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January 26, 2009

OpenSpan Opens Up About the Future of SOA

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

OpenSpan (News - Alert) is a leading provider of application integration and automation software for the enterprise. The comapny and its partners utilize a unique approach to integration to accelerate service-oriented architecture (SOA) deployments and increase enterprise desktop productivity.

Francis Carden, the founder of OpenSpan, recently discussed with TMCnet the company’s efforts to automate manual desktop business processes and create consistency across the enterprise, the green movement, and how the company plans to move forward in the coming years.

Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
Family answer:  My father-in-law. He was someone that changed his and his family’s life around from the very tough times in London after coming out of the British Navy after World War II. He simply wanted a better life for his family and had an amazing drive that I never saw in anyone before or since. When I met him, I realized that people who try harder, and don’t give up, can make a difference in their own and other people’s lives. Entrepreneurs are not born, they are made, and this man made me.

Work Answer: It was actually a group of people at my first computer company. I was working in a training room of a computer company and in my spare time, taught myself about their technology. The boss that hired me told me years later that he hired me from the many applicants because I was the only one that showed passion to want to do more with this “basic” job. The people in the Central Support Group of this company, who were in an adjacent office to mine, were the Crème de le Crème of tech and customer focus. They gave up their time to answer the thousands of questions I had over my first 18 months and in the end, hired me into their group. This fast track into technology, thanks to my first boss and this unselfish group, changed my life.

What excites you most about our industry?
To look for, or develop technologies that solve problems within technology itself. We are in a new era where people are starting to realize that computer technology isn’t a panacea; rather, it creates a new set of challenges. Brainstorming, and thinking outside of the box with my peers is crucial. There are solutions to almost everything in tech, and we certainly have not found them all yet. The fun is looking, and being a skeptic to challenge others in their own thinking.

What areas do you wish you could devote more energy/attention/resources?
I’d like to spend more time with top executives of large companies to continue this brain-storming effort. I look up to Gates, Ballmer, and Jobs and wish I could spend a day a year with each of them to continue this brain-storming. I believe I offer real-world thinking and with their resources, believe differences could be made faster.

What pain does your company take away for customers?
I believe circumstances have turned end users in enterprises into manual machines. Users have to do so much manual stuff with their computers; it’s almost not like using a computer at all. This is such waste, and OpenSpan can automate almost any manual desktop business process and create consistency across the enterprise. This has been a goal of business and IT for 40 years, but until now took too long to build. OpenSpan technology cuts straight to the chase, by focusing on desktop integration and automation that changes the way people think about integration. 

How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
Because I was a big skeptic, I did not believe a product could be built to do what OpenSpan does. Others had tried and failed and most had given up with this type of rapid and agile integration. So out of the gate, we were literally challenging ourselves as a team, with the goal to solve this integration problem once and for all. The product now is so powerful and robust that we can, from start to finish, in weeks or less, build integration solutions that can be rolled into production on 15,000-plus desktops. ROI is greater than $20m per year for just this one customer for just the first project. So, yes, it can be done and we are doing it. Often people come for a demo just because they don’t believe us. We are headed now to evangelize Desktop Integration and Automation as a space. In 2009, more companies have to do more, with less and OpenSpan is a leader in this field. 

What does your dream mobile device look like?
iPhone (News - Alert)-like, with a perfect high speed network interface – that works all the time. Add a keyboard (you have to have a keyboard), a much longer life, or replaceable battery and no dropped calls. It has to be able to access the Slingbox. IM with Video would be cool.

If you were forced to head Nokia, Google (News - Alert), Yahoo, Microsoft, GM, Cisco, Nortel or the US… Which would you pick and why?
That is a tough question. I’d have to choose Google. I am an entrepreneur solving business and integration pains and Google has the biggest challenge to solving enterprise issues. I believe if Google does not address this quickly, they will lose out in the business arena where mass market equals revenue. Microsoft would be a good second choice because they have all the pieces but for some reason, have made a lot of enemies. I would like to address that and help them become more open.

Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the US and abroad?
The first thing I read was that his tech team is going to dictate that all healthcare records be digitized in less than five years. Shamefully, this shows they don’t yet have a clue. Why do they think they can fix in five years what the integration industry been trying to do for more than 20 years? Now, do I think you could make a dent? Yes, absolutely – but saying 5 years makes them look naïve. In contrast, I think about the last 40 years of technology, with our biggest problem still being integration, server side and client side, and we are still making the same mistakes. We should create a high level – real world – advisory team that understands the integration problem. 

How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
It has helped some companies acquire technology they might not otherwise have been able to afford. It has also expedited innovation in a number of areas. Personally, however, I have never felt that code development is IT’s biggest problem. Regardless of whether an organization buys a packaged application, implements an open source alternative (increasingly for-pay) or builds it themselves, they still end up with an application that soon will be “legacy” and that likely doesn’t integrate with everything else they already have. 

When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
It already has. Since MS Mobile release 5, along with some very reliable hardware and networks, it’s a very open and important platform for enterprises. Interesting though, RIM and the iPhone succeed through simplicity and not complexity. I believe you can do a lot more with Microsoft PDAs but is that what the market wants? Perhaps not, so the game is changing.

Apple (News - Alert)? RIM, Nokia?
Apple and RIM are easy to use devices, each with very loyal following. They just get the job done. But Apple does need to sort out some tech problems on their networks and devices. Experiencing those problems left a sour taste in my mouth. Apple needs a keyboard. Nokia (News - Alert) is the stable guy and we’ll see. This is an interesting space because if you look at the success of RIM’s devices, it really was because they did phone calls and email extremely reliably and easily – everywhere. Something other devices are still trying to attain.

 What surprised you most about 2008?
The sheer size of the fraud on Wall Street. Most of the smart guys missed it but the average Joe got hurt, and continues to get hurt. Thanks to technology that has been implemented over the last 20 years, this proves that when the economy grows and then fails, it truly ripples around the globe like a tsunami. When we started out on the tech trail of supporting the global economy, I always felt, “be careful what you ask for” and now we’ve got it and it doesn’t look pretty. I was also surprised that Google has not done more to try and penetrate enterprise IT architectures.

Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar US government communications bailout?
Given our bigger problems, I am not so sure it’d be right to ask right now but going with the flow, I’d say we really should be building out our ground infrastructure. Laying fiber smartly across power lines, and in sewer tunnels. Also addressing the cost of the last mile. It is pretty embarrassing that in other countries they are getting 2 – 10 times the bandwidth we get in the USA to their homes. Also, investing in wireless tech - forget WiMax, put a consortium to leapfrog and start thinking gigabit, wireless. We always seem to be behind, never ahead. It’s time for the US to lead, not follow.

Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
We should not take our eye off the ball. Oil prices will rise. The innovation we have seen because of high oil has been awesome – let’s keep it up.

How does IP communications help in a recession?
I don’t think it does as I already see this as another commodity. We are there and should be thinking of the next big thing: namely, bandwidth.

You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
When we come out of this recession, we need to come out fighting and tech needs to lead. We should talk about innovative technology that can be implemented quickly. Too often, technology fits into the trough of disillusionment too quickly, but that surely can only be because we don’t share and communicate between our peers. I’d like to work on the 10 most important things (to business) that tech needs to do to change the game.
Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.

We’ll see at least four mega-mergers or major failings of large tech IT firms. The recession will be deeper than many dire predictions. Apple will announce supporting copy-and-paste on the iPhone (just kidding). iPhone prices will be reduced by 50 percent due to competition – look-alikes. Home DVRs will move server-side (hosted). Start of the demise of hard drives on laptops and then desktops; always-on laptops (with no sleep or hibernate).

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Tim Gray


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