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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Interview with John Michelsen, CTO of CA Technologies (Part 4)

Posted on Sunday, Apr 21st 2013

Sramana Mitra: I talked to some of the Thought Leaders in Big Data interviewees who think that the problem is not so much the data part. The real challenge is designing algorithms, especially the machine learning algorithms that can take the data and do interesting things with it. The data itself is really not as complicated to deal with; it is more about what you do with it.

John Michelsen: At the same time, though, the analytics layer is dependent on capabilities of the underlying big data platform. Therefore, those have to become much more robust and better at being fussy. It is a difficult trade-off between analytics on what you know and unstructured data that you have to apply structure to. There is this very interesting marriage between big data platform and analytics platforms. I would say we are doing more interesting stuff in analytics right now.

SM: In IT operations and in automation, there are a lot of unmanageable things going on. That also seems to have gone through a renaissance. What is your perspective on that?

JM: This is the classic problem for our largest customers. We just did what we call the innovation imperative, where we calculated that at least 63% of an IT budget is just keeping the lights on, because things are already in production and working. We heard other studies that predict 80%. I remember talking to a CIO years ago. He said, “John, you don’t understand. I maintain a bigger than a billion dollar IT budget, but I have about $800,000 that I have already spent starting the year. I try to get $80,000 to $100,000 worth of actual innovation, where I can try, fail and not wreck the business. So, less than 10% of where I am is in that realm.” There has been a lot of movement there. Our customers just can’t live without instrumenting and automating everything. That is the fundamental premise behind their making that transformation and bringing their “business as usual” down further and further. By instrumentation and automation, I mean you deploy applications and we provide the ability to monitor those at every end point, every insight and every box, so you can truly understand the performance, the use cases and the customer experience. Historically, they only put that in the most critical applications. What they realized then was, “I am spending 80% of my time on interesting applications then, because when there are problems I still have to go an investigate it – scanning log files, rerunning tests, trying to find out what happened. I am doing very labor intensive and low value activity.”

What they are realizing is they need to automate and instrument their application environment and data centers more and more. This is giving them the ability to rise higher and higher. I just saw numbers recently – about six or seven years ago there were 100 to 200 servers per admin in IT. Today, the state of the art is between 700 and 900. That is the renaissance, that we have been able to deliver technology to customers to the extent that they can get the same or even a higher level of service to their users at ten times the infrastructure coverage.

SM: Let’s move to acquisitions. What has been the thinking process of CA in that regard – what have you acquired and why?

JM: Our big trade show is CA World. We will be announcing re-acquisitions and I will give you an idea of what we were thinking. First, we have so much we can accomplish for our customers in terms of mobility that we are doing organically. But there are a couple of things we needed to do from an inorganic point of view. There are several areas of mobility that we want to address. One is simply that all of our applications deserve and should have a mobile user interface – every single one of them, even our mainframe applications that have had a 30-year customer life cycles will have mobile interfaces. Mobile is permeating the user or presentation layer of practically everything we are doing.

Then there are specific  mobile technology challenges that our customers face; these are around device management, application management, performance management, security challenges, etc. We are definitely operating in there, because we are doing those activities for our customers in the non-mobile world. Therefore, it just makes sense for us to be the leading provider of those capabilities in a mobile-connected world.

Another area is back to that classic automation or IT management space. We have an enormous heritage and a lot of technology in the setting up, resetting and provision of services. We have done a lot of good work in terms of cloud or virtualization based management. But we have more work to do at the application layer. Historically the company had a good notion of what it meant to set up machines, burn in machines and resetting environments. What about all the application automation? Deploying application components, pulling out of built servers, source code control and configuration management of applications. We made a critical acquisition for ourselves there, and we will announce that at CA World. I also want to mention that we are doing a variety of technology buys. They don’t have big price tags, but they have very important things, like great people who had early and smart thinking in an area that we need to be a part of. We make acquisitions on a continuous basis where we find that people are doing something interesting.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Interview with John Michelsen, CTO of CA Technologies
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