Computer Associates International, once satisfied with going it alone or buying its way into hot new markets, this year plans to lean on powerful partners to launch a slew of ambitious security, storage, management and other efforts.
Fresh off a year full of lawsuits and customer satisfaction issues, the company is trying to clean up its act. It started down that road last year by reorganising its 1,200 products into six brands. CA even unbundled its Unicenter management framework, offering customers more point products to address concerns about interoperability and the high cost of management software.
The next step for CA is to prove itself a capable partner, both for its own good and the benefit of customers who need their CA software to work with products from many other vendors. CA, which pulls in roughly US$5 billion in revenue annually, this year plans to team with the likes of AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, RSA Security and EMC to expand its technology offerings and its reach, according to CA executives during a series of recent briefings with Network World editors.
"Partnerships don't necessarily replace acquisitions, but in order to accelerate our growth, we're concentrating strongly on partnerships," says Russell Artzt, who co-founded CA in 1976 and is now overseeing the company's partnering efforts. "CA products are already in 95 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies, and these partnerships will open up new sales opportunities across all the brands."
To date, 95 partners have joined the CA Smart certification program, which the company initiated last July to ensure that other vendors' software and services work with CA's. Artzt hopes to triple the number of partners in the next few months.
Initially, CA was focusing on getting partners' products to work with its e-business wares, but the September 11 attacks has shifted the company's focus to security and other infrastructure technologies, such as storage, says Tarkan Maner, a CA marketing executive. While IT spending has dried up in many areas, companies at least appear to be spending on security technologies, he says.
In February, CA plans to use RSA Security's annual conference to announce an initiative, code-named CA Genesis, which will exploit four resource centers scattered around the globe, and partnerships with government and academic agencies to detect viruses before they strike customers' networks. The resource centers will research potential virus threats and possibly provide automated virus updates as a paid service. The company declined to be more specific.
CA is already among the top sellers of security products and leads in categories such as authentication, authorisation and administration, where it owns 15.5 per cent of the market, IDC says. But the company, which is especially strong in the mainframe security market, will try to extend its expertise across other platforms and try to boost its name recognition in security beyond what it's already doing, such as running eTrust TV ads.
CA currently partners with RSA on eTrust Single Sign-On software and plans to broaden its relationship with RSA in coming months. CA also has plans to work with more companies on security management.
"It's not like we're missing one big piece, so we're focused more on partnerships than acquisitions here," says Simon Perry, a CA security executive. "We're at an evolutionary, not revolutionary, stage in this market."
CA will also look to expand its management products for backup and storage.
"Storage needs are growing 75 per cent a year, so companies just can't throw people at the problem. They need better management tools," says Philip Treide, a CA vice president who focuses on storage.
The company had a little more than one-third of the market as recently as 1997, but Gartner says CA has since fallen behind EMC, which controls 25 per cent of the market vs. CA's 12 per cent.
While CA works with EMC on some fronts, CA next month plans to release its first stand-alone storage-area network management software product that will compete with EMC offerings. CA is expected to work further with others, such as Brocade, to make sure CA's storage management software is effective in multivendor environments.
Other big names CA may ink deals with include AOL Time Warner and Microsoft.
A potential deal between CA and AOL Time Warner would have the two providing personal security, content protection, and content distribution products and services in coming months. In March, CA may reveal partnerships with Microsoft and Sun to provide customers with Web services offerings via the companies' respective .Net and Java technologies. CA declined to provide further details on either effort.
CA's potential partnerships will suit many CA customers well, particularly those whose heavy investments in CA mainframe and other products essentially make them "prisoners in the CA world," says Jean-Pierre Garbani, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "They want to be considered an IT department store, but it takes a long time to change an image," he says, referring to the company's bullying past.
Still, he says efforts by CA to change the way it does business are encouraging. He points to the company's creation of its Customer Relationship Organization, which assigns service - not sales - representatives to manage relations with customers.
According to CA's Artzt, the goal is for the company to be "the one vendor face to customers." And to be a friendly face at that.