Linux, on-demand computing and web services not only dominate this year's event, they are vying to reshape IT.
The idea that IT is in a recession looked pretty ludicrous at Computer Associates (CA) annual CA World event last month, held at the Mandalay Bay convention Center in Las Vegas. While other trade shows have scaled back over the past two years, CA World appeared to be bigger and more lavish than ever. 14,000 attendees, close to a thousand members of the press from all over the world, top notch speakers (industry analysts, technology experts plus a keynote by Henry Kissinger), as well as representation from most of the world's biggest IT firms (Oracle, HP, Cisco, EDS, Sun, EMC, Intel, Microsoft and others) marked this as a significant event in the IT calendar.
The show's thematic concept was on-demand computing, otherwise called adaptive computing, NI and other similar initiatives launched by a variety of vendors. Under that umbrella, CA unveiled products dealing storage provisioning web services, business process automation, integrated enterprise management and security vulnerabilities.
"While IBM, Sun, HP and CA may appear to have different approaches to on-demand computing, in essence, we are all talking about the same benefits," said CA CEO Sanjay Kumar. "On demand means the convergence of networks, storage resources, servers and web services."
Meta Group analyst Corey Ferengul clarified the concept in an informative briefing about future data center and storage trends. "To prevent the data center from consuming the entire IT budget, increased manageability and utilization through standardization and automation are essential," said Ferengul. "The primary benefits of on demand computing are aligning the IT infrastructure with business processes, gaining efficiency with better utilization and productivity, and providing a highly infrastructure that adapts to changing demands."
Perhaps the biggest stunner of the show, however, was the sheer strength of the Linux camp within the CA fold. The biggest session of the three-day event featured Linux founder Linus Torvalds, as well as a host of other Linux luminaries. The CA World Linux Day, in fact, drew more attendees than the traditional sessions on network management, storage and security.
"Software is now following the same pattern as hardware," said Torvalds. "Just as hardware has become a commodity item, the value proposition is moving from the OS to the integration and higher level applications. As a result, open source will eventually take over the entire field."
On Demand is In Demand
Explaining the evolution and development of on-demand computing, CA CTO Yogesh Gupta focused on management. The first major step towards proper IT management, he said, was the emergence of uniform data networks like IP (Internet Protocol). That is now being followed by a similar standardization in the storage arena.
"Storage networking today is at the same stage as data networks were 10 years ago – it's a mess," said Gupta. "Over the next two years, we will see storage rapidly catch up through various standardization and automation initiatives."
The transformation of storage architectures into a more manageable framework is also being paralleled by increasing momentum toward server virtualization. This is seen as part of a growing trend in the infrastructure management world towards the dynamic allocation of resources according to the peaks and valleys of the day's (or month's or year's) business and application needs. Server virtualization plays a vital role in this, allowing IT to pool resources by separating the physical server resources from the software that runs on them.
"Virtualization creates a single system illusion," said Ferengul. "Basically, it involves the abstraction of the guts of the infrastructure."
He explained that to virtualize a set of diverse, concrete resources is to access them through a uniform interface that enables them to behave as one virtual resource from the user perspective. Such technologies as blade servers, virtual machines and grid computing are all facets of this trend.
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While server virtualization is an early step in the on-demand evolution, it requires dynamic provisioning to move much closer to real world reality. Dynamic provisioning means the automatic provisioning of new servers and storage resources (including CPU's, memory and more) according to defined policies to meet specific business goals. According to initial reports this technology coupled with server virtualization could lead to savings of 40% in terms of hardware/software acquisition costs.
The end result of this move towards centralization and standardization will be the ability to access and manage voice, data or video in an integrated manner. But this necessitates a shift from a software perspective to a service-oriented architecture.
One key element of this approach is code named Sonar by CA. This technology, built into several of the CA product lines, automatically discovers and manages on-demand business processes. It enables networks to shift existing server capacities to other areas as needed. Sonar automates several processes such as discovery, inventory, mapping to business and relationship definitions.
"Sonar is an agentless technology that watches and analyzes traffic," said Gupta.
Armed with the ability to map infrastructure to business processes, organizations can then prioritize the allocation of IT resources according to the needs of the organization. This includes monitoring transactions and network traffic as they flow within and across networks, and dynamically collecting the information needed to build business process maps and how they relate to IT infrastructure. Essentially, Sonar opens the door to the delivery of IT as a service.
"Achieving the flexibility and improved ROI promised by on-demand computing requires that we manage our infrastructure based on end-to-end business processes, not as islands of technology," said George Fiedorowicz, vice president of technology at Concord EFS, an electronics payment processing firm that has used CA Unicenter for many years. His company is among the first to implement Sonar-enabled applications.
This technology is a core factor in four new products announced:
BrightStor Process Automation Manager
This automates the allocation and provisioning of storage resources across multiple platforms in response to business demands. A collector technology automatically discovers applications and the devices that support them. Once the information is collected, Sonar uses it to build business process maps. As the infrastructure changes, these maps are automatically updated. This can be done passively by listening to traffic or actively by sending out and tracking generated transactions. Built-in advanced analytics aid in root cause analysis and infrastructure diagnosis. The software can monitor over 1700 protocols and information sources. Best practice templates are provided for common procedures such as storage provisioning, policy-driven backup and disaster recovery.
eTrust Vulnerability Manager
This is an asset-based vulnerability appliance that provides monitoring capabilities and security intelligence to pinpoint vulnerabilities that threaten the integrity of the network.
"Vulnerability analysis and management is an expensive and time consuming problem for today's dynamic IT organizations," said Howard A. Schmidt, a cyber security expert who served as cyber security advisor to the White House and as chief security officer at Microsoft. "Asset-based vulnerability management is a critical step towards our goal of automated proactive security management."
Unicenter Network and System Management for VMware Software
This monitors virtual machine environments on Linux and Windows to determine when additional resources need to be brought in to meet service levels requirements, as well as analyzing a VMware environment.
Unicenter Network and System Management Dynamic Reconfiguration Option
This manages and dynamically provisions VMware virtual machines.
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