CA World: Storage a Major Focus, Part 1

Linux, on-demand computing and web services not only dominate this year's event, they are vying to reshape IT.
Posted September 22, 2003

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

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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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