On-demand computing headlines CA conference

By Heidi Biggar

At its annual CA World conference in Las Vegas this week, Computer Associates outlined its vision of on-demand computing and described some of the near-term steps the company plans to take toward that goal.

The concept of on-demand computing, or utility computing, is not new or exclusive to Computer Associates. Many of the leading storage vendors, including EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun, and Veritas, are also working on this type of strategy.

"It's tough to say exactly how the CA's offering will differ from competitive offerings because the details are sketchy," says Nancy Marrone-Hurley, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group.

However, one potential difference is CA's intent to integrate security features into its infrastructure, says Marrone-Hurley. "Beyond that, CA intends to automate network, storage, and server provisioning based on service-level agreements [SLAs], which is similar to other vendors' strategies," she says.

The code name for CA's on-demand computing platform is "Sonar," aptly named for its intended purpose of detecting, discovering, and managing on-demand business processes. "Sonar redefines the idea of management [by automatically mapping] discrete assets into the business process," said Sanjay Kumar, chairman and CEO at CA, during his keynote address earlier this week.

Today, that process is largely manual. By automating these processes, the IT infrastructure becomes more efficient, more responsive, and more flexible, according to CA. New capabilities include impact analysis (to see what would happen if IT resources were moved or re-assigned among business applications) and chargeback (the ability to charge back specific costs to actual business processes).

As for immediate benefits, improved utilization ranks high on the list. On-demand computing, through dynamic provisioning, addresses the problem of underused storage and network resources. Rather than throwing servers or storage at a business application, capacity is doled out to multiple business applications as needed--automatically.

"This is something that is hard to do [today] because of the different software, operating systems, etc., that are involved," explains Kumar. "You can't actually take a system [that is being used for transaction processes] around the holidays and move it on January 3 [to another critical business process]," he says. On-demand computing allows you to do this and more.

According to the META Group, utilization of Unix and Windows servers is under 25% over a 24-hour period, and storage utilization is estimated to be about the same.

Today, Sonar consists of four solutions, which span the company's Unicenter, eTrust, and BrightStor brands. For storage managers, BrightStor Process Automation Manager (BPAM) may be of most interest. BPAM automates the allocation and provisioning of storage resources across multiple platforms in response to business demands.

The software, which is in beta, currently automates two key functions: dynamic provisioning (specifically, for Microsoft Exchange) and storage area network (SAN) life-cycle management (adding new devices into a SAN). Both were demonstrated at CA World this week.

Other planned functions include automated volume management, restore, path fail-over and optimization, space reclamation, and configuration.

"BPAM is essentially the front-end to a workflow manager that enables users to invoke best practices for auto-provisioning, backup, change management, etc.," explains ESG's Marrone-Hurley. "It allows administrators to modify pre-defined process templates for each practice and then invokes a task manager (workflow manager) that automates tasks [from other CA applications via BrightStor Portal]."

BPAM currently automates actions taken by CA applications only and does not allow for users to request capacity and backup SLAs, explains Marrone-Hurley. Other similar products allow for such user interaction (e.g., Veritas Service Manager for Storage) and are application-independent (e.g., Invio Storage Practice Manager).

For now, BPAM is focused strictly on storage. General availability is slated for early next year. A key enabler of this technology is storage virtualization. Other BrightStor technologies, such as BrightStor Storage Resource Manager, SAN Designer, and SAN Manager, are also key components of the company's overarching strategy.

Also in Las Vegas, CA stressed the importance of integration and its intent to further integrate its product lines. The company announced the availability of two BrightStor Packs, the release of BrightStor Storage Resource Manager v6.0 later this month, its ongoing commitment to the ARCserve platform with the release of v10 later this year, and a partnership with Sony to provide WORM-enabled tape storage kits beginning next month.

This article was originally published on July 16, 2003