Q&A: CA's John Swainson talks up software-as-a-service, green-IT strategies

The CEO also weighs in on the need for H-1B visa workers

At a CA-sponsored gathering of CIOs last week, the company's CEO, John Swainson, spoke about a range of issues, including the company's software-as-a-service, green-IT and H-1B program strategies. Excerpts from the interview follow:

When we last spoke a year ago, it hadn't been determined whether CA was going to take legal action against Charles Wang. Where does that stand?

It is still in the court whether or not the [CA Special Litigation Committee] report will be accepted. The report, as you know, said some things that were somewhat critical of Charles. That is not resolved yet. Until that's resolved, we can't do anything.

As time goes on, the more difficult it becomes to think about moving backwards. We're looking forward. It's such a different company now than it was three or four years ago. I can't give you an answer, because I don't know. But I'm not focused on that anymore. I don't think about Charles Wang.

Where do you see the software-as-a-service trend heading, and how might it change the way CA makes its software available to companies?

There's no question about the fact that software as a service is going to be an important delivery model for software in the future. I don't think it's going to be the only delivery model, and I don't think it's going to be a good delivery model for every kind of software. There are some attributes that make a product successful in a software-as-a-service model, and there are other things that would make it less successful.

So we're looking at our portfolio right now, and we're trying to assess what things fit well into that model. We have a lot of partners who offer our service desk product as a software-as-a-service product today. We think our Clarity [IT governance] product has a lot of potential in a software-as-a-service model. We offer it in a hosted model today -- not as software as a service. The customer buys the license, but we host it. We're going to offer it in a software-as-a-service model, either directly or through partners, very soon -- within months.

So yes, we think this has potential for us. The one thing I don't know yet is whether we will be the wholesaler or the retailer in a software-as-a-service model. There's no question about the fact that we'll be one or the other. We may in many cases be developing the product and packaging it up and having others deliver it; in some cases, we might be a retailer, too.

The other thing you have to consider is that with most of the successful software-as-a-service products, there's a very small amount of data transfer that needs to go on. If you take our traditional systems management business, that's not the model at all -- there's a huge amount of data transfer that goes on. We will track thousands, or even millions of events a day coming out of the environment. And you have this fairly intrusive thing called an agent that actually lives on someone's desktop, or lives in their server environment, and it's not obvious to me that that model works that way.

We're still finding our way -- it's early days. Some things, like Clarity, look like they have great potential in that world. Some other things, like traditional systems management, not so much.

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