CA heeds customer calls for Linux IT answers

Two years ago, just five of his 100 largest enterprise customers were asking Sanjay Kumar, president and CEO of software and services vendor Computer Associates International Inc., questions about the then-emerging Linux operating system within their businesses.

Last year, that changed, as 50 of CA's 100 largest customers wanted to know more about what it could do for them regarding Linux.

Today, the number of customer inquiries is continuing to grow. And that, Kumar said in an interview this morning, is a good sign for the continued adoption and growth of Linux in the enterprise.

"When IBM stood up [last year with a US$1 billion commitment to Linux], I think customers responded," Kumar said. "That's made it safer."

But questions, he said, aren't the same as purchases, and while the Linux market is expanding, the investments that the Islandia, N.Y.-based company has been making in applications and services for the operating system are not without risks.

"The market will not take off until high-end customers, with money, come in and say, 'This is a good thing,' " Kumar said. That is beginning to happen, but more real-world, heavy-duty business applications need to be ported by software vendors to give corporate customers an easier adoption path, he said.

In the interview, and during a keynote speech today here at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, Kumar said that while CA isn't typically known as a Linux player, its commitment is real.

"We're clearly taking the risk, and we think it's a good risk to take based on where customers want us to be," he said.

As part of its Linux push, CA today unveiled 23 new software products that are ready for Linux, including 17 available today, for use by large businesses within their infrastructures. Among the products are network and systems management packages, storage management products, databases, portal software and security applications.

For CA, the inclusion of Linux as another of its long list of supported operating systems, including Unix, Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 2000, was a natural progression inspired by customer needs.

CA has garnered a notable list of customers running its Linux products, including Citigroup, Salomon Smith Barney, DaimlerChrysler and retailer PCMall. "They're all doing Linux for different reasons, " he said, including security, robustness and storage.

Five years ago, such a customer list for Linux would never have been expected, Kumar said. "Clearly they have surprised us. Customers are not afraid of the platform anymore," he said.

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