Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CA's Acquisition of Cassatt - Hindsight & Foresight

Today I read the press release and Gordon Haff's analysis that Computer Associates has acquired Cassatt -- a former employer of mine.

CA probably appreciates that they have a real gem. But like all things Tech, most cool products are not "build it and they will come". However, I can say that Bill Coleman (Cassatt's CEO) and Rob Gingell (Cassatt's CTO and former Sun Fellow) really have a break-the-glass vision. Now lets see if the new lease-on-life for the vision (and product) will take shape.

Vision vs. speedbumps
Cassatt's vision - led by Rob - is still out in front of the current IT trends... but not by too far. As much as 3 years ago, the company was anticipating "virtualization sprawl", the need for automating VMs, the expectation that IT environments will have both physical and virtual machines, and the fact that "you shouldn't care what machines your software runs on, so long as you meet your SLA". That last bit, BTW, presaged all of our current 'hype' about cloud computing!

The instantiation of these observations was a product that put almost all of the datacenter on "autopilot" -- Servers, VMs, switches, load-balancers, even server power controllers and power strips. The controller was then managed/triggered by user-definable thresholds, which could build/re-build/scale/virtualilze servers on-the-fly, and do just about anything needed to ensure SLAs were beging met. And it worked, all-the-time making most efficient use of IT resources and power. As Rob would say "we don't tell you what just happened - like so many management products. We actually take action and tell you what we did." Does it sound like Amazon's recent CloudWatch, Auto-Scaling and Elastic Load Balancing announcement? Yep.

Finally, the coup the company had -- and what the industry still has to appreciate -- is that the product takes a "services-centric" view of the data center. Rather than focusing on *servers* the GUI focuses on *services*. This scales more easily, and gives the user a more intuitive sense of what they really care about -- service availability... not granular stuff like physical servers or how they're connected.

Unfortunately for Cassatt, there is an inherent tension between how ISVs develop products, and how IT customers buy them. ISVs are always looking for the next leap-frog.... while IT customers almost always play the conservative card by purchasing incremental/non-disruptive technology.

So the available market of real leap-frog CIOs is still small... but growing. I would expect the first-movers to adopt this won't be traditional enterprises -- but rather Service Providers, Hosting Providers and perhaps even IT Disaster Recovery operations looking to get into the IaaS and/or Cloud Computing space.

What it could mean to CA
So why would CA buy Cassatt? Unfortunately, it's not to acquire Cassatt's customers. It is much more likely to acquire technology and talent.

Given that CA seems to be a tier-2 player in the data center management space, Cassatt would help them legitimize their strategy, and pull-together a cloud-computing play that other competitors of CA's are already moving down the road on. Cassatt's product ought to also complement CA's "Lean IT" marketing initiative

The other good news is that CA has a number of Infrastructure Management products that ought to complement Cassatt technology. There is Spectrum (infrastructure monitoring), Workload Automation (more of a RBA soulution that might get partially displaced by Cassatt), Services Catalog, and Wily's APM suite. BTW, there's a pretty decent WP available on CA's website on Automating Virtualization.
Per Donald Ferguson, CA’s Chief Architect: “Cassatt invented an elegant and innovative architecture and algorithms for data center performance optimization. Incorporating Cassatt’s analysis and optimization capabilities into CA’s world-class business-driven automation solution will enable cloud-style computing to reliably drive efficiencies in both on-premises, private data centers and off-premises, utility data centers. We believe the result will be a uniquely comprehensive infrastructure management approach, spanning monitoring, analysis, planning, optimization and execution.”
I could see CA now beginning to target large enterprises as well as xSPs to begin to leverage Cassatt technology, as their engineering teams begin integrating bridges to other CA suite products. It will also take CA's sales and support organizations some time to digest all of this, and then bring it to market through their channels.

But Cassatt will bring to them a bunch of sharp technical and marketing minds. Stay tuned. CA's a new player now.


MHAner said...

i think if you dig under the covers you'll find a lot of that vision you credit to Rob came from two of the co-founders: Dave Mcallister (formerly of Egenera) and Brian Berliner.

Brian Berliner said...

MHAner - thanks for mentioning my role in this.

The business plan and vision was constructed by Bill Coleman, Dave McAllister, and me working together in the offices of Warburg Pincus in 2003. That plan and vision took a 10-year view of the virtualization and utility computing market and, I'm thrilled to say, appears today to be largely on track with our plan crafted some 6-years later.

Credit to Bill for the "This is going to be BIG" vision. He was right about that, but Cassatt did not make it to the important part of the curve, happening now and over the remaining four years of our original plan. It's very hard for a startup to last for so long through such tough economic times.

Credit to Dave and Brian for the Product & Technology aspects to realize the vision - and to the many, many employees that came through Cassatt's doors to actually bring it to life. Best team of folks I've ever worked with. CA is buying the fruits of their hard work. Their technology. This vision. CA gets a bargain.

Ken - Beautifully written piece. Thank you. I regret that we didn't have the chance to work together to fully realize the vision.

Brian Berliner
(previously) Founder, EVP & CTO, Cassatt Corporation
(sadly written for the last time)

Ken Oestreich said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Yes, Brian, you should find it validating that your name came up regularly while at Cassatt - and elsewhere.

And Dave -- if imitation is the best form of flattery, then I'm following in your footsteps... Cassatt & Egenera on the resume :) Now, can you predict what's next !