Most people talk about the good old days, but a mainframer discussing CA software will probably talk about the bad old days.
Bad -- as in during the late 1990s, when CA's push onto distributed systems led to neglect of its mainframe customers and often resulted in operating system incompatibilities. Bad -- as in clunky 3270 green screens that had zero usability. And bad -- as in when it tried to automate software deployment tasks, as in CA Activator, and users ended up nicknaming it CA Agitator because of bugginess.
This week CA announced upgrades its Mainframe 2.0 initiative, an effort to ease downloading and deployment of mainframe software. The effort includes upgrades to 143 of 166 mainframe products, which are expected to be broadly available by the end of this month. Updates include a Web-like front-end look to entice new mainframers and reduce the headaches for those who have dealt with clunky mainframe software for decades.
"I've been around CA software for 16-plus years," said Richard Resnick, the information services manager of systems and operations at the University Community Hospital in Tampa, Fla. "In the beginning, the mainframe was their bread and butter. When I called tech support, I got knowledgeable people on the phone. Then they kind of broke into the open systems market, and the mainframe tools were kind of pushed to the back burner, and they weren't as responsive."
"But in the last couple years," Resnick added, "it's swung back the other way, where the mainframe is a lot more important to them."CA boosts mainframe features' usability
CA previewed some of the Mainframe 2.0 features at CA World in November. Francis Lemonda, the executive director for Verizon data services, saw some of them.
"The feature functionality has always been pretty rich and pretty extensive," he said. "But it had been sometimes costly and sometimes hard to use. The usability features have improved. They decided to come out and ask the customer about the product and how it could be made better, and I think they've listened. They've simplified interfaces and made products more stable."
Christopher O'Malley, the head of CA's mainframe business unit, said a group of users -- members of its mainframe strategic advisory council -- visited its campus in suburban Chicago last week to test the final products. O'Malley claimed that for experienced CA mainframe software users, installation time for a particular group of software products was cut from 30 minutes to five minutes. For a novice, he said the time reduction is 2.5 hours to seven minutes.
"It was interesting to have the client see it," O'Malley said. "It actually looks like a Mac."
But there's still room for improvement, users said. Resnick said that for him, there are two parts of the install. First, the base issues, like making sure the software release will communicate with the operating system release and the database software.
"Then you have to customize it with user parameters and so forth," Resnick said. "What I've seen from Mainframe 2.0, it handles the first part of that. It's not handling all the customization yet. When it does that, then it will be complete."
Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.