Sanjay Kumar to resign following investigations into fraud and obstruction -- charges for which he has been indicted.

Since then, CA has caught its balance, replacing executive staff and offering a new package of system management tools in its Unicenter suite, including recent acquisitions of Wily Technology and Concord Communications. TechTarget recently sat down with Nugent, who says his company's new products and new direction are focused on growth.

So how has Unicenter improved?
The breadth of the product has changed dramatically. Our systems and database and management products span everything from the distributive environment to the mainframe, but we didn't have a lot of strength in the network and applications management space.

Related stories:

CA acquires Wily Technology

CA extends usage-based pricing to SMBs

When I came on board in April of last year, I was lucky enough that the company had already gone out and scouted the premier network management company, Concord Communications. We did the integration with Concord and that really extended our capabilities in the network space and opened a new market opportunity, in particular telco and voice. So where does the Wily acquisition fit in?
App management is hot. It isn't just about application performance management. It's about being able to discover applications natively in the environment; it's being able to track the changes to the configurations associated with them; it's about doing dependency mapping between all the assets that support the applications' execution environment.

We wanted to buy Wily, unfortunately for us at the time, Wily wasn't for sale and it took a bit of coaxing on our part to get them to realize that it was the right thing for both companies. We looked at what they wanted to do strategically, and what the customers were asking them to do. Their customers were very happy with what they had provided -- performance management for J2EE apps, but they wanted them to take that technology and help them manage other parts of the infrastructure. They were considering making some purchases. We had the gap on the app management side, but had all of the other technologies.

Alan Nugent
Alan Nugent, CA
So that was the selling point?
It was. And we did pay a premium [$375 million in cash]. But, it's a premium asset. It was well worth the investment. And the biggest benefit is not just the technology -- it's this cadre of really outstanding folks who have built this company since 1998. In terms of selling the new tools, have you found people stand-offish due to CA's recent financial scandals?
That doesn't seem to be the case. It pre-dated my arrival, but I certainly knew about it, because I've been in the industry a while. I'd say all of the customers that I've talked to, especially the larger ones, they recognize that those were the acts of the old regime. At this point, it's actually better for the customers, in the sense that, with all of the oversight that we have now, we're a much safer company to do business with than a lot of our competitors. So the team that's running the company today and has been running the company for about a year is totally different. And you'd say the customers know that?
The customers seem to know. Even as I look at the tone of analysts' discussions about CA -- it's changed pretty dramatically over the course of the last year. And you know, we're not done, we've got a long way to go, but this is very big company, a company with almost 30 years of history behind it, and most of it good.

So, from our perspective, as a new management team, the foundation, what we have to build on, is incredibly strong. Great people, great technology, keep adding to the portfolio through very strategic acquisitions, and when you look at all that, it's a very, very compelling story, and most customers are savvy enough to look beyond that stuff. Are there any misconceptions of CA you've heard that you'd like to address?
The misconceptions are pretty well-known, because of how CA did business in the past. Typically CA would acquire a company and most of the management team and a lot of the employees would go away, and they would basically charge maintenance money to the customers. The customers were not always treated as valued partners or clients or anything like that, they just wrote a check every year, or whatever the interval was. And that permeated throughout the company and even into the sales force, where they wouldn't bother to go in and sit down with the customer and say 'Hey, what other issues do you have?' It wasn't relationship selling, it was contract selling. So now that the company has rethought its customer stance, has the installed base responded?
I must have done 50 [customer] meetings during the CA World user conference last November. Customers were really bullish about the fact that we weren't just talking about making changes, we were actually making the changes. They were seeing their sales rep, maybe not the one that they used to see, but the sales rep they were seeing now came in, asked us questions. If there were issues in the account, they'd fix them. They weren't just sort of left to their own. And that, to me, is the real measure of whether we're making a difference in the market or not.

There still are a few customers out there who had been badly burned in one fashion or another, and it's probably going to take a bit more time to get them beyond that experience. But anyone who is willing to be objective, and invite us back in, is generally pretty happy by the time we're through. So how does the new software tie into the new look at customer relationships?
A good segue is to talk about the Unicenter r11 beta customers. We have two or three large beta customers -- I mean, large, like, scary-large. But they're exactly what you want to have happen with a beta product; you want these guys in there just beatin' the crap out of it because that just makes it a better product for everybody.

The three that gave us the most valuable and the most consistent testing throughout the process -- at the end, all three of them said 'I can't wait to put this product into production,' and that's the best thing a product development guy can hear. Will you have some customer references coming out?
Now that the product has gone into general release, we are working on the implementation planning for a number of customers. Hopefully we'll have some really good testimonials to talk about in the Spring. With a big company, you've got 15,000 servers, you've got 25-30,000 desktops, 40,000 users, dozens, probably hundreds of applications -- you have to really plan those.

An epiphany that occurred for me about 7 or 8 years ago, was, 'if there aren't any customers, then you don't sell any software -- so pay attention to the customers, listen to what they want.' It took me a long time to get that, but I got it. [chuckles] So there are humans at the end of all of this?
Yeah, I mean, that's it. I've done a lot of things over the course of my career, but this is pretty much the most fun I've had. It's a great bunch of people to work with. If you've got good people and you've got a good technology foundation, then you can overcome just about anything, and we're kind of the poster child for that.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Joe Spurr, News Write

Dig Deeper on Data Center jobs and staffing and professional development

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.