JDJ: Could you please introduce yourself, describe your organization, and tell us about your responsibilities within IBM?
AH: I'm in IBM's Internet Division, which was started in December 1995. The division is a combination of things. We are responsible for alliances, licensing deals, remarketing, cross-selling, etc., in the Internet arena. Right now, with everything moving as fast as it is, I am focusing on IBM's thrust into Java and what that means to our customers and to IBM.
The Internet Division is a fairly small group within IBM, but the people are from all aspects of IBM life, including a number of folks who we have brought in from various other companies. We have technical people together with vice-presidents from major consulting and telecommunications companies who have brought specific expertise into this arena. They will jump start IBM's efforts and move things forward quickly. They are intelligent, hard driving, fun people who are trying to get a lot accomplished in a short period of time.
We are highly matrix-managed. Within the Internet division, we have pockets of expertise in various areas: technology, marketing, and sales, but our role is world-wide cross-IBM. We work with all the IBM divisions to bring products and services out to market and we are defining the strategic direction for IBM in the Internet. Concurrent with that, we work with customers about what they want to do and where they think their particular industries are going. In some cases, we will partner them with our Industry Solution Units (ISUs), with business partners, with consulting and services groups, etc. Our third set of responsibilities is staying in touch with the market by talking to folks in the industry, and by talking to the developer and the user community.
JDJ: How and when did IBM first get interested in Java and the Internet?
AH: We were one of the first licensees of Java. Fairly early on, IBM was doing a lot of work on the Internet and we caught wind of this thing called Java. We did a fairly quick, but in-depth, technical analysis and came back and said, "This is going where we want to be. This is great stuff." We decided not to go through internal development and redoing Java. We decided to just work with JavaSoft (Sun at that point). We are totally out of the NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome. We ran it through the management chain very quickly and said, "This has a lot of value to our customers with respect to network computing and electronic commerce." We decided to jump on Java and fully embrace it. We licensed Java and through a tremendous effort here at IBM, we already have some deliverables.
As for my responsibilities, I'm wearing so many hats right now, it depends on what time of day you ask me. Right now, the most important thing for me is to get the word out about what IBM is doing. Traditionally, IBM hasn't moved very fast. I joke around now and say that working here is like being on the Starship Enterprise at Warp factor 12. The doors are shaking and things are coming off the hinges, but we are really moving. My job is pretty varied. Some days I'm managing projects, some days I'm out talking to developers about potential alliances, some days I'm out talking to JavaSoft.
We work across the entire IBM corporation and while we have a very small team dedicated to Java from a marketing perspective, there is a huge team dedicated to Java efforts from an R&D perspective. There are at least twelve sites around the world doing Java development projects for IBM. Hundreds of people are working in that effort from a technical perspective, but on the marketing side, it's a very small and efficient group. What we are trying to do is get the word out on all the good things that we are doing.
JDJ: Could you describe some of the Java-related products and services available from IBM?
AH: There are a number of products that are out there now. We first asked ourselves what was needed in the market to be successful, so we decided to work with JavaSoft and share our technical expertise so that we can bring Java out as part of our base operating systems. We strongly believe in a single Java. We don't want to see multiple flavors in Java as we have seen in the UNIX environment.
We've licensed the National Language Support Class Libraries to JavaSoft from our Taligent subsidiary. This will soon be incorporated into the base Java system. If you are looking at making Java available to business world-wide, you have to be able to consider German marks, French francs, international symbols and currencies, etc. We are also working very closely with JavaSoft on the JavaBeans specifications. Right now, Java is in its infancy and has really been focused on the client side, with the animation you can do through the browser. We've taken a longer term view that says, "We have the potential for a cross-platform, network-aware language that is very compact and needs only a small amount of code to travel over the line into a client or into a server." This is a tremendous business opportunity, but a lot of work has to happen to make that realistic in terms of security, transaction capability, database capability, etc.
In looking at our products, think of three levels: the first level we call the "ticket to the dance." The "ticket to the dance" means that you have to have the Java virtual machine enabled in the operating system. We've already released that in the AIX operating system (IBM's version of UNIX that runs on our RS/6000 platform) back in the spring. We were the first vendor to release a Java virtual machine in an operating system. We've just released the latest OS/2 Warp Version 4 with the Java virtual machine. That is the first Intel operating system to have the Java virtual machine embedded in it. We plan to have OS/400 and OS/390 with the Java virtual machine in beta by end of year and we have already released Windows 3.1 in beta, available for download from our alphaWorks web site (www.alphaworks.ibm.com).
The Win 3.1 port is fairly significant. When we looked at client/server and network computing we looked at the installed base and said, "There are tens of millions of users today that are still Windows 3.1 and it's not clear when or if or how they are going to migrate. That's a significant portion of the business population." We say that they are "Java-challenged." They have no ability to see any of the animation that is on the Web sites. There are no browsers capable of doing that for them, partly because of the limitations of 16 bit operating systems. We had some technology in our labs together with some really smart people who looked at that and said, "We could enable this technology and let the 3.1 people out there get Java." We wanted to bring them into this environment and make it available to customers so they can roll out mission-critical business applications to their constituents. So if you look at Java in these operating systems, we are moving at unbelievable speeds to try and get things out the door. We recognize that this is a completely different computing model that we are embracing and I don't mean that just from the Java perspective. It's the whole Internet. There are computing models today that you wouldn't have thought of one or two years ago. We are moving at breakneck speed to get into the market.
After the operating systems, the next level is middleware. Now you need to go out and say, "Roughly 70 percent of the world's data currently resides on an IBM system somewhere. OK, so how do I access that data?" You need to give CICS, MQSeries software, and database software the ability to talk to Java applications. We're showing some technology today that will enable you to set off a CICS transaction from a Java applet. We've already released a product called Net.Data, which is a Java-enabled, Internet-ready software package that connects to our DB2 database. We've announced our intention to also open it up to other vendors' relational databases through ODBC.
We are working in this arena with the MQSeries as well. We have also licensed technologies back to Sun for them to have the MQSeries and CICS class libraries so their clients can go and kick off a CICS transaction or do a database query. We have already announced our intention to take our CICS and make a Sun Solaris version they can preload on their systems so they can be running a business CICS transaction system. We are also Java-enabling Lotus Notes, so you can launch a Java application from the Notes server.
The third level, if you go back to the three level model that I talked about, focuses on tools and applications. How do you build business applications in this environment? Understand, all this is going on concurrent with the fact that we are working with JavaSoft to define the Java virtual machine, the Java APIs, and Java class libraries.
Let's look at tools. IBM has a Visual Age for Java product currently under development. We already have the beta of a product called NetRexx available. This is the network version of Rexx, which is a popular scripting language across all the IBM platforms. What is unique about this version is that you can let a Rexx programmer today write in Rexx and the output is Java byte code, so you can actually create an application written in Rexx that becomes a cross-platform Java applet or application. Our alphaWorks site is a place where we've taken technology from our laboratories and research facilities, very quickly gotten them through the proper licensing and patenting issues, and put them up on the Web where they are available for people to look at, experiment with, and give us feedback.
There are some great technologies there. One of my personal favorites is C.A.T., the Component Assembly Tool. It allows you to put a visual pallet on your screen with existing components all written in Java. What you do is drag and drop those things from the pallet onto your screen layout, wire them together, and you create an application. What is significant about that is you haven't written a line of code. Someone who is an object programmer or a Java programmer has written those components. You have taken them, assembled them, and created an application. There is tremendous opportunity with component technology and component development.
JDJ: What is your marketing and development philosophy? Do you want to be the platform for all developers or are you segmenting the market?
AH: There are a lot of different platforms out there and we recognize that. We have millions of users of OS/2; there are tens of millions of Windows 3.1 users. There is Win 95, UNIX, and MAC. We don't necessarily see that changing. We looked at it from our business perspective and asked where are we really strong? We are very strong players in the server market, in database technology, in the network arena, transaction processing, and our consulting and services organizations. All those things play very well in the network computing environment and that is where the market is moving. The client side is very important, but we have kind of taken the client agnostic view. We are looking at where the application is going to reside. Where is the data? How are we going to get to it? How do you make it a secure transaction? How do you verify the transaction occurred?
We are the first company to release a network computer device. It's not appropriate for everyone, but for a customer service rep, an administrative person, or a librarian, it's a perfect machine to put on a desktop, run a browser, and go out and access information from the World Wide Web. With our middleware, you can then get to the host database and the host CICS systems with no changes to the host code. We are not changing the existing host application. We have just expanded our customer's market into new arenas. No matter what your platform of choice is at home or in business, now you can gain access to your network, Web page, or transaction systems.
The applications are key to our customers. However, to provide applications, you need to have the infrastructure we just talked about. Here the ISVs are critical. They have expertise in the various industries, such as finance, health, distribution, manufacturing, and retail, and they have applications used by customers every day. In order to make them successful, we need to provide them with the tools and technologies to enable them to enhance their applications or write new ones in the future. Hence the emphasis on tools, the base enablement, and our efforts with JavaSoft on the Java language and the Java environment.
IBM's sales teams, called Industry Solution Units (ISUs), are also focusing on Java. Each of these fourteen units (including banking/finance, securities, retail, health, insurance, manufacturing, etc.) is enhancing its knowledge and skills within its particular industry. Within that context, you'll be seeing Java-based applications coming out from IBM that are vertical industry- focused.
JDJ: From your perspective, what has been the most difficult aspect of entering the Java market?
AH: The absolute speed with which things are moving. We are moving at unbelievable speed, and yet every day we sit back and say, "We need to have six more of these things, and three more of those things..." There's a lot going on in the Java space. That's really good news/bad news. The bad news is that we always need to move faster. The good news is that this is really taking off. Some people have asked me to compare Java to other languages and I say it's an unfair comparison. You can't compare an infant to a teenager, because they don't walk or run at the same pace. If you look at how fast this infant is growing up, the teenagers out there better watch out.
JDJ: What are your plans for the future?
AH: There are actually two things we are focusing on. One is things like this interview; we are trying to tell people what we are doing. We have been so busy focusing on doing things, we haven't told anybody, and that is not good; because if nobody knows about it, it doesn't count. It's hard to sit there and predict where the market is going to be in a year, because a year ago nobody even knew how to spell Java in the industry. We can look forward, in the next six to twelve months, to a lot of stuff coming out. The other big thing that is critical for us is the community that JDJ focuses on, the development community. A year ago, who would have thought some of the hottest companies in the market would be Java based.
JDJ: What do you see as the most important trends that may affect your Java effort? These may include new security standards, the trend towards Data Warehousing, Internet overload, etc.
AH:That's a tough one. We are working in all those arenas. Those are all the current inhibitors. One of those that you left out can be termed, "Well, Java's interpretive, so it's kind of slow." So, we are working on a just-in-time compiler in our Tokyo research lab to improve performance between ten and thirty fold. But again, it's just a question of how fast can we get things out the door in an industry-standard manner. That's got to be clearly understood. We are not doing it proprietary. We are really working to make them industry standard.
Our IBM team is working closely with JavaSoft to get things incorporated into the environment with test suites that are Java or CORBA-compliant. The issue of security is obviously a big one. We have a lot of people bringing technologies to market in that arena. But when you try to develop technologies in an industry-compliant manner, it might go slower than you would like. The advantage of proprietary is that you can bring it out as fast as you would like. The disadvantage is that it is proprietary. We are clearly committed to open standards, cross-platform, and the common network computing paradigm.
There are hundreds of people at IBM in development and research working to bring our product out the door and enhance the environment. That's a tremendous investment from the IBM corporation. If you've got only one message out of the entire session, you should recognize that IBM is hard core on Java. We are real serious about it being a single environment and a single language, that everyone can use cross-platform.
JDJ: At JDJ, we like to show a little bit of the human side behind the company. Is there anything you can tell us about yourself or the people you work with.
AH: Everyone I'm working with is not only really bright and dedicated to what they are doing, but each one of them has a unique and interesting background. They are from all over the map. The diversity is just enormous and we just have a great time. We work real hard, but when we have five minutes of downtime, we try to cram in really hard play as well. It's not for long periods of time. I don't think I've had a single dinner or lunch in the last couple of months where I've just relaxed alone. We all work through lunch, dinner, meetings, and teleconferences. Sleep deprivation among my group is common because we are all working with people in different time zones from Tokyo to England to California.