CA World 2016 - general impressions

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Content Copyright © 2016 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

Well, I thought that there was much the same buzz at CA World this year as there was last year. I think that CA employees really do buy into the strategic vision at the top, as conveyed by Mike Gregoire in his keynote.

In fact, that said, why not just read Otto Berkes’ new book on digital transformation, mentioned by Mike, which appears to give a good view of where CA Technologies thinks it is going. Otto is CTO at CA Technologies and his book is called “Digitally Remastered: Building Software into Your Business DNA“, published by John Wiley, ISBN-13 (paperback): 978-1-119-27153-6; ISBN-13 (electronic): 978-1-119-27383-7; 978-1-119-30156-1, and it’s under 80 pages. All profits go to Code for America, “whose mission is the use of technology to create a more open and collaborative relationship between citizens and government”. I find that last bit interesting because I believe that in a digitally transformed culture, people need to think about the whole picture – the social outcomes from digital transformation as well as technical ones.

This book is an excellent commonsense guide to the digital transformation journey towards And, it is full of practical advice (at a level that can, and should, be read by business managers) on subjects such as how to build a modern software factory. This is highly recommended reading.

For those still with us, Mike mentioned more collaboration with Open Source projects generally and OpenAI in particular. Interesting, as this could allow CA Technologies to expand its skill-base into new areas, at comparatively little cost.

Customer-centricity is still an important theme at CA World and I met with a Director of Mainframe Resource Planning, at a large financial services company, who is not only sensible enough to realise that he really isn’t in the business of DIY orchestration of ops automation and analytics out of available tools, but also far-sighted enough to engage with CA’s own tool development process. So, he gets a product that does more or less exactly what he was wishing for, using CA Technologies analytics to prevent system downtime and fix performance issues proactively and, thus, deliver better experiences for his customers.

CA Cross-Enterprise Application Performance Management tools correlate data from multiple sources, across both mainframe and web-based systems, with real-time prediction of, and insight into, the behavior of mainframe systems and databases. And the Director I was talking to confirmed (with palpable enthusiasm) that CA Technologies is currently more than just customer-centric in a cosmetic way, it actively engages with its customers.

Then, I talked with Ashok Reddy (General Manager, CA mainframe business unit). His main issue is still with somewhat ill-informed perceptions of the mainframe. There are people using mainframe-based hardware encryption services (the mainframe has specialised and highly effective co-processors for just this task), for example, who aren’t aware that a mainframe is involved (or how resource-intensive software-based encryption can be). This being the case, he is concentrating on updating mainframe development processes to match the capabilities of the latest mainframe hardware – with DevOps, for example – so that it can’t be seen as a drag on digital transformation.

Perhaps not as many people are exploiting the mainframe as there should be, for net-new work; but mainframe MIPS are increasing and many mainframe transactions are not directly revenue-generating, so a first stage in bringing the mainframe back into the fold is facilitating mainframe workload resource optimisation and cost reduction, using advanced analytics. This seems, to me, to be a reasonable approach.

A running theme through the conference was Thomas Alva Edison, in a spoof of the Hamilton show. This made the point that Edison’s style of invention, as the lone Wizard of Menlo Park (often exploiting other people’s inventions without crediting them) wasn’t very 21st Century – “we are all Edisons now“! In other words, continual digital transformation needs to be collaborative and involve all of the stakeholders in a company.

In summary, then, CA Technologies is supporting the journey to digital transformation and is taking the “hearts and minds” of its employees along with it. It obviously has forward-looking customers who are completely on-board with this but I do wonder how many of its customers are actually aware of the approaching inflection point? Not that I see any evidence of CA Technologies dropping support for its more conservative customers.

I guess I see the possibility of the digital transformation inflection point (that point where companies not in the digital transformation space simply can’t keep up) approaching at different speeds in different industries. So, it is still possible to find an intelligent commentator saying things like: “Shell is currently trying to sell $30bn of assets (to pay for its acquisition of BG). It has been trying for nine months, it hasn’t been able to get reasonable prices because of the low oil price. Companies like Shell cannot “scale up and down very quickly“, which implies (to me) that this commentator thinks that Shell can’t “digitally transform” into a very easily and stay as Shell – after all, you can’t easily virtualise an oil well or a mining operation. Even after companies such as Google and Amazon adopt continual digital transformations, there’ll be a long tail of people thinking “this won’t impact us”.

Nevertheless, Justin Speake (Bloor CEO and a partner in Chord Group) points out (personal communication) that oil exploration and mining companies such as Shell actually make the case for the, as Shell “has $30Billion in physical assets in its current model that are a problem for its future model“. He continues: “Mining is already significantly virtualised with a whole bunch of different organisations in the value chain that historically would have all been in the big companies. We are looking at models to open up mining in emerging markets, where the starting point is the commodities exchange rather than the mining company itself. Sell the future rights based on the test analysis and use the financing from that to do the physical work. Also, on the fixed asset side, this is just a more complex version of the airplane “pay-per-mile” model“.

According to Justin, “GE has built Predix because it understands that all of its industrial solutions, and everyone else’s, are going to have to move to different business models and it wants to be the leader in that change. So the next Shell will concentrate on a mining niche and will share revenue with the equipment folks – or maybe there will not even be a mining company, as we understand it now, because each opportunity will be driven by a financial exchange model that brings together a set of virtualised process/service component suppliers around a single definable financial opportunity. This is the real estate model and, ultimately, mining can be seen as just a more complex real estate market“.

CA Technologies is, I think, betting on that sort of thing being true and providing technology that can support it – and, as long as it keeps its nerve, it will be OK going forwards.