Monday, October 4, 2010

New CA 3Tera release: Extending cloud innovations while answering enterprise & MSP requirements

Today CA Technologies announced the first GA release of CA 3Tera AppLogic.

Now, obviously, it’s not the first release of the 3Tera product. That software, which builds and runs public and private clouds, is well known in its space and has been in the market for several years now. In fact, CA 3Tera AppLogic has 80+ customers spread across 4 continents and has somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 clouds currently in use, some of which have been running continuously for years. I mention a few of the service provider customers in particular at the end of this post.

However, this will be the first GA release of the product since being acquired back in the spring – the first release under the CA Technologies banner. A lot of acquisitions in this industry never make it this far. From my perspective, this one seems to be working for a few reasons:

Customers need different approaches to cloud computing.

We’re finding that customer approaches to adopting some form of cloud computing – especially for private clouds – usually take one of two paths. I talked about this in a previous post: one path involves incrementally building on your existing virtualization and automation efforts in an attempt to make your data center infrastructure much more dynamic. That one is more evolutionary. The second path is much more revolutionary. That path is one where competitive pressure is high or the financial squeeze is on. Customers in that situation are looking for a more turnkey cloud approach, one that abstracts away a lot of the technical and process complexity. They are looking for a solution that gets them to cloud fast.

That last point is the key. A more turnkey approach like CA 3Tera AppLogic is going to be appealing when the delivery time or cost structure of the more slow & steady “evolutionary” approach is going to jeopardize success. That faster path is especially appropriate for managed service providers these days, given the rate of change and turbulence in the market (and the product’s partner & customer list proves that).

Now, having this more “revolutionary” approach in our portfolio alongside things like CA Spectrum Automation Manager lets us talk with customers about both paths. We get to ask what customers want, and then work with them on whichever approach makes sense for their current project. Truth is, they may take one path for one project, and another path for the next. And, as Forrester’s James Staten mentioned in a webcast on about private clouds (that CA sponsored) last week, quickly getting at least some part of your environment to its new, (cloudy) desired state lets you learn quite a bit for your IT environment as a whole.

The 3Tera cloud platform innovations remain, well…innovative.

The other reason (I think) that you’re seeing progress from the combination of CA Technologies and 3Tera is actually pretty basic: even after all this time, no one else is doing what this platform can do. The CA 3Tera AppLogic cloud platform takes an application-centric approach. This means that IT is able to shift its time, effort, and focus away from the detailed technology components, and instead focus on what’s important – the business service that they are trying to deliver.

This application focus is different. Most of what you see in the market doesn’t look at things this way. It is either an incremental addition to the way IT has been managing and improving virtualization, or focuses at a level much lower than the application. Or both.

Plus, if you’ve ever seen a demo of CA 3Tera AppLogic, you’ll also be struck by the simplicity that the platform’s very visual interface brings you. You draw up the application and infrastructure you want to deploy and it packages this all up as a virtual appliance. That virtual package can then be deployed or destroyed as appropriate. When you need something, you just draw it in. Need more server resources or load balancers? Drag them in from your palette and drop them onto the canvas. (Here’s a light-hearted video that explains all this pretty simply in a couple of minutes.)

Keeping this sort of innovative technology, which was ahead of its time when it came out, out in front years later is really important, and a big focus for CA Technologies. The market is changing rapidly; we have to continue to lead the charge for customers.

Finding a way to meld innovation with extended enterprise-level & MSP requirements

I think it’s really good news that many of the new capabilities that CA Technologies is bringing to market with CA 3Tera AppLogic 2.9 are about making the product even more suitable as the backbone of an enterprise’s private cloud environment, or the underpinnings of a service provider’s cloud offerings. Things like high availability, improved networking, and new web services APIs should make a lot of the bigger organizations very happy.

Already, we’ve seen an accelerated eagerness by large enterprises to hear about what CA 3Tera AppLogic is and what it can do since it became part of CA Technologies. Maybe it’s the continued rough economic waters, but the big name standing behind 3Tera now goes a long way, from what I’ve heard and seen of customer reaction. Let’s just say, the guys out talking about this stuff are busy.

There are customers doing this today. Lots of them.

The true test of whether the timing is right, the technology is right, and the value proposition makes sense is, well, whether people are buying and then really using your solution. 3Tera started out seeing success with smaller MSPs. That success continues. The enterprises have moved slower, but leading-edge folks are making moves now. The enterprise use cases are very interesting, actually. Anything that involves spiky workloads, where standardized stacks need to be set up and torn down quickly is ideal. I’m going to try to get some interviews for the blog with a couple of these folks when they are ready to talk.

There are some excellent MSPs and other service providers, on the other hand, that are out there offering CA 3Tera AppLogic-based services today and shaking things up.

“Gone are the days of toiling in the depths of the data center,” said David Corriveau, CTO of Radix Cloud, “where we’d have to waste the efforts of smart IT pros to manually configure every piece of hardware for each new customer.” Now Radix Cloud centralizes their technical expertise in a single location with the CA 3Tera AppLogic product, which they say improves security and reliability.

I talked to Mike Michalik, CEO of Cirrhus9, and they use the product to quickly stand up new applications and websites for clients of theirs, with robustness and product maturity being key ingredients for success.

Berlin-based ScaleUp Technologies is also knee-deep delivering cloud services to customers. CEO Kevin Dykes said (my summer vacation plans actually enabled me to make an in-person visit to their offices) that a turnkey cloud platform means they, as a service provider, have a strong platform to start from, but can still offer differentiated services. “Our customers directly benefit, too,” said Dykes. “They are able to focus on rapid business innovation, quickly and easily moving applications from dev/test to production, or adding capacity during spikes in demand.”

Jonathan Davis, CTO of DNS Europe, will be co-presenting with my colleague Matt Richards at VMworld Europe in Copenhagen, talking about how he’s been able to change the way they do business. “Very quickly,” said Davis, “we have been able to ramp up new revenue streams and win new customers with even higher expectations and more complex needs.”

I find the user stories to be some of the most interesting pieces of this – and one of the things that is so hard to find in the current industry dialog about cloud computing. So, now that we have CA 3Tera AppLogic announced, I’ll be interviewing a few of these folks to hear firsthand what’s working – and what’s not – in their view of cloud computing. Check back here for more details.

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