Wednesday, February 24, 2010

3Tera brings powerful, simple way for customers to move apps to clouds -- and help reshape CA?

Today’s announcement of CA’s definitive agreement to acquire 3Tera has a couple of interesting wrinkles. It’s definitely of interest for those of us who have followed 3Tera and the many companies in the cloud computing space for a while. But it also has the possibility of shaking up the admittedly stodgy image of CA – and what CA can deliver for customers thinking about cloud computing.

But first, for those who haven’t been living and breathing this stuff, here’s the quick take:

3Tera is one of the early pioneers in cloud computing. Even better, they are one of the early pioneers with customers, which tells you that they are onto something.

The 3Tera product, AppLogic, has a pretty slick graphical user interface that customers can use to configure and deploy composite applications to either public or private clouds. It takes the many, very manual tasks required to put an application into a cloud environment and lets you take care of them with an elegant series of clicks, drags, and drops. (For a high-speed tour of how this works, they have a 4-minute demo you can watch here.)

Yes, as you’d expect, there’s “some assembly required” up front to make this all possible, but one 3Tera customer noted that their IT folks would not allow them to go back to doing app configuration and deployment the old, manual way now that they were using AppLogic. We considered that a good sign.

And, because 3Tera creates a layer of abstraction for the applications that you’re encapsulating, you have a bunch of deployment options, both now and at any point in the future. That could come in very handy as you think about both public and private cloud possibilities.

Both service providers & enterprises can use 3Tera for cloud enablement

3Tera’s most aggressive customers have been the managed service providers – companies that are scrambling to find compelling, differentiated ways to offer cloud-based services to their customers. Enterprises have also started see 3Tera’s possibilities for deploying composite apps into a private cloud environment. However, enterprises have been a little more reticent to make sure they know what they are getting into before making the leap to cloud.

This is probably one of the areas that CA can help improve by backing the 3Tera innovations with significant resources: enterprises need to feel comfortable to move applications to the cloud. A 3Tera/CA combination will give enterprises a significant partner that’s providing a technology to make the steps possible – and much more doable.

And luckily, we’re expecting the whole 3Tera team to come over to CA: there’s still a bit of evangelizing left to do.

Even so, however, 3Tera customer successes have been noted by an analyst or two. In his report on private clouds last year (“Deliver Cloud Benefits Inside Your Walls,” April 13, 2009), Forrester analyst James Staten called 3Tera’s AppLogic “the leading cloud infrastructure software offering available today” and noted that it was “the foundation of many public clouds.” That’s a great foundation to build from.

One of the reasons 3Tera’s probably had good success with service providers is the fact that it uses Xen to help abstract the applications from the infrastructure. Xen is usually good news given the margin pressures that service providers are under. In the enterprise, however, VMware is a much more common and acceptable choice. It was already on 3Tera’s roadmap to deliver VMware support, but here’s another bit of good news coming with this deal: CA plans to extend AppLogic to also be able to use both ESX and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

Note to self: This is a big shift for CA

The 3Tera deal is certainly a very public acknowledgement by CA that cloud computing is front and center to what’s changing in IT. And, the deal drops another piece into place in a rapidly filling-out strategy by CA to address those changes.

Customers are likely going to have a number of important needs as cloud computing becomes more central. Organizations want to know how their systems are performing using business metrics (Oblicore can help with this). They need to decide what components to take to the cloud – and what components not to. 3Tera can help them cloud-enable and deploy the apps they want to move now. And, as customers look to optimize this process and their environment, that’s where the Cassatt expertise can be useful.

Alongside these moves, the existing CA portfolio continues to have a strong, immediate role to play. The 3Tera deal may seem like quite a shift from CA’s traditional assurance, automation, and security businesses, but in fact, is a complimentary piece. Customers need to have the ability to manage their environments end-to-end, even if the cloud is involved, and they can (and are) working on that using CA’s existing solutions today. There are lots of opportunities for more linkage going forward as well.

Which leads me back to comments like those in a Derrick Harris’s GigaOM article (complete with some prognosticating about CA’s next moves) a week or so ago: “Let’s be honest, systems management vendor CA doesn’t exactly inspire visions of innovation.”

Hopefully (as Derrick mentions), we’re in the process of changing that. But we’ll leave the verdict on that up to customers.

3Tera: Since the “good old days” of cloud computing…before it was cloud computing

On a more personal note, I’ve been watching 3Tera since my early days at Cassatt, as we and they were all wrestling with how to describe our respective offerings, how to get market traction, and what moves would pay off. Like Cassatt, these guys were cloud before cloud was cool. A lot of the way they describe themselves predates the cloud computing phraseology. And that’s OK. As I noted earlier, they focused on the problem of how to encapsulate apps and make it possible to deploy them in lots of ways and locations, including the cloud.

An interesting connection point: after Cassatt landed at CA, our former CEO Bill Coleman took on a consulting role with 3Tera that I wrote about back in August. Some of his comments then look interesting now, in light of the CA deal with 3Tera.

More details will follow here as I have a chance to dig into some of the interesting aspects of this deal, its implications, and other questions that will come up. Until then, the press release about the acquisition is posted here.

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