CA claims new model will meet users' needs with fewer resources

Last week systems software company Computer Associates unveiled its vision of business computing, in which companies will be able...

Last week systems software company Computer Associates unveiled its vision of business computing, in which companies will be able to fulfil their current obligation to the business with fewer resources.

CA has dubbed its approach "on-demand computing". The idea is that businesses can cope with fewer IT resources because systems can serve the needs of different business processes at different times. IT is shared across business units so that a company's computing power only need match that of the spike in total demand, rather than the sum of the spikes from each business unit.

Explaining the thinking behind the company's IT management strategy Mark Barrenechea, senior vice-president, product development at CA, said the company's vision offers an alternative to outsourcing when striving to reduce costs.

Barrenechea said outsourcing to company's such as IBM Global Services was inflexible. "Outsourcing to IBM is a lock-in. IBM has no incentive to innovate," he said. The alternative CA vision relies on a central repository - a database of all IT assets within a company, combined with a set of business processes.

The concept underpinning the CA strategy is to provide tools to allow IT directors to charge business units for their IT use on a monthly bill, analogous to a utility bill. This is not possible today, as IT is charged at a much higher level, based on the number of users or desktops rather than charging for the overall cost of providing IT for a given business service.

A key component in CA's on-demand strategy is the company's new Sonar tool, which provides the means by which IT directors can manage IT based on the impact technology has on business processes.

Clive Longbottom, senior director at IT analyst firm Quocirca was sceptical about CA's view that IT assets should be stored in a single repository to allow the IT director to assess the business impact of an IT failure.

"There is nothing wrong in creating silos of IT asset data if you have intelligent tools," he said. Longbottom believes the flaw in CA's plans is that vast amounts of storage and processing power would be required for IT management to support a central database of IT assets.

Why does on-demand computing need fewer resources?

In a traditional business environment, the IT director has to ensure that there are enough IT resources to meet the maximum demands of all business processes simultaneously. However, different processes have different peaks in demand at different times, so there is always an excess of computing capacity.

By sharing IT resources across business units, the IT department would only need to have enough resources to cope with the maximum total peak in demand. Thus the total number of servers could be reduced.

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