CA's new CTO discusses development, recruiting

Computer Associates International recently named Mark Barrenechea as its chief technology officer. According to a statement, he will be in charge of the company's technology vision and strategy and will work closely with CA's business units to ensure common technology architecture and services across its product line. He will oversee a research group on products for emerging technologies, such as radio frequency identification, and will be a liaison with universities on research. He joined CA in 2003 after holding various positions at Oracle, and has been CA's chief technology architect for the past year. He replaces Yogesh Gupta, who had been CTO since 2000 and will become senior vice president for business development. Barrenechea discussed his new position with Computerworld.

Why were you named CTO?

As we look at what we're trying to achieve here at CA, integration is becoming more and more important to our customers. To be able to deliver on the enterprise IT management vision and potential, we need to ensure security, storage BSO [business service optimization] and ESM [enterprise solutions management] are fundamentally integrated at the data level, business process level and user experience. As we bring in world-class companies such as Niku, Illumine, Concord and our proposed acquisition of Wiley, we need a comprehensive road map to integrate, integrate, integrate. CEO John Swainson has determined that I'm kind of a fit to deliver not just a vision but also the deliverables about that common architecture and integration platform.

What do envision the modern CTO's role to be, not just at CA but at similar companies?

A modern CTO is supposed to be a public spokesperson and doesn't have line or operational responsibility. Yet they are public spokespeople and very good at it. They get the big picture and have their hand on the knobs and dials. One type is the public spokespeople type. They are the sage from the stage vs. the guy from the side. At the other end of the spectrum are the internally focused applied technologists who are sort of heads down in the rank and file with the delivery of bits and bytes to enable technologies. I'd describe myself as somewhere in the middle.

So, how do you interpret that middle ground for your CA role?

We will have responsibility to deliver common components, forming the Advanced Research Group, to look beyond the two-to-three-year cycles that we're delivering products against. We'll be enhancing customer experience around usability and so forth. We also will be high on developer productivity and how to make the modern programmer more productive. You have to be constantly concerned about internal process. There's the element of continuing to define tech strategy and communicating it publicly. There will be public evangelism around that vision and strategy.

How big is your organization going to be?

A few hundred folks.

OK, so beyond this two-to-three-year cycle for delivering identified products, what are some of the cool coming technologies?

Everybody talks about the next big thing, which is one of those terms like Google, which has become a verb. Nowadays, technology companies in software are looking for their iPod, and by that I mean, IP OverDose. So, what's our iPod? There are a couple of technologies that could really change IT. Everything will be IP-based, and we're about halfway there. With everything IP-based, it's a very different IT organization. Storage becomes IP addressable. Today, we're 20% penetrated on VoIP, but there will be IP devices, from big phone switches to other things. Guiding our own advanced research, we're starting with IPv6, RFID and making the enterprise IP addressable. Because once you identify everything as IP addressable, you can discover it, track it, and management becomes, almost, based on a query.

I'm still stuck on that term overdose. So, an IP overdose is a good thing?


Advanced research is a different direction for CA, yes?

We have sufficient scale where we want to do advanced research, and just historically haven't done it. We want to be forward-looking in our advanced research lab. We want a practical view of having high probabilities that what we incubate in our labs will progress through our organization into product. Certainly as technologies progress, the advanced research labs will deliver Version 1, and if the lab has it right, it will be in Lab 2 for productization. If you can free up high-powered engineers and not relate them to building business plans and remove them from go-to-market activities, you can 2x your development efforts. It's a fairly simple process, but the key we're looking to put in place is that our advanced research is looking to capitalize on market trends and capitalize much earlier and incubate in the office of the CTO.

So talk about how you get enough smart folks to do all this in coming years.

A modern CTO needs to continue to recruit the best talent. Formally, a part of my charter is to actively evangelize and recruit with universities around the world. We've done this rather well already, since it's a global company.

Which makes me wonder how U.S. grads for software jobs might fit in.

Looking at the number of degrees granted over the last 10 years, the U.S. has fallen behind significantly in computer science to other countries, and in fact we are behind India, which has 5x what the U.S. has. This is reflective of a global economy. However, the U.S. market has incredible advantages, and the U.S. has incredible ability to deploy capital beyond any other market. In the U.S., we need to pay attention to closing the gap a bit to enable the next generation of technologists. I praise the other countries that get to 5x, but we need to pay attention to ensure we're bringing up the next generation of technologists. I want to recruit the best computer scientists. For students in computer science classes, I encourage them to get their degrees.

How's it going to work with Yogesh Gupta moved to senior vice president of business development?

Yogesh has become a close colleague. He's an industry veteran and a friend and has done a fantastic job in the CTO role for five years. Now he has a very important role of helping drive business strategy within our mergers and acquisitions group. I'm thankful for his leadership and suspect he'll do a fantastic job in mergers and acquisitions.

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