The Zorro Effect: Circling Back from CA World ‘15

Back from a productive week at CA World, the big CA Technologies summit in Las Vegas. I wasn’t using an app to count my steps like many there, but I am sure I put in thousands if only due to the sheer geographic size of the convention venue at Mandalay Bay.

ca world 2015 walkway
Here’s part of the walk to the CA world ’15 expo with clever “challenge horror scenes.”

My partners in crime at this event were, logically, our Partner Marketing team for CA. Working the meetup table with me, Jill cited something she calls the “Zorro Effect” whereby she would circle around trying to hone in on the people she most needed to meet there, much like the famed swashbuckler Zorro would circle his foil in tighter circles when pinpointing the right time to lunge.

For me the circling at this event had to do with conversations with CA reps and their customers who were specifically referred to us to talk about next steps to further increase velocity in cloud environments — “we went agile, we automated everything, we release faster, now what else can we do?” When I could attend sessions and demos, I was primarily hearing about digital disruption through continuous improvements in software development techniques, from Agile, to continuous delivery, to DevOps.

CA’s CTO Otto Berkes set up day 2 with an interesting way of circling the company’s theme of “The Application Economy” with sets of leading questions to think about in the coming discussions: Open source, containers and microservices, and data and mobile analytics were on the agenda for many of the strategic talks. Then beyond that plan, Otto recommended becoming agile in these areas:

CA CTO Otto Berkes addressing general session at CAworld 2015.
CA CTO Otto Berkes addressing general session at CAworld 2015.

1. Iterating faster – make incremental improvements faster, instead of failing at big projects slowly (fitting their recent acquisition of Rally’s Agile solution);
2. Focusing on services and instrumentation – always try to make development more modular, flexibly constructed with APIs, with testability and analytics built in, and;
3. Securing everything – lots of focus on security here, beyond the standard enterprise firewall stuff to meeting new policy challenges with mobile devices and predictive behaviors to combat a greater “surface area” for threats.

“Call it a new operating system for the enterprise,” he wrapped with. Certainly seems to me they have a complete story when it comes to the enterprise software lifecycle, with much of the newer solution set being positioned as services.

Indeed, everywhere I looked this show was all about transforming to new software techniques and approaches, with the existing enterprise systems CA has long been known for being brought on board with “agile management” as well as service-based offerings that provide analytics, access, and security.

While there was a large product/partner expo floor, they inserted theaters and demos throughout that space and had a spate of industry experts as well as customers (ran into The Phoenix Project author Gene Kim as well as our friend from Intellyx, Jason Bloomberg here). The many customers I talked to seemed to be at CAworld to genuinely get educated, not just about CA product versions (there were some killer hands-on labs for that I’ll talk about separately) but on strategies for getting started with continuous delivery, agile, DevOps.

Which brings me full circle to our session – on Thursday I was third-wheel in a roundtable with two strong advocates for agile and continuous delivery (or, CD): Brian Dawson from CloudBees (@cloudbees) and Derek Weeks (@weekstweets) from Sonatype, with CA Release Automation’s Tim Mueting moderating. These guys were so “passionate” about agile software delivery, our session could have run all day!

All of us agreed that getting everyone to read The Phoenix Project would be a great place for an organization to start. Specifically, Derek talked about taking stock of the “inventory” of code and components in the organization as a way to clear up logjams and increase velocity, and picking a place to start small and get quick wins in building momentum for CD. Brian, in addition to sound advice on faster iterations, brought up the often-overlooked role of empathy in achieving success – indeed, companies and teams are built from individuals who need to understand the challenges and shared goals of others.

Great time passing the mic with these guys, and certainly want to do so again in a future podcast or session. Not too many takers on my Skytap magnet architecture challenge but congrats to the winner.

CA Application Delivery at the Skyfall.

As the evening set in I sat on the rooftop of the Delano, channeling energy from the neon Vegas skyline and catching up with some of the people I knew here from the dawn of Service Virtualization, which is now an essential simulation link in a chain of virtualization tools that spans a continuously evolving software lifecycle. The techniques that once seemed outlandish are now in heavy rotation. Survival is not about size, it is about adaptation, I thought as the elevator descended back to Earth.

bike-ride copy
Great CEO ride to end CA World at Lake Mead.

Then I got on my hybrid bike and rode far into the desert. At first, there were more than 100 people, even CA CEO Mike Gregoire. Soon enough, I was alone on the trail. The sun rose high over the painted hills and no cloud was in sight. I dropped my water bottle at lucky mile 7 and before I could dismount it had spilled into the sand. A crackly Ernest Tubb song played over the intercom of the mirage one-card table hotel, warping, ever out of reach on the horizon. But I was never in any real danger.

For some reason, my sister was out there, in a truck that said “Keep moving” on the side. Birds circled overhead on the thermals with quiet “caw” sounds of times gone by, and virtually, I was right up there with them. Here’s to CA World ’16 – or “CAW” – to be reborn next year!

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