Careers: Interviews
Internationally Known Analyst: Trevor Eddolls

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with, Trevor Eddolls, an internationally-known analyst, author, lecturer and senior consultant. Trevor is author of VM Performance Management by McGraw-Hill; Introduction to VM by NCC Blackwell; and ASO: Automated Systems Operations for MVS by McGraw-Hill. He has written and produced user surveys such as MVS Automated Operations Software and The Help Desk in Practice. He has chaired numerous seminars, and lectured extensively in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. Trevor also edits publications like AIX Update, DB2 Update, MVS Update, NT Update, Oracle Update, CICS Update and News IS for Xephon, Europe’s premier IT market watcher. We caught up with Trevor in the UK, his base of operations for his worldwide activities.

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Discussion:
Q: First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
A: No problem – always glad to help out.


Q: Having established your renowned expertise to an international audience through your writings, and lectures, what does your wife Jill and your two daughters think about you being a noted international expert?
A: They manage not to let it get in the way of their day-to-day activities. In fact, sometimes I don’t think they notice at all.


Q: With your background in teaching and an arts degree, what led you into computing?
A: It was actually while I was teaching that I was invited to spend two weeks in industry. I visited a company called Scicon, which was a computer bureau. I liked the look of the kind of work they were doing there, and, over lunch on my last day, they offered me a job.


Q: How did you get involved in writing? Looking back, would you do anything differently?
A: I’ve always liked writing – short stories and poems, as well as technical writing. I’d written lots of instructions for Operators and Ops Analysts at Scicon. I wrote a number of training courses for Protocol, who I worked for next. It was while at Xephon, where I’d written articles and user surveys, that I had a meeting with Jay Renade, who invited me to write a book for McGraw-Hill. I wrote that and two others. I still regularly contribute articles.

I don’t think I’d do anything differently.


Q: What do you feel are the five hottest topics of interest to IT professionals today and what will be the topics in two years and in five years?
A: In a way, the hot topics are the same all the time, only the name changes. Performance of the hardware and software is critical to a company staying in business. The other vital ingredient is ‘delivery’ – making sure that your customers get what they want, as quickly as possible. I think that in many ways the focus is going to turn back towards IBM. People are going to realize that the banks and insurance companies never got rid of their mainframes. Installing a mainframe is going to be the solution of choice for many companies – especially now that a mainframe doesn’t look a lot different from any other server and you don’t need water cooling equipment, etc. I think the IBM products like DB2, WebSphereMQ, and the Tivoli range are going to grow in importance.

There will also be a growth in Web Services, .Net, and SOAP, as well as J2EE. People expect fast and accurate delivery on the Web.

I foresee that more software will be able to “heal” itself. It’s the final stage for automated operations! Large applications like CICS and DB2 will monitor what’s happening and be able to pre-emptively take corrective action. This will allow 24 by 7 working. I think lots of software will be moving in this direction.

Lastly, I see Linux appearing everywhere. It will be the Web server, database server, and application server platform of choice for many companies. It will also start to appear more commonly on office workers desktop. And in five-years’ time it will be totally unremarkable to see it in the home. It will also be the preferred operating system for PDAs and other handheld devices. And, of course, IBM is delivering Linux on mainframes.


Q: Who/what do you think are the winners and losers in IT in next five years? [This could be companies, technologies, …and so on.] What advice would you give to enterprises in their adoption of technologies in the next five years?
A: There are going to be two big losers in the next five years, in my opinion, Sun and Microsoft. Sun will just disappear because everyone will choose an alternative. The Sun ONE model will not gain the critical mass it needs to continue.

The imminent death of Microsoft has been predicted many times (over the years), but, due to nifty footwork and the rewriting of history, it’s never happened – in fact it’s always been the reverse. I don’t see Microsoft disappearing, I see it having negative growth. This will be caused by the growth of Linux-based PCs and the spread of StarOffice and other software doing the job of Microsoft Office, but for free or sensibly priced. I see Microsoft’s push into the middle and large enterprise space being stopped by people’s growing reliance on Linux-based servers and IBM mainframes. I don’t see the .Net part of Web services being industrial strength.

I think the winners are going to be companies making combinations of PDAs and mobile phones. Something small and compact with all the features of SMS (texting) and diary, memo etc is going to be too convenient a device not to catch on – especially when the price drops. It would be nice if voice-recognition technology were to become available on such devices. I also see people who write games for these little devices selling millions of copies at very low prices.


Q: Where do you see the following evolving in the next five years?
 
  • Java
     
  • .NET
     
  • XML
     
  • Wireless
     
  • Security
A: Java will be very important and will be appearing in industrial-strength products such as Java 2 Enterprise Edition, and other facilitating products.

.Net, SOAP and Web services will be appearing soon in the Microsoft SOAPToolkit and VisualStudio.Net. Web services will grow hugely in importance and .Net will grow with this. But the big question is whether Microsoft solutions really scale for bet-the-business applications.

XML as a standard has a lot to offer, and we can expect it to pervade the whole of computing. Every piece of software will access or write XML. But there is a downside – currently there are a number of specialist versions of XML, eg CML for the chemical industry or FinXML for the financial people.

Wireless will be taken for granted in five years’ time. A mouse, if we’re still using such a device, will be cordless. Your phone or PDA will synchronize with other people’s using infra-red. And any airport, train station, or cafĂ© (like Starbucks in the USA) will allow laptops access to the Internet. People will just expect it to happen – have a coffee and check your e-mail, or look up something on Google.

Security is going to remain a very important issue. If people are carrying important data around on a PDA or laptop, how is that data going to be protected, for example, if the device is stolen or when files are uploaded or downloaded in public places (eg cafes). There’s also the concern of backing up, restoring, and synchronizing the data on such devices. And on top of that, you have the worry that people will be writing viruses to attack PDAs or phones, or whatever. People in the security business can look forward to a long and steady income!


Q: Can you describe three projects that you have worked on and lessons you have learned from these projects?
A: I am unable to speak specifically about actual projects – however I can say that I have learned to believe what they always tell you on project management training courses. Always plan thoroughly, always talk to people and listen to their views as part of the ongoing management, and always review afterwards to see what could be done better next time. Oh, and always allow at least half as much time extra as you originally thought necessary!


Q: Where do you see your career heading in the next two years and five years?
A: I don’t want it to seem that I have no aims, but I see myself doing much the same sort of thing in five years’ time. The technology I will be using and learning about will be different and better, but I’ll still be finding ways of using it more efficiently and writing and telling others about it.


Q: What would be your recommended top ten references for the IT professional?
A: In the past, I guess the answer to this question would be a list of books. Now, I suppose it’s Web addresses, like:
 
  • www.xephon.com
     
  • www.mainframeweek.com
     
  • http://www.silicon.com
     
  • http://search390.techtarget.com
     
  • http://www.s390.ibm.com
     
  • http://www2.hursley.ibm.com/rexx/
     
  • http://os390-mvs.hypermart.net/homepage.htm
     
  • http://www.sillysot.com/mvs
     
  • http://mvshelp.com/
     
  • http://www.mainframes.com

Q: What are the top ten challenges facing IT departments in the next five years and what are your recommendations to meet/overcome these challenges?
A: The number one challenge is finding and retaining quality staff. In a way, IT departments grew up on the enthusiasm of people for the new technology. But now, it is as much about management – finding out what those “good” people want from their job, and trying, as far as possible, to provide it. Once you’ve achieved this, you’re in a position to overcome the other challenges. It’s also imperative to find staff who understand business needs as well as understanding the technology.

These other challenges are:
 
  • Security;
     
  • Getting customers to YOUR Web site when Google (etc) throw up 2000+ possible sites for customers to visit;
     
  • Choosing the right technology, and not developing in a technological cul-de-sac;
     
  • Getting the price right for products;
     
  • Speed of delivery – people want everything at Web speed;
     
  • Scalability – ensuring what works in a test environment can work globally;
     
  • Training technical staff to understand your company’s business needs;
     
  • Communication;
     
  • Broadband (or better) for all – slow 56K modems will become a thing of the past (like 66MHz processors);
     
  • Getting good COBOL programmers;
     
  • Migrating to IP Version 6 - Internet Protocol Version 4 is running out of address spaces, IPv6 solves problem, plus it provides benefits for multimedia applications, Quality of Service, and mobile networking;
     
  • Voice over IP (VoIP) – although currently linked to IP6 take up and with service quality issues, it still offers a considerable advantage to those companies who take it up at the right time;
     
  • Agent technology – the Web is getting bigger, the amount of available information that’s stored is growing exponentially, agent technology is going to be the only way to survive in this environment;
     
  • Storage – very high density and very small devices offering very high speeds are what everyone is aiming for;
     
  • E-commerce – you’re just going to expect to securely purchase anything from a Web site, whether it’s food or books, or whatever.

Q: If you were doing this interview, what four questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: Tricky one – how about:
Q1: Why should anyone else take notice of your opinions?
A1: I’ve been working with computer technology since 1979, and been commenting on developments since 1986. I’ve seen companies and ideas come and go. Hopefully that experience will help me make judgements on what is happening now.

Q2: What’s the quirkiest computer-related idea that you’d like to see really happen?
A2: I like the Star Trek voice-activated computers. I like the idea of a computer that’s so small you can put it in your pocket. The screen is a pair of light-weight glasses you wear, with a small microphone connected to an ear-piece for you to talk instructions and text into.

Q3: What’s your favourite Web site?
A3: Apart from my own, I guess Google has got to be my favourite – simply because it is the doorway to so many other interesting and amazing places on the Web.

Q4: What hardware and software do you typically use in your everyday work environment?
A4: I have a couple of PCs running Windows ME. I use IE6 to browse, Word and Excel for word processing etc, and PageMaker for DTP. I also use Paint Shop Pro and Corel 10 for pictures. I like Serif’s DrawPlus for producing photo collages. I’ve recently been using InsaneTools 3D Flash Animator. This is really quick and easy for Flash animations – definitely worth a look.


Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give to enterprise corporations and organizations?
A: Without wishing to appear too presumptuous, I would recommend that they regularly evaluate why they are carrying out a particular procedure. Over time, ways of doing things get established, and gradually incorporate all sorts of changes. It is a good idea to regularly ask “why are we doing it this way?” and “is there a better way?” Without a doubt, there will be a number of things that can be done more efficiently. This will free up staff time. It will also save the company money and make resources available for doing something else. That something else could be making more money.

My last piece of advice for enterprise corporations and organizations is, don’t believe everything that so-called experts tell you. Like weather forecasters, they have been known to be wrong!


Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us today and we look forward to reading your books and articles; and seeing you at your seminars/lectures.
A: You’re welcome, it has been a pleasure.


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