Careers: Interviews
Dot Net Expert: Yong Tao Chen

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with Yong Tao [YT] Chen. Mr. Chen is in the rarefied elite worldwide in .NET [Dot Net] development receiving many accolades/awards/recognition, and a wide following from his research papers published in leading international professional journals. Mr. Chen was the first person worldwide to earn the new SQL MCDBA designation together with the CNA, MCSE+I, MCSD, CSP and NSP titles combined with his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and his Masters of Business Administration.

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Q: I’m happy to see you Yong Tao and it’s a real privilege to interview you again. With your current world leading research, could you tell us which area you are currently working on? What do you feel about these areas?

A: I am currently working on two projects--I am the project leader on a financial web application as well as working on an intranet application. I feel it is a wonderful opportunity to work with the latest technologies. For example these projects include utilizing Biztalk server as information exchange center applying XML, C# language in ASP.net, soap and web services, programming on embedded devices, along with Crystal web-based reporting system. It is extremely exciting to be personally involved in these rapidly changing technologies.


Q: Together with your singular technical abilities, you are well known and respected as a gifted teacher. In your own words, can you overview some of the new technologies that are evolving?

A: As most of my work is related to Microsoft .Net, let’s start there. Microsoft talks about it, people talk about it, but we might wonder why it is so great and what it can do for us. My answer is, it brings a philosophical change in utilizing Internet and opens up unlimited possibilities.

Dotcom’s failure enables us to rethink the Internet. It is no longer a place that proverbially prints money. However with every failure comes an opportunity, for me there is potential in the Internet.

For the most part today’s Internet is for “Viewing”, ie. the primary use of a browser. The “language” used for the browser—HTML, is designed for displaying information. The programming languages that create Dotcom---CGI, ISAPI, ASP, JSP are so limited, most of them are scripting language which in essence means a long programming lifecycle, difficult to write, poorly documented and hard to debug. To use these languages for dynamic exchanges is problematic and very costly. Compared to the most recent programming languages, these older languages are archaic.

Two of the most powerful technologies that are used to build today’s programming languages are: Object oriented (O-O) and RAD (Rapid application development). Using O-O programming, such as java, we can simulate business models, make code easier to understand and modify. Using RAD, such as VB, can greatly reduce the programming lifecycle. Before .Net, there was no language that had both characteristics, let alone using these characteristics in web-based application development.

The .Net languages: C# and VB.net inherit the “best” of previous languages; they are truly easier to use, enhancing the capabilities of web-based applications and the dynamic exchange of data. I am far more productive and feel more confident with this latest toolkit of programming languages.

Previously, building web-based applications was only affordable by large enterprises, now it is certainly within the realm of middle or small size companies due in part to the shorter life cycle in writing the code, and a far more user-friendly approach of coding. The result has provided a significant reduction in costs, improvement of services, more convenience, reducing human labor. The impact might be initially slow, but eventually it will be significant and worthwhile.


Q: With your long history successfully working with .NET in a leadership role worldwide, can you give us some details on .Net?

A: [Dot Net] .Net itself is quite obscure. Different explanations coming from sales hypes can be confusing.

Two major concepts need to be considered: Fully utilizing the Internet represents the wave of moving from desktop or client/server application into a web-based application, leveraging Internet technologies for Intranet and accessing information from embedded devices through the Internet. Web services mean turning the software from a product into a service. A Product is something you buy from a shop and take home; a service is on-going, and subscription-based.

From another aspect, .Net is a combination of a set of products, tools and knowledge guidelines. It sets up a “protocol” on how to build applications on the web and how to let these applications “talk”.


Q: More than anyone, with your leading development work, you can provide us with a picture of what will happen in the IT industry in the next 5 years.

A: Obviously the focus will move from desktop to web, from client/server to web, from mainframe or from other systems to web. By adopting the new technologies, information will become more useful and accessible and will play a more important role in the business area and on our daily life. The most active area of IT will shift from home users to business, the technologies will help organizations reduce cost, raise efficiency and provide more opportunities.

The fast growth of personal computing will come of age. The area of embedded computing: palm size device, cell phone, watch and cameras will become smarter with time. The upgrades and software development on these areas will accelerate even faster.


Q: As a follow-up question, which attributes will be most important in this area to the IT professional?

A: A combination of technical background and business knowledge will become very important and essential to every entrepreneur. Technical background helps us to understand what is possible; business knowledge gives us a reason to apply these technologies.


Q: Yong Tao, you have researched and written about all the available technologies from the major vendors and you have quite a following due to your excellent research. There is a lot of talk about technologies from different vendors like Microsoft .Net or Sun One; do you want to say something about this?

A: There is a lot of discussion about which language is better: VB, Java, C++, C# and others. In many aspects, there is little difference amongst them. No matter which company creates it, it is merely a tool. As an analogous concept, can you tell whether a hatchet, wrench, mallet or hammer is better? For the most part it is the one you are most comfortable with using. There is no one programming language panacea that is superior. Which is better ultimately depends on what you want and where you want to use it.

However, I do believe .Net represents a positive direction to the future. I see it as the most advanced “tool” in the market. It brings about a conceptual framework which will dominate the future of IT.

Some people would like to dismiss Microsoft because they represent the superpower of IT. I think this is an over-reaction. Look back 20 years; the same concern was expressed about IBM.


Q: What will be the unique position of your company of which you are the Chief Technical Officer?

A: We are recognized as world experts on Microsoft .Net. By introducing .Net to business companies and organizations, smaller to mid-sized organizations can now enable the same technologies that were only affordable to larger enterprises.

People may not realize the potential and benefits of current technology, and a price that is within their range. Imagine this: a doctor can use a palm size handhold device, visit patients in different rooms, record his notes in the handheld device, and his notes will be stored into a central database instantly with a push of a key; Another doctor who is checking one of the patient’s historical notes can bring up the stored notes in real time from another location. Or, a manager who flies to California can use his cell phone, contact his company’s mobile portal to ask the portal to send today’s sales report to his Email account, or alternately check his company’s real time sales report from his hotel though his laptop. It is within our potential to bring this to every company and office.

Ultimately we will help our customers understand what these technologies will mean to them, how it will help them profit by reducing costs and add value to the operation of their businesses.

We believe that the future holds a vast number of opportunities as we move into the 21st century. Only your imagination will limit your potential.


Q: It is said that the downtime of IT will still last for a while. What do you say about this and what will be the reaction of you and your company?

A: It is true that people will be more conservative when they invest in IT. I always see things though in more positive way. While the downturn brings some challenges to us, it also means new opportunities.

It will not be an era for the faint of heart. Many will fail but this will leave a void for great success stories. Individuals and companies will enjoy a richer, healthier life if we are careful and take pride in what we do. We sincerely believe we are “one” of these companies. We hope and pray for a better future. We must stay positive and put faith and build on what we believe is just and right.


Q: Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to be interviewed and for providing an overview of where you see technology going. Finally, congratulations on your singular nomination for the Top 40 Under 40 list as the best chief technical officer, researcher, and developer working today.

A: It’s a pleasure spending time to give back to the IT community and I enjoyed the interview.


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