CA's Unicenter branches out

In an attempt to give net managers more control over their networks, Computer Associates is about to stretch its Unicenter management software in a variety of ways - starting with Linux support and improved Web site management.

CA is preparing to detail Unicenter software for the Linux operating system at next month's LinuxWorld conference in San Jose, sources familiar with the company's plans say. The move would give users more choices and make CA the first of the major network management vendors to embrace Linux with its flagship enterprise management software. CA declined to comment.

This week, CA will ship software that watches a company's Web site and reports on the amount of traffic it receives. The company will try to generate interest in the software, dubbed MasterIT, by offering until August a free version with limited support and scalability.

The new products fit into the company's overall plan to evolve Unicenter to keep up with advances in network management. For instance, less expensive, more targeted management software has become available from start-ups, so CA has systematically broken the various functions of Unicenter into separate products under the IT moniker that it can then sell for less.

"They can't afford to get complacent, and I think they know that," says Richard Ptak, vice president of systems and application management at Hurwitz Group. Ptak says smaller vendors are more nimble and are coming out with focused tools that can be useful to network managers.

In the second half of this year, CA will launch a beta version of Unicenter The Next Dimension (TND). Unicenter TND will have at its heart an object-oriented repository of systems and network management data collected over time.

The repository, based on CA's Jasmine database technology, will be similar to Cabletron Spectrum's data warehouse in that it will show network trends and use the trends to predict future behaviour. TND replaces the current Unicenter database.

Before the release of TND, CA will continue to expand the functions of the current version of Unicenter by creating intelligent agents, called Neugents, which determine what constitutes a system's normal behaviour and notifies network managers when something out of the ordinary happens.

Neugents, debuting over the next six months, will monitor Unix performance, detect when someone is trying to break into a system and protect it against viruses, says Yogesh Gupta, senior vice president of product strategy at CA. While most antivirus programs look for patterns in software and compare them to a list of known viruses, an antivirus Neugent would be able to detect typical virus signs, such as unusual disk activity, and catch viruses before they are known and catalogued, he says.

MasterIT is the latest in a series of IT products that CA has released over the past year. The products perform specific functions that can be found in Unicenter, such as network management (NetworkIT Pro), software distribution (ShipIT), security (GuardIT), asset management (AimIT) and several others.

MasterIT shows how quickly a company's Web site is responding, checks the content of the pages to ensure pieces aren't missing when visitors retrieve them and shows where visitors are coming from.

MasterIT runs on Windows NT and Unix and has agents for a variety of Web servers. The enterprise edition costs $US1300 per server, and can manage an unlimited number of Web sites and pages. The free promotional version can monitor two sites and 20 URLs.

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