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Jewish World Review
July 27, 2007
/ 12 Menachem-Av, 5767
CA's Top Techie Offers Insights, Solutions
Just about every one of us who uses a computer is interconnected. In a
large business enterprise, in government, in schools and colleges,
we're all dependent upon networked systems, and those systems are
growing, says Alan F. Nugent, the chief technical officer, or CTO, of
CA, Inc., the Islandia, New York-based multibillion-dollar software
firm once known as Computer Associates. CA's goal, these days, is to
let companies run their information technology, or IT departments,
"like a business."
That sounds easy, of course, but there are many speed bumps. IT is
often largely concerned with fixing problems: systems break down, or
they are placed in high-demand situations. Consider, for example,
Victoria's Secret: somehow, Web traffic seems to spike heavily after
certain TV commercials are broadcast. If there isn't enough capacity
and flexibility built into their computer operations, customers hoping
to visit the firm's Web site are disappointed. And, as is taught in
Marketing 101, disappointed customers don't usually buy a lot.
The problem is, Mr. Nugent pointed out in an interview last week, it's
not just computers that are tapping into the Internet. It's your cell
phone, Xbox 360, BlackBerry, Apple IPhone, and your computer
that are all online. And while computer-to-Internet connections remain
at a relatively flat level, he said, the number of other devices
trying to phone home is "growing exponentially," making for a complex
landscape to manage.
"Complexity is, in many respects, the enemy," Mr. Nuget said. This
growing complexity, he adds, means the "network has become the single
driving factor for the complexity challenges that all technologies
That complexity comes from the little "pings," or "incidents," that
connected devices send across the network to the systems to which
they're linked. Some of those incidents merely tell the host system,
"Hey, I'm here." Others are commands or requests. All mean more
traffic and more messages to be sorted out. Think of it as being
behind the gift wrap desk on the afternoon of Dec. 24.
As a result, Mr. Nugent noted, the "increase in information that needs
to be captured goes up by two orders of magnitude. It's getting to
point where you have to handle billions of incidents per second. And a
new approach has to be developed."
According to Mr. Nugent, it's "silly to think that one could create
that single system in the sky that knows how to manage all of this
stuff." Instead, he says, "you need to create an architecture that is
as diffuse as the customer's technology, and place the little chunks
of technology, software, out close to the things which have to be
Creating IT management architectures is the kind of thing CA has been
doing for a while with its "Command Center" software concept, which
creates a "portal," or screen display, containing the various tools
needed to manage the tasks at hand. Result: fewer bodies needed to
manage IT emergencies. "Roughly 80 cents of every dollar of IT budget
spent on technology is spent treading water, keeping the lights on,"
Mr. Nugent added.
What to do with those less-occupied IT fixers? Put them on projects
that grow a business or an agency's value to its customers, Mr.
"The yin and the yang of this, is 20 percent [of IT spending] is spent
on strategic initiatives," he said. "If we could free up half of the
people involved in that [maintenance-spending] 80 percent, they can
work on things which are strategic to the business. Why not have those
technology resources to be available to pursue things more important
to the business than, 'Is that server running'?"
CA's approach, called "Intelligent Automation," is discussed in
various places on the www.ca.com Web site. I have the sense we'll hear
more about it in the months to come, as Al Nugent evangelizes this
view within the industry at home and globally.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2007, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com