Two firms recently licensed software from Computer Associates International that helps them manage distributed computer networks.

Credit card processor First Data Corp. and consumer finance giant Household International Inc. will each standardize their networked computer systems using the CA-Unicenter software.

Computer Associates executives described the seven-year licensing agreement with Hackensack, N.J.-based First Data as one of the Islandia, N.Y., firm's largest to date.

The software will link 1,000 First Data computer servers and 60,000 computer workstations.

Household International, based in Prospect Heights, Ill., has agreed to a perpetual license for the software.

Unicenter will replace an assortment of programs and link 5,000 personal computers in 480 branches. Household services over more than 12 million credit card holders and also provides consumer loans.

Both firms have previously used Computer Associates software on their mainframe systems.

Executives at both companies said they are moving away from mainframes and toward distributed computing. In distributed computing, personal computers are tied together into networks that pool the PCs' processing power.

David Barany, chief information officer at Household International, said the new software, which should take several months to install, should let the company provide information more quickly to consumers.

Though the cost of installing such software could run into the millions of dollars, distributed computing is nonetheless becoming more popular in financial services, because increasing computer capacity is cheaper to do on PC networks than on mainframes.

"We had to figure out how to control the data we use with the same protection and cost efficiency as ... on the mainframe without adding a significant number of staff to accomplish that," said Mr. Barany.

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