Computer Associates, the world's second largest software company, began its annual technical conference in New Orleans last week with the intensity of a major rock concert.
Charles Wang, CA chairman and chief executive officer, emerged like a star onto a stage filled with smoke and lit by laser lights. It felt more like a Michael Jackson concert than an IT conference, until the speeches began.
"CA is the only logical choice for business software to run your entire enterprise," proclaimed Wang, in his keynote address at CA-World.
CA is on a mission to capture the enterprise computing market and has elected two products to help it achieve that: Unicenter TNG, an enterprise, network and systems management tool; and Jasmine, its forthcoming object-oriented database development environment.
Last week, in an attempt to widen the appeal of Unicenter TNG, CA announced a major enhancement to the product. Called the Unicenter TNG Framework, it is a set of cross-platform services which can be used by third party developers to build system management add-on applications for TNG.
The Framework comes with tools based on TNG's three-dimensional user interface, which provides a virtual view of a company's network resources for correcting system faults and performing other such tasks. The tools could be used by third-party developers to build additional three-dimensional system management applications for TNG.
The Framework also includes an object repository for managing objects in TNG, as well as event management, scheduling, cataloguing and virus detection services.
"For the first time the industry has a framework with all the services organisations need for enterprise management," claimed Wang. "Our aim is to increase the penetration of enterprise management solutions throughout the industry."
The strategy puts CA, which claims to be the market leader for enterprise management software, into direct competition with IBM's Tivoli. Last week several major software and hardware companies lined up to support the Unicenter TNG Framework initiative, including Data General, Digital, Fujitsu ICL, Hewlett-Packard, NCR, SCO, Tandem and Unisys.
Each of those companies has agreed to integrate the Unicenter TNG Framework into their system management offerings. HP, for example, has promised to ship all its Unix and Windows NT-based servers with the
Unicenter TNG Framework. In addition, it will integrate the framework into its System Administration Manager and Cluster Manager software, as well as become a reseller for Unicenter TNG and provide support and consultancy services.
According to CA, the Unicenter TNG Framework is the first of its kind capable of deploying custom system management applications across all the major operating and hardware platforms. It also claims the framework saves developers having to build management applications for multiple platforms.
Another advantage is the way the framework allows developers to exploit its built-in services in their own management applications.
The second major focus at CA-World was Jasmine, the company's much-anticipated and long-awaited object-oriented database tool. Delegates were given a preview CD containing Jasmine, although the complete product won't ship for another few months yet.
Jasmine is at the crux of the company's move to establish itself as the number two database company, behind Oracle. It is currently ranked number four. Unlike Oracle and Informix, which have both embraced object-relational database models, CA has taken a pure object approach with Jasmine. CA believes its model is better and claims Oracle and Informix have both made compromises with their object databases, Oracle8 and Informix Universal Server, for the sake of maintaining backwards compatibility.
For users wanting to stick with traditional relational database technology, CA will continue to offer its Ingres database, about which it was equally bullish.
"Ingres needs less database administrators than Oracle," claimed John Ainsworth, vice president for research and development at CA. "In Oracle there is no recourse if something goes wrong during an on-line system update."
Ainsworth explained that Ingres offers a transaction model for system updates, so that if something did go wrong the database could be restored to where it was prior to the failed update.
Ainsworth confidently believes users will find CA more compelling than its competitors because of its support for Microsoft. "Unlike Oracle we are not in the business of Microsoft bashing," he said.
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