Monday, 28 August 2017 08:55

CA turns its attention to the modern software factory Featured


Perhaps more than any other IT company and possibly because of its diverse portfolio, CA Technologies is fond of big themes.

A couple of years ago, CA was all about the application economy – essentially the idea that software is playing an increasingly important part in all businesses. For example, taxi companies could have developed and deployed Uber-style apps, but by and large they didn't until the new ride-hailing businesses had wrecked the value of taxi licences.

Now, the focus is on the modern software factory – "It's what we do, it's what we stand for," CA APJ chief technology officer Stephen Miles told iTWire, emphasising that it's not just a marketing message.

The concept resonated with big companies and "took on a life of its own", he said.

"This isn't just an exercise around packaging" but rather "some really good integrated capability that does really good things" and addresses "real stuff customers are trying to do".

The modern software factory concept reflects CA's own Agile transformation, he explained. Various business units within CA have been using Agile methodologies for some time, but — partly as a result of the 2015 acquisition of Rally Software — this is now done at the company level (aka Agile at scale).

The significance is that planning horizons have shortened dramatically, and so (for example) good ideas don't need to wait until they can be added to next year's budget.

CA ANZ chief technology officer Jason Pope stressed that this does not only apply to product teams but across the enterprise, including areas such as finance, HR and marketing.

This leads to a different way of engaging with customers, one that is consultancy-led rather than focussing on CA's products and technology

The modern software factory concept is also about applying technology from around the company to help customers turn functional requirements into software very quickly, explained Miles.

"We really are an Agile company... at scale," he said, so CA understands the issues and can contribute to other businesses trying to make similar transformations.

The idea of innovation needs to be thought through, Miles suggested. Hackathons and similar events are all very well, but they tend to be intermittent and only one of two ideas get put into production. Innovation should be an ongoing process, and that requires the ability to to internalise good ideas as they are formed so they reach production.

Organisations also need to tap into what Miles refers to as the extended ecosystem of value. But "partnering (with other companies, including startups) isn't as easy as it sounds", he warned. It involves accessing each others' intellectual property, and exposing parts of your operation must be done safely to avoid granting unintended access. Technologies such as secure API management and simulated interfaces can be usefully applied to prevent that happening.

Another problem is that most architectures have not been built for change. Monolithic and n-tier applications made sense at the time they were created, but are hard to change. That led to the widespread use of API technology (including gateways to control access and avoid "spaghetti wiring"), but eventually organisations will need to rearchitect their major applications using composable technologies such as microservices.

That will allow even long established and relatively conservative organisations such as banks to keep up with the speed of startups, Miles said.

There's also a need to be trusted. In some situations there is the threat of penalties for non-compliance, but an organisation's reputation can nosedive if it breaches trust.

Trust is made trickier when an organisation is tapping into that extended ecosystem or has parallel development teams, for example, because that means more people touch the relevant systems. This can be addressed with dynamic and scalable privileged user management systems, Miles said.

Similarly, a mix of in-house, partner-developed and open-source code calls for tools that can review compiled code, eg to check for unexpected functions.

Hence the five pillars of CA's modern software factory vision: technology, innovation, ecosystem, architecture, and trust.

Business Agility The Modern Software Factory copy

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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