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Chief Dreamer Reads Card of Big Blue’s Internet Man

Monday, May 8, 2000

Investor’s Business Daily
By Rex Crum

On his IBM Corp. Web page, John Patrick says he has been called a strategist, a visionary and the company’s chief dreamer. His official title is vice president of Internet technology and chief technology officer of IBM’s Net activities.

A founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees technological standards of the Web, Patrick is responsible for turning Big Blue into an Internet business force.

Patrick recently spoke with Investor’s Business Daily about some of the issues facing IBM in the Internet age.


IBD: What is IBM’s Internet vision and what kinds of things are you dreaming up now?

Patrick: There are so many things going on, but if I had to say one thing, it would be that we’re right at the very beginning of what the Internet will make possible for the average person or business. We’re only about 2% or 3% in and we haven’t seen anything compared to what’s coming.

What I think will distinguish IBM is that we’re the one company with the potential to take everything and put it together and make it real for our customers. The Internet is fundamental to the future of IBM and industries we’re in. Happily the Internet plays to our greatest strengths. We’re in the position where the more complex things become, we can put all the pieces together and make the Internet real.

It’s staggering to find out the potential there is to capitalize upon. And with the evolution of electronic marketplaces, you’re going to see a greater role for the PC.

IBD: But isn’t the PC era supposed to be over and the PC on the way out?

Patrick: No. I think PC’s are going to continue to grow. I’m not ready to give mine up, and I don’t think many other people are either.

What we have now are PCs running or involved with about 98% of the electronic business out there. We’ll probably see that go to about 50% , but not because there are going to be fewer PCs. The market for other devices is going to grow, but the overall number of PCs will, too.

As we get an onslaught of devices, the world will become a federation of interconnected consumers. Making that all work plays right into IBM’s systems and strategy.

IBD: IBM has been giving a lot of attention to appliance servers. Why?

Patrick: There are a lot of reasons. People are looking for more simplicity and want their Web services easier to run. They don’t want to start from scratch. One way to to do that is to have servers that are preconfigured to do certain things, like host Web sites. Appliance servers are designed to do just that, and they’re easy to manage.

IBD: Another of IBM’s big product releases of late was the Shark server, which is designed for the high-end, storage area network market. (SANs store and manage data from many servers.) But users criticised the Shark for lacking features needed to make it work properly with SANs. How do you respond?

Patrick: The Shark represents a real leap frogging in terms of the technology that’s available for storage area networks. To have a few bugs along the way is to be expected. It’s a major strategic move for IBM. We are working on correcting those issues that people complained about.

IBD: Where do you see SANs gaining popularity?

Patrick: There are a couple of things at play. Right now, there are about 1 billion Web pages, and we are on our way to 10 billion. What’s happening is the Internet is enabling everyone to become a publisher. And data is becoming much more critical to what’s going on within networks. What we do with the Shark, for example, is take advantage of what we can do to drive down the prices of SANs and other storage technologies. We’re very bullish about the opportunities from SAN servers because that is an example of a very specialized technology that we can provide.

IBD: IBM also has made the Linux operating system a priority and is making all of its servers capable of running on Linux. You must feel that Linux is a force to be reckoned with.

Patrick: You haven’t seen anything yet. We haven’t just embraced Linux; we’re putting money, people and skills to work with the Linux community to build Linux into something. I’ve been in the industry for 33 years and this is only the third sea change I’ve seen, after the PC and the introduction of TCP/IP protocol for Internet communications. (Linux) is not a flash in the pan; its not citizens’ band radio.