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 edited Mainframe Week, a weekly on-line publication
containing technical information. Plus, he edits publications like AIX Update,
DB2 Update, MVS Update, CICS Update, and MQ Update for US-based Xephon Inc. I
caught up with Trevor in the UK, his
base of operations for his worldwide activities.
Q: Trevor with your remarkable history in
consulting, lecturing, and writing, we are very fortunate to have with you us.
A: You’re very welcome – thank you for
Q: Describe your journey into computers and
the lessons learned along the way?
A: It all started a very long time ago. I
was a newly-qualified teacher back in the 1970s and I taught maths and science
in a secondary school. Our local education authority had a huge programmable
calculator that they wanted volunteer teachers to demonstrate to the children.
From there I went on a course about how to teach computing to children, and
then I spent three weeks at a computer bureau, so I could teach from first hand
about the computer industry. The company offered me a job – and from then on
I’ve worked in the industry.
The company was using Univac mainframes,
but decided it wanted to install an IBM machine. I was one of the first people
to work on that machine – and wrote lots of the original onsite training
material for it.
My next job was with a computer training
company. This combined my teaching skills and my first-hand knowledge of IBM
mainframes. I also wrote most of the training material used. I ran training
courses in France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and many other parts of the world – as well as in the UK.
After three years, I left and went to work
for Xephon, where I wrote and edited a huge number of publications. I also
chaired and spoke at seminars, and wrote for various publications. In addition,
we were constantly called by journalists for information and comments on the
latest computer news.
In 2004 I set up my own company, called
iTech-Ed (www.iTech-Ed.com), which
provides writing and editing services, as well as training and Web site
development. My main customer at the moment is Xephon Inc. (www.xephon.com),
for whom I am editing the various Update publications.
The biggest lesson I learned was that
nothing is ever wasted – although what you are doing at the moment doesn’t seem
relevant to anything else, you’ll find out later that it is! The skills or
information that you’re acquiring now you’ll find a use for later.
And I guess the second lesson I learned is
that no matter how much you plan, you never know where you are going to be
next, or what you are going to be doing there.
So put as much as you can into what you are
doing now because it will pay dividends later (even if it’s sometimes much
Q: What is your most surprising experience?
A: I think I have often been pleasantly
surprised by just how helpful people can be. You know everyone is very busy,
and yet they all seem to be able to set aside some time to help others overcome
Q: Do have any humorous stories to share?
A: My most embarrassing moment came when I
was asked to speak at a conference in the Netherlands. I wrote a paper, which I sent to the organizers to give to the
delegates. I then prepared slides – and in those days we still used acetates,
PowerPoint and projectors were still very rare. So, with everything double-checked,
I packed and flew into Schipol airport. Then I went to my hotel. After dinner,
I got out my presentation in order to go over it one more time when the phone
rang. After a long conversation I went to bed. The next day I set off early for
the conference. When it was getting close to my turn to speak I opened my bag
to take out the foils – only to find they must be still on the table in my
hotel room! I spent the next hour giving my presentation without foils,
referring people to diagrams in their handout, and waving my arms around a lot
so the delegates had something to look at. I was very embarrassed by the whole
experience. Luckily the delegates still rated the presentation as very good!
Q: Please share your most valuable
A: My best tip is to get someone else to
read through what you’ve written – or else wait a week and do it yourself. The
reason is that your deathless prose is probably full of assumed knowledge, and
if you read through the text too quickly after you wrote it, you’re still
making those assumptions. Read it a week later and it’s like reading it for the
first time. You soon spot giant mistakes.
My other tip is to only write what you know
about. This may mean doing lots of research first, but that’s well worth while.
When you’ve got all the information you need, read through it, and think about
what you would tell someone else about the topic. Once you can do that, you’re
ready to write.
When you’re writing, try to make it
interesting. If it’s a long piece of text then use subheadings. And where
possible, lighten the tone.
And finally, use spell checkers and grammar
checkers – but be prepared to not accept what they say. They’re only there for
guidance, that’s all.
Q: Describe your current role and projects.
A: At the moment I am managing director
(CEO) and tea boy for my new company. I am working very hard on continuing the
high quality of journals that Xephon produce for mainframers each month, and I
am looking for other writing and training opportunities. Currently I am editing
AIX, CICS, DB2, MQ, MVS, RACF, and TCP/SNA Updates, which fills a lot of my
time. And because each journal has a news section, I am making sure I stay
up-to-date with all the latest announcements from companies selling in that
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: I guess, without being in any way
complacent, I like the kind of work I’m doing at the moment. So as long as
there are mainframes and people who are ‘improving’ them, I’ll have something
to write about – and there’ll be articles written by other people that need
I’d like to see the amount of
writing/editing/training work grow so I need to take on perhaps half a dozen
staff. I’d also like the Web design side of the business to take off.
I don’t really see myself as an
early-retirer. I like to get up in the morning and know there’s work to be done.
I think waking up to another day on the golf course would be purgatory
Q: What are the most important trends to
watch, and please provide some detailed recommendations?
A: 1) Linux on mainframes
Since IBM got into bed with the penguin as
a way of fighting back at the boys from Redmond, they have
made huge developments. Many parts of MVS (or z/OS as it’s now called) are
completely integrated with Linux. And the reasons why are obvious: it maximizes
the use of mainframe assets, it brings new talent to the mainframe arena, it
provides a robust and economical deployment of Internet services, and it allows
the mis-named legacy applications to be Web enabled. It also means that
companies can run and support one operating system on their mainframe, their
medium-sized servers, and on the desktop. It’s just a shame Nokia chose the
Symbian operating system for their phones rather than Linux, or else it would
run on everything!
2) Voice over IP
I think every year for at least the past
five years I’ve been saying that VoIP was nearly here. With so many people on
broadband (DSL) you can even install the VoIP applications on a PC. But, and
this is quite a big but, the other person has to have the same application
installed at their end. And I have to phone them up using the traditional
technology to say take this VoIP call. Everything says that VoIP will soon be
able to “ring” people. In fact I’ve even seen promises that it will “one day
soon” connect to ordinary phones. But it’s still not there. However, once it is
possible and those last problems are ironed out, I think customers will leap on
it. If you’re prepaying for Internet access, or if you have free Internet
access, sending VoIP is going to save lots of money – particularly if you are
phoning abroad. I sometimes wonder though, is it like the mythical everlasting
light bulb? Is it an idea that’s going to put long-distance carriers out of
business, so they buy the technology and lock it away in a draw so no-one can
Wherever you’ve got some computing power,
you’ve got a security problem. Which means that there’s a problem from
mainframes to PCs and on to PDAs and phones. Mainframes have been facing the
problem for so long that security is second nature. The problem comes with
people not brought up in this environment who think “it’ll be alright”. I have
received so many virused messages this year from Outlook users without a
firewall it’s unbelievable. And with more homes having the kind of computing
power that data centers could only dream of 20 years ago, plus using wireless
networking, it makes them very vulnerable places. Norton and MacAfee (and all
the others) are helping, but, in a way, they make their money on scare stories,
so, again, they’ll never sell us the “everlasting light bulb” to keep all our
devices safe – even if they ever develop it.
Computers get quicker, applications get
larger, and we run more of them. No, I’m never going to be satisfied with the
performance of my mainframe, PC, or any other device until it works at the
speeds you see on TV. My children ask why my lightning fast new laptop takes so
long to load. And I agree with them. We all want applications with go-faster
stripes on the side.
Every day I check my e-mail and I find
about half is from people selling me mortgages, loans, medications, and
pornography. I want a way that will stop that, but still let people I don’t
know still be able to contact me on a work or family-related matter. I think we
will see a mixture of legislation and software to combat this waste of time and
space. And I think that most people who get lots of e-mail will want it.
6) ‘Intelligence’ everywhere
More and more devices are going to have
some kind of intelligence built in to them. We are going to have “smart” just
about everything. But I’m not sure that most people are really ready for it.
I’m thinking of the oven that can ask the freezer what it contains and print
out “tonight’s recipe”. Or the freezer that can contact your local supermarket
and re-order pizza because the last one has just been eaten. However, I do see
a single smart card being used for personal information – driving licence,
donor card, allergies, next of kin, as well as home address and photo. I also
see mobile phones being able to do the job. It carries a SIM card with lots of
personal information. Why not have your shopping bill go on your phone bill?
You can pay it all off with a credit card at the end of the month! So watch out
for ovens that warn you to keep back unless you are wearing protective gloves,
or showers that suggest the water temperature might be too high (or low). At
some time we’ve all got to decide whether we are benefiting.
The other intelligence we’ll see in
software is autonomic, or "self-healing" features. DB2 currently has
this - it allows a system to monitor a system’s "health". It can then
take appropriate steps to fix problems detected.
7) Voice control/input
I had a friend with a bad wrist who used
IBM’s ViaVoice to work for over a year. Once he got over the teething problems,
he found he could control his computer and create text files. When it works it
is clearly more convenient than typing – particularly for people who haven’t
got the hang of a QWERTY keyboard. I would expect to see a huge growth in this
area. Already we are seeing answering services that work by voice recognition
and its not uncommon to fond alarm clocks that will tell you the time if you ask
(useful in the dark). So it’s a growing technology that I expect to see more
8) Wireless networking
Many years ago I had a wonderful stereo
system that all my friends were hugely envious of. My mum thought there were an
awful lot of wires that needed tidying up. Well, when I had to move my desktop
computer the other day I realized that I had created another plate of spaghetti
situation there. My wife was also against my plans to wire up the house so that
we could share printers. The solution is wireless networking. I can go into any
room (or even the garden) and work on my computer now. I can communicate with
any other computer in my house and share files, and I can print from anywhere.
Now if your home has only one computer, this is not a solution you’re looking
for, but if you start having more than one machine, the file you want is always
on a different one – and wireless networking just makes life easier (and
9) All-in-one devices
In those far off days when I had a
wonderful stereo system I spent hours getting the best record deck, and the
best needle, and best-balanced arm. Every component was meticulously
researched, lovingly cared for. Nowadays, I’m a Swiss army penknife man. I want
everything in one box – and I want a small box as well. The early phones were
large, and would act like a phone! – ring a number and let you talk. My current
phone is my diary (no need to carry one of those), my address book (another
lump gone), it takes photos (I never forget my camera at family events) and
short videos, a photo album, it’s a dictation machine, an mp3 player. I could
check my e-mails, but that bit isn’t too good – it will be in my next upgrade.
There’s no reason why it couldn’t play videos (some micro DVD format), pick up
radio programs, or even let me watch TV. And if I could use Word on it, that
would be very useful. Could I get stones out of horses’ hooves? Not yet!
10) Battery life
The problem with mobile devices is that the
battery gradually dies (except on TV). There have been great strides with
battery technology over the past five years, and I predict this will continue.
I want to be able to take my laptop on a long flight and be able to use it all
the way, not just for four hours.
Q: Can you provide your perspective on SCO
A: Well, it’s a strange dispute really. To
start with IBM has improved on the code they were given. Linux is still selling
well, 9 out of 10 Linux users don’t care, and the other mainframe software
giant, CA, also has a licence. There’s going to be only one winner here, and
it’s the lawyers. I think it will run and run as a thorn in the flesh of IBM. I
think SCO are suing everyone they can at the moment (recently AutoZone and
DaimlerChrysler were sued). And eventually they’ll just run out of money to pay
their legal team - and IBM will step in and buy the company. The only people
really benefiting from a battle between Linux providers is Microsoft!
Q: Please comment on Linux and security and
the whole Open Source movement?
A: Linux was always thought of very secure.
Mainframe Linux probably still is. The problem is that the typical hacker (if
he or she ever existed) always supported “open” software, so was more likely to
focus their attention on Windows machines. That was then, this is now. It was reported
by a strange group called Mi2g that in January there were over 17,000
successful attacks, comprising 13,600 on Linux servers and just over 2,000 on
Windows servers. However, their original figures were not available just their
headline-grabbing bottom line. Some cynics might suggest Mi2g begins with the
same two letters as Microsoft and there is a link!!
To be perfectly honest, I think open source
as an idea is great for any fledgling software area. However, once things
mature and the non-hobbyist type of people want to use it (and don’t want to
run updates every couple of days to install a feature they may never use), then
is the time for reliable companies to take over the management of the software.
Q: Who/what do you think are the winners
and losers in IT in next five years and why?
A: I think the winners will be people who
are always thinking “does this make life more convenient?”. Because if the
answer is “no”, then its just going to sit on the shelf. I think people working
on voice communication with computers are going to do well, and I think people
working on the laptop as entertainment center or the PDA as entertainment
center are going to win – why read a book on the train when you could be
watching a movie?
I think the losers will be anyone who
thinks tablet computing is going to take off. And people who don’t make their
software or hardware easy to use.
Q: What are the top challenges facing IT
departments in the next two years and what are your recommendations to
meet/overcome these challenges? Please provide specifics…
A: There are really two major challenges –
keeping track of the data, and keeping it secure. And this doesn’t ignore all
the “everyday” challenges that IT departments are very familiar with. The
trouble with data is that it no longer sits on fixed disks in the Data Centre.
It resides on laptops and PDAs and other micro-devices. This data has to be
quickly assimilated into the company’s other data. So, orders from customers
can be quickly sent to small handheld devices of people in warehouses – and all
the necessary back office functions taking place as well. It’s important that
the data is captured quickly and only the once! If the line goes down or the
device restarts, the data cannot be sent again and assumed to be a new order.
And Data Centres have got to know every step of the way what is happening with
The second challenge is security. That data
has to be back-ed up and retained. It has to be sent in a way that means it
cannot be read or captured by others - Company B could find out how much
Company A was charging customers for its products and undercut it. It’s also
important that as devices get smaller they become easier to mislay or steal.
It’s important to ensure that only authorized people are accessing the data.
There are no easy answers to these
problems. It’s important that companies adopt the best procedures and practices
to keep track of data and keep it secure.
Q: What kind of computer setup do you have?
A: My house is full of computers. We have a
wireless network and everyone has a laptop (me, my wife, and my two daughters).
We also have two desktop PCs. I also have a desktop PC and a desktop Mac, which
I used to use for work and keep for old data that I suddenly need. I also have
a Mac laptop networked with my PC laptop. This is so I can use Vantage and
Hypercard – because there are no PC equivalents. We all use the broadband
Q: What drives you to do what you do?
A: I enjoy what I do. I like to wake up in
the morning with a list of things to get done – and go to bed knowing that they
have been done.
Q: How do you keep up with all the changes?
A: I make use of Google news for product
announcements specific to CICS, AIX, DB2, MVS, MQ, RACF, and TCP/IP. I also get
lots (too many) press releases of new announcements. And I read summaries of
announcements on mainframe software vendors’ Web sites. I supplement this with
visits to exhibitions and conferences to hear what people are saying.
Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable
insights with us!
A: You are very welcome.