New Zealand IBM man leads WebSphere push

Ohakune-born has risen through the IT ranks at IBM

Richard Smith says he worked on some "pretty antiquated equipment" when he was a telephone technician working for "Telecom before it was Telecom".

In the years since then, the Ohakune born, Masterton raised Smith has risen through the IT ranks in companies such as Digital Equipment and, for the last 14 years, IBM. Indeed he has risen so far he is now part of IBM's global leadership team, heading the company's WebSphere product push.

Smith shifted to Australia in the late 1980s and joined big blue in 1994 as a database sales specialist. He joined IBM's software group when it was formed in 1995. Back then, the group had less than 9,000 staff and a loose collection of platforms.

He was selling IBM's DB@ against the likes of Oracle and Sybase and that was an "interesting proposition", he says.

Fast forward to the present, and the group brings in US$18 billion and 40% of the company's gross profits. Staff numbers have doubled.

"Software is a critical part of IBM's global roadmap," says Smith, who now leads sales of IBM's WebSphere product worldwide.

The software group is organised into five core brands: WebSphere; Information management; Tivoli; Rational; and Lotus.

WebSphere Application Server was created in 1997 with roots in legacy mainframe technology. WebSphere sets up and integrates applications across platforms using Java. It includes developer tools to create applications that run on WebSphere Application Server.

Smith says it has developed organically and over the past decade has grown extensively to include improved integration technologies and, more recently, to deliver service oriented architectures (SOA) and business process management (BPM).

During his September visit, Smith spent time with ket local Websphere users. These include the Accident Compensation Corporation, at the high end, and Wellington City Council, which he says is doing sophisticated things with the technology.

He says WebSphere is being repackaged and refocused to make it more appealing to mid-market companies and general business from its original core market in the enterprise.

IBM recently made announcements about new software and services to help businesses redefine and improve business processes. IBM has introduced "business space", a customised and consolidated desktop view of business processes enabling users to monitor business objects and anticipate operational risks. The BPM technology is powered by WebSphere and built using SOA.

Some other innovations in WebSphere include Business Events Processing, IBM's preferred term for complex event processing (CEP). In general, BEP and CEP software looks for patterns and correlations in the sea of electronic transactions or "events" that occur in a business, and triggers responsive actions depending on what is detected.

For example, if a financial services company's system sees a customer's account undergo an address change, a password change and a large withdrawal in a single day, "that's a good indication fraud is going on," said Tom Rosamilia, a general manager in IBM's software group, during a US presentation.

BEP products to be added to WebSphere include WebSphere Business Events V6.2. The software incorporates technology acquired from the purchase of AptSoft, and includes tooling aimed at getting rank-and-file business users into the BEP loop.

Another planned release, WebSphere Business Events eXtreme Scale V6.2, focuses on improving performance and throughput for customers with more demanding volumes.

IBM is also planning to release the CICS Transaction Server Support Pac. This will allow the CISC server, which runs on mainframes, to emit events that can be captured by WebSphere Business Events, he said.

— Additional reporting by Chris Kanaracus

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