CA Spectrum Review

I can use it to detect whenever things go wrong on my network, but I would like them to eliminate the Java console


What is our primary use case?

We use it to monitor the fault of our network to make sure that the infrastructure that delivers our services to our end users is up and all the redundancy is up. 

It performs really well in these tasks. It is one of its core competencies.

How has it helped my organization?

Spectrum is heavily loaded with alarm configuration, so it can detect whenever things go wrong. Things that I didn't even know could go wrong on my network. It picks up on those. I have integrated it into my ITIL management, incident management, change management, and problem management systems, so it feeds right in to my existing processes.

What is most valuable?

Spectrum is really good at discovering what I have out there just by giving it the list of things: my inventory. I feed in my inventory, and it discovers what is out there and how they are all connected to each other. 

What needs improvement?

I would like to see them eliminate the Java console. The user interface for this is a Java applet that runs on your desktop, and it is very problematic for us in a large organization where Java is looked at as the big, bad evil thing that we should never have installed on anybody's computer because of security reasons and all that. Also, Java has an old look and feel, and it is slow-performing, as far as the client application is concerned. That is the reason why a lot of applications have gone web-based. 

What I would like to see out of the next version of Spectrum is a web-based GUI that is completely incorporated into what we call the "Performance Center", which is an existing system that is kind of a manager of managers, a Mom, if you will. That manager of managers would be the perfect place. 

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is a CA product. It is a mature product, but it does have issues. It does have issues that any product will have, but the nice thing is that CA does a pretty good job of addressing those issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is really scalable. When we were first installing it, it would have required nine servers on-premise, which was a pretty big ask for us. Then, right towards the end of our prep for deployment, they released a new version that simplified it down to one. This was incredibly useful for us because that meant that we could really scale it up and really bring a lot of the stuff together that was on separate systems before.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have used support. The only real downside we have seen with the support is sometimes it will take a while for them to get back to us. Most of the time when we run into a problem, it is a complex problem that Level 1 just can't fix. Because if Level one could have fixed it, we probably could have fixed it ourselves. 

We sometimes run into a situation where they are having to escalate back to somebody else who is on vacation who has had somebody else come in for him. There is slowness there, but other than that, they have been able to eventually address our issues. 

We have had one support issue that has been open for a couple of months, and it is currently open. It is a pretty tricky issue. It is incredibly difficult to replicate, which is the main reason that it is taking so long for them to fix it, because they can't really just go in, do what we do, and have it show up. When they do what we do, it does not show up, until randomly it does show up. 

I have been in a support organization before, and I know how hard it can be to troubleshoot random issues.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have a previous solution. I came onto the scene to help clean up and modernize a lot of our operations. This was one of the things we looked at.

As one of my operation managers put it, we were driving down the road at 80 miles an hour with the windscreen painted black. Sometimes, we would roll down the windows and stick our head out the window, but we recognized it as a big gap. It was something that we needed: good fault monitoring. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was complex. We have an operations team who was responsible for doing it. They spent a lot of time working with CA on a couple of different issues that were not as straightforward. Mainly because our environment is significantly different than the typical environment that CA would have expected. 

It is the same problem that you run into with anybody who sells software. They think users use software a certain way, but then users do not use it that way. Or, you think the user's environment is going to be a certain way, so you build things it that depend on it being that way, but when it gets into the real world, you find out, "Oh well, you don't have it that way? Why don't you have it that way? Oh, I never even considered that you would have a reason for not doing it that way." So, those are the kind of things that we run into, because we are a company that does not do things your typical way.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at a lot of different options and Spectrum was the one that met all of our criteria. Scalable and expansive enough to capture everything that we needed to capture, and even things that we did not even know we needed to capture.

We were looking at some of the other giant, old-blood software companies. The main reason we chose Spectrum over any other solution was mainly because it was mature, but it was also going places. We could see the future of where Spectrum was trying to go. We could see where it was going to be and where we needed it to be in two years when we get there in two years. 

Wayne Gretzky said, "I skate to where the hockey puck is going to be." We saw that Spectrum was headed to where the hockey puck was going to be. That means that when we adopted it, it was not where the hockey puck was. We understood that when we were getting it that we would deal with those pains up front, then eventually, we would be ahead of the game.

What other advice do I have?

Every once in a while, you will run into somebody who will surprise you by being innovative or by showing you that they have a vision for something, and that they are working or striving towards acting like a startup within this big monolithic steam train that is CA.

I would look at the capabilities that Spectrum has to integrate with other solutions and be part of a bigger solution. When you are doing something like this, you have to have a bigger vision of what you are going to have across the board, then understand that this plays part of that, and it fills an important role.

It is better than your average bear. It is a good tool. It is a very robust tool. It has a lot of capabilities. I can't give it a 10 just because there are times when I will be working with the tool, and I will run across something that I do not like, some kind of feature that doesn't work the way I expect it to work, and it is not intuitive, and I will talk to CA about it, and they will say something like, "Well, nobody has ever tried to think about it that way," or, "Nobody's ever asked us that question." I'm like, "This thing is 20 years old. How has nobody ever asked that question?" 

More than likely, what I tend to believe is that they were not listening when somebody asked that question, which is actually something that has changed recently. I think Mike Gregoire has done a good job of changing the attitude of a lot of the stuff, and they have got some new leadership that has really made it so that they are now listening. Whenever I bring up something like this, they say, "Yeah, we know. You've brought this up before. This other guy has brought that same thing up. We understand it." It does not help solve the problem. There are pieces of the software that are still not intuitive. However, the fact that they are listening makes a difference.

Most important criteria when selecting a vendor: We do not actually select vendors. We select products. Really, I could care less whether or not the product comes from CA because we have other stuff with CA. In fact, we tend to frown on picking a product just because it comes from a vendor that we are already doing business with. It makes it so that we are not very agile. We have to really consider the solution very objectively. We only consider the vendor when it comes to their history of being able to perform, their history of being able to support and provide top-notch solutions. We frown on coupling the purchase of one tool, or the acquisition of a tool, just because we own another tool by that same vendor. So, we do not really select vendors.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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