Unisys: “Spectacular time” to be an engineer

“It's a spectacular time to be an engineer. People are looking for innovation.”

“It's a spectacular time to be an engineer,” says Steve Thompson, Unisys vice president, ClearPath Forward Engineering. “People are looking for innovation.”

Thompson was in New Zealand recently to visit customers and to get a handle on their problems “that don't get filtered through sales and marketing”.

The issues they raised were threefold: data centre transformation; big data; and the internet of things.

“They're beginning to think about the internet of things but they're not sure what it is,” Thompson says.

It will encompass all sorts of materials – plastics, concrete, asphalt, for example – then transferring the information and storing the data, he explains.

“We've now got sophisticated algorithms to do the data mining,” he adds. “All of the technology exists today. Now, we're talking about the form factor.”

Unisys' DNA has been around mission critical computing, he says, around the data centre.

“Now it is much broader in scope,” he adds. “I’m responsible for bringing the operating system and applications forward to the next generation.

“Ten years ago I made the decision to move from the Unisys-developed processor to X86. Now, I leverage best of breed and leverage my research and development dollar where the industry isn't.

“Five years ago was the start of the all-X86 data centre, so I positioned ClearPath to run other vendors' operating systems. X86 has become an architectural layer in the stack.”

That stack comprises applications, databases, operating system, hardware, network and SANs, and storage.

“Customers don't now have to worry about the buying cycle,” he adds. “We've separated hardware purchase from applications.”

Thompson says he wants to leverage everything the industry provides.

“It's a philosophical decision and fundamental to what we do,” he says. “I’m not tied to a lot of Unisys-developed technology. I can look out 12 to 24 months with a degree of comfort.”

As the company moves more to Agile, he's putting prototypes in front of customers.

“They can decide if these are useful and what changes do they need,” he adds.

Development cycles have thus moved to every six months rather than 24 months. Thompson heads a worldwide engineering team of around 2000.

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