CA World 2015 – It’s All about the Software

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

The themes at CA World 2015 were the “application economy” and “business rewritten by software”. Interestingly, these were the same core messages at the CA World 2014 conference. So you might be wondering – what’s new? Well as it turns out – quite a lot. And while the messages were consistent (a good thing), there was lots of new information and many proof points that the application economy is indeed here, and that businesses are disrupting the status quo with innovative software that is driving new business models and unprecedented growth.

A number of these new applications are the result of the evolving “sharing” economy where new businesses match excess capacity to unmet need. Mike Gregoire, CEO of CA Technologies, gave several examples of this trend, including Airbnb and Uber. Airbnb has in excess of 1,000,000 rooms worldwide managed by 800 employees. In comparison, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) manages roughly 750,000 rooms with over 7,800 employees. This is just one example of the business efficiencies that can be achieved in the application economy. Gregoire noted that new software (driven by APIs) and new methodologies such as DevOps and Agile are shortening innovation cycles and accelerating digital business transformation.

From a product standpoint, the conference focused on DevOps, Workload Management,    Agile Management, Security and Mainframe software as the foundation for collaboration; scale; increased agility and speed-to-market; and a customer and user-centric focus based on analytics. My primary interest is in CA Application Performance Management (CA APM), and I was able to attend several customer sessions, a breakout, a “Tech Talk” and a 1:1 on that topic. More on that later.

I also attended the CA World Women in Tech Breakfast, hosted by Lauren Flaherty, CA’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Women in Tech Breakfast

The breakfast included a panel and discussion on the advancement of women in IT – with executives from CA Technologies and PwC and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. An interesting statistic –in the U.S. alone, women make up half the workforce, yet hold only 25 percent of the jobs in technical and computing fields. The discussion centered on how to engage girls in technology to improve both aptitude and interest, so that more girls choose technology as a career path. One of the observations of the panel was that this discussion should begin – not in college or even in high school – but in grade school and middle school. Many more programs around science, technology, problem-solving, collaboration and robotics are being targeted to these early-learners.

As tools for success, panel members sited supportive parents; informed teachers; school courseware and programs; job mentors (both male and female); and company culture. Panel members noted that many of the same types of programs and strategies could be applied to boys and lower-income students (male or female). One of the revelations for me was discovering that the Girl Scouts are very active in promoting technology learning and career paths to young women through their Imagine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) series (and I thought they only sold cookies!).

In speaking with CA Technologies employees after the breakfast, I learned that the company has several on-site AMI accredited Montessori Child Development Centers for employee children, with a focused curriculum around problem-solving and STEM.

CA Application Performance Management (CA APM)

While at the conference I learned about the latest enhancements to E. (Easy) P. (Proactive) I. (Intuitive) C. (Collaborative) APM launched at last year’s conference. One of the most exciting new features is Team Center, part of the CA APM 10.0 release. I also heard more about the CA APM Roadmap and heard lots of customer feedback. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

CA APM Team Center

The new Team Center user interface is the result of a “clean sheet” design of how the next generation of APM should look and work and includes 10 patent-pending innovations. It is a user-centered design focused on enabling Tier 1 support and experts to quickly and easily triage and assign issues for speedy resolution. In planning for the new design, CA consulted with both CA and non-CA customers face-to-face to get in-depth feedback. This release includes only 25% of functionality that is planned.

Key features include:

  1. Perspectives – this feature goes beyond traditional role-based views to allow operations staff to whittle down an end-to-end view of data to suit their particular needs. Much like an Excel pivot table, the data can be reorganized on-the-fly to present what’s important at that particular moment. The data can be grouped, for example, by who supports it, location, revenue, vendor, application version/ build number, host name or any other relevant packaged or custom search filter. This enables support staff to quickly triage application issues and identify who needs to be contacted to resolve the issue. The URL of the problem can be easily sent to the appropriate contact.
  2. Timeline – this feature enables operators to get a view of the evolution of a problem. Changes can be viewed over hours, days or months to determine when a change was made that created a problem. By rolling data back to “patient zero”, the impact of changes on performance can be easily identified. This capability can locate a bad build, demonstrate the topology before and after a problem has occurred and even identify what services, transactions and users are being impacted.
  3. Differential Analysis – Traditional APM tools establish baselines based on standard deviation which can result in many issues being flagged that aren’t necessarily problems. Working with Data Scientists, it was determined that this problem had already been addressed by the Western Electric phone company using the “Shewhart statistical quality control” and individual/moving-range control charts. This method, based on strength of variance, is more accurate than one using standard deviation, and much more effective in identifying “brewing” problems that can be fixed before users are affected. Applying this analytics technique to APM data has resulted in quicker more accurate problem resolution and fewer false positives.

CA APM Roadmap

The overarching theme of the CA APM Roadmap is an evolution from ”descriptive to prescriptive”. Using the analogy of a doctor prescribing medication to keep us in good health, by the same token, CA APM will keep our applications in good health. Primary customer research with 17 customers globally (both of CA Technologies and competitors) using cultural anthropology or ethnographic research produced a 2-3 year roadmap. The first step is CA APM Team Center, with one of the objectives being “protect the experts” by resolving problems earlier in the support cycle. Longer term goals include a design that will be more user-focused-aimed at using analytics to improve user experience, usability, accessibility and pleasure – aimed at building customer brand.

Based on customer research, as well as the changing nature of applications themselves – from being monolithic to being composite applications comprised of loosely coupled microservices that can be iterated independent of one another in a continuous delivery cycle–CA Technologies is basing the CA APM roadmap on three DevOps stages.

  1. React – This stage includes information such as alerts, transaction traces, crash analytics, agent metric feeds, and resource utilizations statistics. The focus is on reacting to problems that have been identified.
  2. Manage – This stage includes dashboards, application maps, assisted triage, application flow services, and performance heat maps. This phase is to enable your first-line support to manage and resolve more issues before impacting users striving for a negative Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) protecting your experts and allowing them to focus on revenue-generating activities.
  3. Direct – This phase is focused on the end-user and building your brand by better engaging digitally with users to improve user satisfaction. Business insight gleaned will enable the establishment of a user profile across multiple channels: phone, web and browser with the intent of “disarming” negative experiences with a clear understanding of each user’s on-going interaction with your brand.

The CA APM Roadmap is moving the solution into the “Direct Phase” or going far beyond traditional real user-experience and synthetic monitoring tools to focus on an individual’s experience across multiple channels associated with a brand.

Customer Feedback

While at CA World, I had the opportunity to attend customer sessions and shared an informal lunch with a large insurance company. I liked what I heard. For some background– at previous CA Worlds– I followed a similar approach and found that users of CA APM were still very much in the “React” phase, focused on transactions, root cause analysis and CA Introscope. In some cases, they weren’t even using new features. This year, customers seemed very excited about the new CA APM Team Center and its capabilities, particularly around perspectives and analytics– placing them solidly in the “manage” phase.

At a break-out session presentation by DHL Supply Chain, I learned that the company selected CA APM (over Dynatrace and AppDynamics) based on CA Technologies’ customer-centric focus; support for mobile/social media; ability to scale; end-to-end view of customer interaction; integration with other CA products; and strategic vision. A representative from British Gas in another Case Study session shared details about their SAP environment, which is the largest in Europe with 500+servers handling 3.8 million transactions per week. CA APM was selected because of its ability to support real-time and historical data; proactive predictive analysis; 100% transaction visibility; and the ability to prioritize incidents based on business impact.

Summary Observations

While most of my product-related research at CA World 2015 focused on CA APM, what CA Technologies is doing in this space is very representative of what is going on in other product areas. I attended a CA Service Management session where I discovered that after interviewing 92 Level 1 IT Service Management (ITSM) professionals in the context of their daily use, the CA Service Management trouble ticket system was revamped to reflect how it is actually used, taking a human-centric rather than a ticket-centric approach. In all cases, the company has taken existing solutions and redesigned the product based on customer feedback and the changing nature of applications themselves. The resulting products look and feel new; are much more user/ customer-focused; provide better efficiencies for support staff; offer more collaborative problem solving; and give customers quicker resolution.

Also worthy of note–while many of the industry’s management solutions focus on users and customers–in many cases, these are classes of users and types of customers. CA Technologies takes this user orientation a step further, providing specific on-the-fly filters for support staff (Perspectives) and analytics that will be used to understand a particular customer’s brand experience across multiple channels. This focus on the individual user and customer engagement is a trend that I believe will evolve over the next year or so. CA Technologies is well positioned to take advantage of this, with their ability to provide a more compelling user experience for support staff and for the customers they are serving. I expect to hear much more about this at CA World 2016.