Innovation Insights: A Look Back - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
02:08 AM

Innovation Insights: A Look Back

A collection of stories and ideas from vendor executives and business-technology professionals who reflect on the past 25 years.

25 Years Of InformationWeekVendor Perspectives:

Alfred Chuang, Founder, Chairman and CEO of BEA Systems on accepting the fact that he wasn't going to be a race car driver, but could make smart decisions about software.

"Twenty-five years ago, I reluctantly accepted the fact that I was never going to become a Formula I race-car driver. I was newly graduated from the computer-sciences program at the University of San Francisco, exploring the guts of a Univac 9060 clone of the IBM 360, and having early versions of the central idea that would, in time, lead to the founding of BEA. I was fascinated by the potential of powerful computers and distributed systems to change the way the world does business.

As the PC era dawned a few years later, I began to focus on a goal my company pursues to this day: bringing the fluid standardization of the desktop to enterprise computing. This was the crucial vision around which Bill Coleman, Ed Scott, and I--B, E, and A--founded our company in 1995.

Some of my sharpest memories of that early period are personal bringing my home fax machine the first day because our windowless, one-room office had none, sitting on the floor that night with screw drivers, assembling desks. And some are pure business, such as my struggle with BEA's board of directors to acquire WebLogic, a company that had gone through four CEOs in seven months, had no product, no revenue, and for which I asked the board to pay $160 million. The board members laughed and turned me down unanimously, so I put all my personal stock on the table to show how much I believed. I got my way. WebLogic turned out to be among the most successful software acquisitions in history.

Twenty-five years from now, enterprise IT will be standardized. Information and knowledge will flow, unimpeded, across global ecosystems. There will be no 'IT projects,' just business projects supported by technology. This radical simplification will propel our industry to a golden age, allowing us and our successors to deliver a significantly better quality of life to people in both the developed and developing worlds by continually driving down the costs of creating and delivering goods and services."

Ron Kopecki, President, Commercial Information Networks for Eads Telecom writes about the launch of Intecom 25 years ago, and what the future holds.

"In 1979, when we started Intecom, the talk was about convergence, much as it is today. In fact, Intecom was founded with the idea of putting voice and data on the same system and we introduced the first converged product to the marketplace. We talk about voice over IP today and convergence, but it was a big thing for us in 1979 too.

In 1979, Intecom produced the first digital telephone sets on the market, allowing organizations to purchase their own equipment and provide those services internally. At the time, our prices were $1,500 to $2,000 per PBX set. Today, that price is down to $300 to $500, so like most of the electronic equipment we use today calculators, PCs, PDAs the prices have come down over time.

One of the most important and striking trends has been the move toward open systems. In 1979 everything was proprietary. The way we developed digital stations and the transmission of voice and data was all done with proprietary solutions. In contrast, today the major initiative is toward open systems that are more flexible and have a better return on investment. You can get a PBX today based on SIP and VoIP and download the source code off the Internet. Open systems marked a sea change for the industry and change how everyone does business.

Even prior to 1979, AT&T was the name of the game. You had to go to AT&T to get what you needed in telecommunications and that was about it. This idea of customer-premises equipment didn't come along until we introduced the digital handsets in 1979. The idea of the customer owning the equipment, training its own people and having control over the systems was entirely new. But it allowed companies to save money and not have to depend on AT&T for all their telecommunications services. Today, ironically, the trend is moving toward hosted services. With the technology advances that have improved networking and bandwidth, customers can depend on managed services. Most customers are much more concerned about the software running on their systems than where the systems are actually located.

The other major difference is that back in 1979, everything was wired. There was little or no discussion of wireless. The technology shift to wireless is one of the most important changes I've seen in my 25 years in the industry. Today, wireless is the future, is a dramatic shift in technology and thinking.

And I think that maybe the most impressive thing is what the telecommunications industry has done for society. If you take a global view, telecommunications has had a major part in improving the standard of living for people around the world. For example, the call center industry that has grown up in India and the Philippines has allowed those and other countries to participate in this industry and improved the quality of life in those countries by providing jobs. In addition, consider developments such as telemedicine or distance learning, neither of which would be possible without telecommunications. The impact of the industry has been dramatic and far reaching, probably more so than anyone thought 25 years ago."

Business Technologist Perspectives:

James J. Bosco, a consultant who remembers when the Glass House began to shatter.

"I've been employed in the IT field since 1967. Mostly in the large insurance company side of IT.

Until the late 1970's the large insurance company IT profile was basically "Glass House" centric. Large Mainframe Computers with user interfaces of cards and printed reports until the advent of the CRT, which changed the user interface dramatically.

Largest Professional Impact: ORACLE (the relational model) has had the largest impact on my professional career. It lead the way from the "Glass House" centric only computing option, to distributed platform options. Greatly reducing costs and allowing for shorter development life cycles. I was the Director/Chief Architect for a project that developed and delivered an Enterprise Platform for the entire Group Insurance business, within a large insurance company. The project was very successful and even obtained a U.S. Patent for the design (5,191,522). The major component was the Enterprise Data Model, which is still in place today. The Enterprise Platform has been upgraded from a character based user interface, to client/server and most recently J2EE, while maintaining the underlying data structure.

Largest Personal Impact: Hands down it has to be the World Wide Web! It has changed the way we work and live. From communication, to research, to shopping, to personal finance and entertainment. I am able to expand my personal and professional knowledge and dramatically increase my productivity.

IW Impact: Over the years, since 1986, I have been a subscriber to IW. I find it to be the only IT publication that covers the entire IT field. I have even had to pleasure to be included in a few IT stories. I recommend it to all IT professionals that I consult with. Keep Up the Good Work and Thanks for the memories!"

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