Novell CTO Nugent on his move to CA

Having just left his post as chief technology officer of Novell, Alan Nugent will become senior vice president and general manager of the Unicenter business unit at Computer Associates International on April 8. An industry veteran, Nugent will oversee the direction of CA's largest unit, which is devoted to a wide range of Unicenter management products for servers, applications, desktops and data centers.

He talked Thursday with Computerworld's Matt Hamblen.

Why move and why now?

I had been talking to CA for a couple of months. CA has a lot of the pieces for management software in-house, and it's a great opportunity to get back into a line job again. CA's market reach and scope is unparalleled. It is a really great, upward opportunity, and my move had nothing to do with Novell. They'll crank along and do fine.

Was CA's new president and CEO, John Swainson, a key reason to move?

John's background is appealing relative to his technical prowess. John and the rest of the company have a solid plan, and the directions are correct.

Swainson has talked about needing to consolidate hundreds of products at CA, while possibly eliminating some. What's your view?

At a philosophical level, it makes sense. We'll rather quickly assess the totality of the product suites and make decisions about what works well and what doesn't. I can't give any specifics about numbers, but the idea is there are a lot of products, so it seems logical that consolidation would be one of the first things to do.

Corporate IT managers say systems and software are too complex. Your thoughts?

Complexity is a huge worry. I want to absolutely reduce complexity both for us inside CA and outside. It is a mess out there, partly because of the combined effect of all the vendors' products. I'm juiced about the notion of effectiveness and efficiency. Too many customers don't feel enough is coming from any one vendor to be effective or efficient. Unicenter is absolutely the right framework to reduce diversity and complexity, and it's good timing in the sense that the industry is moving in that direction.

Do you see changes to the Unicenter staff?

I don't know them well enough yet.

Do you think the concept of on-demand computing, or autonomic computing, is catching on?

On demand is the "marketecture" word for it. But it's fair to say that at one point, we're going to see IT environments that behave like some of the vendors are describing. There are initiatives that position a company to be more agile with systems. But until you really get to what I'd call the ability at runtime to modify the behavior of the infrastructure, you won't be at on demand. That on demandness, that autonomy, doesn't exist today. Unicenter is the right framework to make it happen. Is that six months (away)? No. It will take a while for the market to get there.

IT infrastructure library-based concepts discuss the need for a single systems database charting all the components of a system. But I've noticed that IBM seems to disagree with BMC Software that a single database is really needed. What do you think?

There's raging debate whether it's appropriate to have multiple sources of data for these system behavioral things, and there's also a raging debate for the database directory. I don't think that will be solved anytime soon, and as a vendor, it's not our job to solve that one. Customers solve that problem with a single repository for infrastructure and six repositories for other things.

What would I recommend? There are times when it is appropriate to use directory infrastructure or a database. Whether you settle on one or both, there's always going to be Oracle or PeopleSoft databases with user information and maybe a Unicenter store with infrastructure data. These things live around the enterprise, and the right thing to do is pull them together.

Does management software cost too much?

I don't want to sound jocular, but I'd say it doesn't cost too much if it is solves the problems the customers face. Anything we buy is overpriced if it doesn't do what we want. Price is something to be looked at. I'm about value. Customers will work with a company that has a good solid system. It's not about software being too expensive, but priced appropriately.

Do you think last year's departure of Sanjay Kumar and related problems are still on the minds of customers?

I'm excited about joining CA, and I encourage people to keep an eye on CA because good things are happening. Sanjay's departure doesn't bother me or I wouldn't be there. Most people say that's in the past, and you can't persecute a company for the behaviors of a few individuals. I would hope that's in the past and it's time to move on to greener pastures.

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