Careers: Interviews
Internationally-Renowned Analyst: Trevor Eddolls

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with, Trevor Eddolls, an internationally-renowned senior analyst, author, lecturer and consultant.

Trevor’s many talents include authoring 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 Mainframe Week, a weekly on-line publication containing technical information. Plus, he edits publications like AIX Update, DB2 Update, MVS Update, CICS Update, and News IS for Xephon, Europe’s premier IT market watcher. I caught up with Trevor in the UK, his base of operations for his worldwide activities.

Discussion:

Q: With your busy schedule, I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your insights with the audience.

A: No problem, always glad to help.

Q: What do you see on the horizon that businesses and IT professionals “must” be aware of to be competitive?

A: The biggest problem that companies are facing is a seriously aging population of people who really understand how mainframes work. There are plenty of younger people who understand Windows (in all its forms) and its associated software. They know how to achieve Microsoft’s push into larger Enterprises. There are also large numbers of red-hot UNIX gurus who can make those platforms (Linux, AIX, GNU, SCO, etc) really achieve terrific results. But, and this is a really big “but”, there is a very large number of banks, insurance companies, and other major companies that have the bulk of their core business run on mainframes. It’s important that younger people are fully trained to understand these systems.

Besides, many of the problems that people are facing on other platforms were solved 20 years ago in the mainframe world. It’s a waste of everyone’s time re-inventing the wheel!

And continuing the theme, one of the easiest budget items to cut when times are hard is training. I think companies have got to realize the importance of their investment in training. And, I think they should be doing more of it at this time.

Q: What do you feel are the top five hottest topics of interest to both businesses and IT professionals today and what will be the topics in two years and in five years?

A: Security, performance, pricing, mobility, connectivity. Now, tomorrow, and five years’ time!

Let’s unpick that a little. There are always “religious” wars about the right technology to use – UNIX versus Windows, Java versus .Net, COBOL versus C++, and Symbian versus Windows CE – however, I think that the whole industry is maturing in a way that makes these discussions important only in the way that things are delivered. In fact, all software within industry sectors is developing to offer broadly compatible features. It’s now down to the technicians to use their product of choice. For management, we are getting to the stage where they don’t need to worry about the underlying software. Whatever is chosen will deliver the same key features.

So let’s say a few words about each of these areas that I’ve identified. Security is always an important area. You’ve got to make sure that the person who appears to be paying for the goods is the actual person making the payment. And you’ve got to make sure that those details can move across the Internet without being “received” by anyone else. All the other data security things are still important – such as making sure your data can be accessed only by responsible and authorized people, and the data can be recovered if it becomes corrupted in any way.

And, of course, there is the perennial problem with viruses, etc. It is important that steps are taken to ensure that these are prevented from entering a site’s computers.

Performance is a continuing issue. Just when mainframes have become so big that they can satisfy user response time demands, we find people using dead slow PCs. Just as PCs get big enough to handle workloads at speed, we find people are constantly using the Internet. And now the performance issue is getting data across the Internet as quickly as if you were working locally. Broadband offers part of the solution, but now people are working with PCs and handheld devices that are wireless. They need high-speed connections on the train, at the cafĂ©, in the office, at home, etc. Enter wifi – and all the performance implications that poses.

Looking at mainframe performance, we are definitely going to see more software like DB2 that has the ability to identify when it is experiencing a problem and fix itself. I predict more software with this kind of capability.

Pricing is still very important to the success and survival of a company. While earlier I kind of dismissed what software you chose to use as not too important, the price you pay for it is! Unlike your local PC store, IBM has been notoriously reticent to produce a price list. It is important to be prepared to negotiate with your software suppliers. In a way, it’s up to them to convince you to use their software as opposed to one of the alternative strategies available. Pricing is an important weapon in making the sale. The more you are going to have to pay, the greater the discounts you should be able to negotiate! This clearly makes your company more economically viable.

Mobility is the current task facing many sites. People want (or are encouraged by their organizations) to work anywhere. They also want to work on small devices that don’t spoil the shape of a pocket when put away. I can remember going to conferences and seeing people arriving with a briefcase full of documents, and a second very large bag slung over their shoulder containing their PC. Nowadays, people turn up with slimline PCs or PDAs. These contain wireless (wifi) network cards. This “ideal” scenario is spoiled at the moment by the number of places where no network is available and by the variety of network providers that exist. Watch this problem grow and disappear over the next five years! I guess that also covers the connectivity issue.

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: IBM will still be with us. They avoided imploding a few years ago and will continue to be a solid reliable company producing good-quality hardware and software.

Microsoft will still be with us. It will still be claiming it invented the Internet, and not getting any of its software right until Version 3. By which time the software will be killing the opposition.

Linux, like Java, and companies that are supporting and selling add-on products will thrive for the next two years. After that, it will be survival of the fittest!

Any company that is moving “wanted” technology onto mobile phones will do well. People are downloading games and ring tones, but people are also synchronizing to do lists and diaries. My phone has a camera and video facility; I know some have torch and thermometer facilities. Many came with radios; I’d like an mp3 player on mine. And my ideal phone would understand voice commands. I can already dial home and work (and a few others) by saying their name. What I want is a port of IBM’s ViaVoice (or equivalent).

I think Sun will disappear. I think the Microsoft Tablet will be put in a draw with Betamax video and eight-track cartridge players. Think about it, the only time I write is on an illegible Post-It note and to sign credit card slips. Why would I suddenly want to re-learn to write? Why would I waste time teaching software to recognize my scribbles? Wake up Microsoft, there are already two well established ways of entering data – one’s a keyboard and the other’s a mobile phone keypad (using your thumbs).

The Intel Centrino mobile technology is set for a great future. It offers something that people are going to want to have.

Lastly, XML (plus even more subsets) will turn up absolutely everywhere.

Q: What would be your recommended top ten references for the business professional? And what would be your recommended top references for IT professionals?

A: Google

Whatever you want to know you can find the answer from Google. The downside is that it throws up 2000+ answers to the simplest of queries, but the answer is out there – as they say.

If you haven’t got time to sift through all those pages then try the following URLS:

• 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/

Not exactly 10, I know, but certainly the best place to start.

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? Please provide specifics…

A: The number one challenge for most companies is finding, training, and retaining good quality staff. Staff have got to understand the technology they are using, but they also have to understand the business of the organization they are working for. IT departments are there to provide technical solutions to the business needs of the company.

Other challenges include:

• Spam and e-mail overload. Something has to be done because professionals are spending too much time going through e-mails that end up in the bin. Spam busting software is getting better – it needs to.

• Adware. Products like Lavasoft’s Ad-aware quickly show how much of your PC’s time is spent sending information back to sites that you only briefly or inadvertently visited. It will delete cookies set by these sites. Without products like this your computer will fill up with rubbish which will ultimately affect performance.

• Interoperability software. I’m talking about MQSeries and Websphere – perhaps DB2 UDB – software that lets you run things from one platform on other platforms. Your Enterprise can be made up of a complete mixture of proprietary systems. Software that makes them seem like one big connected platform has got to be good.

• Control. Following on from the last point, where you have multiple platforms, you need monitoring and controlling software. Watch out for more developments in this area.
• VoIP (Voice over IP). If you’re sending data using Internet Protocol, why not use it for voice communication as well? It’s coming, just more slowly than people thought.

• Broadband as an issue is almost over. Most companies have it installed or are about to. Those without will notice how many “big” files are coming their way from people who are used to the delivery taking 30 seconds.

• Back-up and restore. There needs to be enough storage space, but, more importantly, there needs to be a way to get that important data off PDA-type devices quickly and easily. As salesmen and others use small handheld devices to note down client requirements, that information needs to be almost immediately sent to central site.

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: That’s quite a tough question… I suppose I’d want to know:

Q1 Why should anyone take any notice of your opinions?

A: I’ve been working with computers for a very long time, and I’ve been commenting on developments since 1986. My role means that I am informed immediately of new products and new developments, and I have plenty of opportunities to see how well they work in real life (as well as on the original presentation). I get articles from users of products and hear real-life stories of what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully this experience gives me a certain insight – but your readers will be the best judge!!

Q2 What would you recommend every company who reads this to do next?

A: I would recommend that they immediately check all their procedures and ask themselves whether they need to do that! It’s so common for procedures to be adopted, and then modified, and then blindly followed because they are “the procedures”, even though circumstances have changed and they could be removed completely or reduced. After eliminating all the things that don’t need to be done, ask whether the things that are being done could be done better. And if they could, change them. And, perform this activity regularly. I’d also identify where staff need training and make sure they are trained.

Q3 What’s the quirkiest computer-related idea you’d really like to see happen?

A: Apart from voice-activated technology, which I’d really like to see everywhere, I’d also like the automated house you see on some sci-fi movies. I’d like to phone home and say put the kettle on, and arrive five minutes later to find a cup of tea waiting. Plus it would be nice to have house “mice” that appear at night to vacuum the carpet or polish the floor. And a device that cooks, and washes up, and dusts, and makes beds, and everything else round the house and garden. And all controlled from a PC with a voice interface.

Q4 What’s your favourite Web site?

A: As well as my own, there’s Mainframe Week (www.mainframeweek.com) for mainframe-related information, and of course Google. Google is a great start to finding information from music to medical. Apart from the millions of weaker Web pages that show up, you can find some absolute gems.

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. As always, it has been a pleasure.

Copyright Network Professional Association® 1994-2017. All Rights Reserved.
NPA Privacy Statement