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Computer Associates shows off latest tech

At its customer conference, CA outlines its technology vision, including updates to its wireless and Web services products. Also on tap: a big commitment to open source.

LAS VEGAS--Computer Associates International sketched out the company's product strategy on Monday, detailing its wireless and Web services product plans.

Computers Associates' chief technology officer, Yogesh Gupta, said the company is investing in its existing management products to lower the cost of operating corporate technology systems. The company's overall vision, which Gupta described during a keynote speech at CA's customer conference in Las Vegas, is to create a unified management software suite for managing security, storage and other computing issues.

On Monday, the company expanded its security product line with Wireless Site Management. Now in beta testing, the product is designed to help network administrators restrict access to Wi-Fi networks. Wireless Site Management includes an "agent," or small security device that plugs into a PC's USB port, as well as software to administer several wireless devices and access points.

The management software has a visual tool that lets administrators map out a zone of restricted Wi-Fi network access. The software also allows companies to automatically change wireless encryption keys and send out the changed keys to wireless devices and access points.

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In Web services, Computer Associates released an update to its Web Services management line, a product that allows companies to monitor the performance of Web services applications. Web Services Distributed Management 3.1 now allows companies to track applications other than Web services, including those written using XML, the Corba development model, and EDI (electronic data exchange).

In conjunction with the new release, Computer Associates said it is launching a hosted version of its Web Services Distributed Management line. The outsourced service includes a tool called Web Services Performance Index, which lets users view how well Internet-based Web services, such as Google's search engine, perform.

The company also plans to expand its use of open-source development to help expand use of its products, as previously reported. Computer Associates has submitted security software called Kernel Generalized Event Model (KGEN) to open-source projects involved in the development of the Linux operating system kernel. CA hopes the security software will be incorporated into the Linux development process by the fall, Gupta said.

The product initiatives are part of Computer Associates' efforts to demonstrate that the company has a viable technology plan for its customers following a shake-up of its top management amid an ongoing investigation of its accounting practices. Gupta noted that the company has been awarded more patents in the last two years than it had in the first 25 years of the company.

"We are continuing to invest in innovative solutions so that our solutions stay one ahead of your needs," Gupta told customers at the show. Interim CEO Kenneth Cron said on Sunday that CA--with a history of growth through acquisition--will look at more acquisitions to gain access to technology. He said the company will continue to commit about 20 percent of its revenue to research and development.

Some customers said CA's latest wireless and Web services products are addressing pressing needs.

"They're talking about things that are pertinent issues to us. In wireless, (lack of security) is something that we've grappled with and that's held us back," said Phillip Bertolini, information technology director of Oakland County, Michigan.

Another customer, United Health Services, said its hospital is testing the security features in Computer Associates' Wireless Site Management. Solid security is required before the hospital can use wireless networks to transfer patient data, said CIO Linda Reino.

Sam Higgins, applications architect of Queensland Transport in Brisbane, Australia, said CA's Web services management product was at least as good as other products from smaller, specialized firms. The software allowed the government agency to rapidly track how well applications were performing without a lot of custom work, he said.

Although Queensland Transport has management software from other companies, such as CA rival Hewlett-Packard, the agency expects that Computer Associates will be one of the few technology suppliers it will work with more closely. Queensland Transport is looking to phase out its "best of breed" approach to technology vendors, which it needed when it was aggressively adopting cutting-edge technology, such as Web services.

"CA's acquisition of different software companies has allowed us to consolidate with them," Higgins said. "One of the neat things about CA is that they're fundamentally independent from a technology point of view. If you're not happy with Oracle, IBM or Microsoft, where do you go?"