CA to 'lively up' with life cycle in coming year

The software industry may have reached the end of the day when cool software tools hold a controlling influence on buying decisions. And, perhaps, "good-bye" to cool tools may mean "hello" to a new accent on configuration and change management software.

The heady days of startling IPOs for tools makers are certainly long passed. And the recent years' phenomenon, Java, which seemed destined for a certain amount of success no matter how many cool Java tools appeared, has been most notable as a runtime solution. IBM, as it pursues an "open source" bus for plug-and-play tools solutions, now seems to be moving its VisualAge tools under the umbrella of its WebSphere server line. At the same time, Microsoft's Visual Studio has become a more powerful competitor. Few software makers want to continue to grapple with Microsoft's flagship tool suite.

A recent meeting with Computer Associates (CA) International Inc. confirms that this major software player senses this trend. CA managers discussed strategy and markets with ADT editors in an end-of-year confab, and the development trend they foresee would seem to place a new emphasis on software development life-cycle products and less of an emphasis on tools per se.

CA has had a truly "annus horribilis." The Islandia, N.Y., software vendor has had to fend off questions about its reliance on mainframe revenues, as well as its accounting methods and acquisitions strategy, while all the time defending against an effort to remove its management. Marketing managers hope to get back on track in 2002.

"The development environment market is overpopulated. You are putting yourself [up] against IBM and Microsoft," Ricardo Antuna, CA's vice president of marketing, told ADT. In true enterprise development, Antuna continued, tools are only important in the context of configuration management.

"If people want to do real design, it is a configuration management issue," he explained. "Development teams are a black hole in terms of cost. Often, [managers] don't have a handle on the process."

Yet, said Antuna, they want to be able to determine whether IT development efforts are worthwhile. Thus, configuration and change management tools, often a sleepy backwater of the software business, become important.

Now Computer Associates wants to be a player in the market for software life-cycle products. This is not far-fetched; the firm has long fielded important change management software. Moreover, CA's 1999 purchase of Platinum Technology garnered the company significant process-oriented application life-cycle management offerings.

These products, highlighted by CCC Harvest, were perhaps obscured amid the giant portfolios CA gained in its acquisitions of Platinum and Sterling Software. Then too, CA's attention wandered in recent years as it played a rather long-running marketing game in which it directed customers' attention toward its new Jasmine object-oriented tools and database. Jasmine's major duty, it sometimes seemed, was to be cool technology befitting a modern "Web-savvy" company. A skeptical examiner might say this sideshow took over.

One is not likely to see such strong, continued emphasis on Jasmine, admitted Antuna, although, he noted, under the banner of "CA Common Services," Jasmine technology does serve as the interface bus for all of CA's software brands. Systems, process and infrastructure management, the company's traditional strengths, will again come into focus. Application life-cycle management products will be branded as part of the AllFusion product line. Application development, integration and information access, as well as databases will be part of the Advantage brand.

What this means for the development software market is that Rational Software has come into CA's sites. Long ago, Rational, which has been successful, took the tack that process management was more important than mere development environments. Platinum was about to take on Rational when it married CA instead.

The appeal of "the process" is attracting others as well. Among the notable development events this year was Merant's decision to reposition itself as an enterprise change management provider focused on its popular PVCS software.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.