CA Technologies: business re-written by software - is there a need for paranoid optimism?

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Content Copyright © 2015 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

Mike Gregoire gave a wonderfully upbeat keynote at CA World today and I take no issue with some (or even all) of the CA Technologies innovations he was talking about, all enabling the re-writing of business with software (which I see as an important aspect of what Bloor is calling “the mutable business”):

  • Agile Management, based on its Rally acquisition; plus project and portfolio management and service management.
  • Devops, with continuous delivery, application performance management, API management and workload automation.
  • Security, with single sign-on, authorised user management, ID management etc.

At a later session, Ayman Sayed (late of Cisco), the new Chief Product Officer at CA Technologies, described new products in DevOps: CA Live API Creator, CA Mobile App Services, CA Virtual Network Assurance and CA Unified Infrastructure Management for z Systems, all about continuous delivery using automation and virtualised infrastructures. There is also a new product in Security/Compliance: CA Data Content Discovery, which lets you discover regulated PCI, HIPAA and personal data that you didn’t know you had, hidden in mainframe systems, not only in databases but in VSAM files and the like. This last is potentially much more interesting than just a compliance tool (sorely though that is needed) – it could be used (although CA Technologies isn’t announcing any of this) to help to mine mainframe systems for data that could be used in, say, mobile services, complete with the necessary usage permissions and legal limitations that should be associated with the data. It is also written in such a way that it could, again potentially, be called by third party applications discovering data across the whole infrastructure.

Sayed also described updated products in Agile Management (CA Agile Management Portfolio; CA Project and Portfolio Management), DevOps (CA Service Virtualization) and Security (CA Privileged Access Manager, CA Identity Suite). It all makes for a rich capability set that seems to support the CA Technologies vision well.

Gregoire then brought out some friends to talk about the future 5 years, when everybody in the world has a megabit connection to the Internet, driverless cars are available as a service (choose an SUV for the weekend; or a dormobile with a bed, to get you back to work on Monday; and you don’t park either, you send them back and reclaim the space on your drive) and I started to worry. I am worried, even if we do now have the technology to program the DNA in my body for a “wetware” upgrade to cope with this brave new world (well, that capability is becoming real, although it has implications of its own, of course). The technology story is actually pretty reasonable, although I’m not sure about 5 years for implementation (predicting the future is easy, saying when is much harder) – but there is a dystopian side to the utopian vision, when it does arrive.

For a start, much of the audience may well find itself out of a job when they are competing online with a few million more highly educated, very bright Indians, fully trained in orchestrating APIs. I already met a lot of Indian CTOs in Western companies. That’s the trouble with disruptive technologies, they really are disruptive in many ways and people may not like the results of being disrupted.

Nevertheless, a very real characteristic of any new technology is that you can’t squeeze it back into the bottle – Mike Gregoire makes the point with Uber. It’s here now and we have to live with it. So, yes, we must adopt Agile and think about the increasing pace of change and all the new possibilities that increasingly powerful technology makes available. But we must think of the dystopian side of disruption too. We need to live in a state of what my colleague Richard Sykes calls “paranoid optimism” – by all means remain optimistic about what new technology makes possible, but be a bit paranoid about its possible implications (and not just about the possibility that people who adopt early will put you out of business) and think about how to address its implications before they hit you as a surprise.

What I think I am saying, is that with increasingly powerful technology we should think holistically about the whole problem, including its human, cultural, political implications etc., not just about the technology – and design a solution to the whole thing. In fact, we have been here before, with Stafford Beer and Cybernetics. Before the CIA toppled Allende in Chile there was an experiment going on to merge technology and society into human-oriented economic systems in dynamic equilibrium. Perhaps we need to look at these ideas again – at the freedom to deploy technology, controlled by actionable insights from analysis of the data generated by the new technologies.