But Then Face to Face

by admin on May 31, 2006 12:28pm

But Then Face to Face
I’ve spent many hours over the past few days combing through the comments on Port 25, and the comments about Port 25 on other sites (blogs, industry news, etc.).  I was struck by the mix of hope and suspicion.  When you don’t know who you’re dealing with, suspicion is a natural result, compounded in this case by years of mistrust of Microsoft’s motives.  I realized while combing through the posts and discussions that I never took the time to introduce myself.  

I have been a science geek for as long as I can remember – not great for one’s social life but at least I can say I’ve been kicked out of Chemistry class for discussing quantum physics in the back row…

I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for 12 years, and before that studied and worked in San Diego.  My degree is in Cognitive Science from UCSD (a combination of neurobiology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive psychology, founded by the great Don Norman).  In the Valley I worked as a software engineer for several years, building desktop, distributed, and web applications in C++ and Java, including DCOM and J2EE.  I worked at a couple of normal software companies, and worked crazy hours at 5 startups.

My best times in software engineering were at Ofoto (now Kodak) where I ran the web development and middleware engineering teams.  We built a highly scalable photo service using Tomcat and Jakarta on Solaris and Linux, built our own Java-based persistence layer, and used XML for internal and external integration – old hat now, but this was in 2000.

After Ofoto, I went to BEA Systems as Web Services Principal Architect.  I got the chance to work with the WebLogic Workshop team (aka Crossgain, the high-profile defection of Tod Nielsen and Adam Bosworth from Microsoft) and customers like Merrill Lynch on “web services architectures” – no one called it SOA back then.  Workshop became open-sourced as Apache Beehive under the leadership of Carl Sjogreen (now a product manager at Google).  In late 2002, I joined the WebLogic Integration team to do technical market development and product strategy.  I learned a lot about software strategy and got hooked on the web services management concept, convinced the product management team to build Quicksilver, which eventually became the AquaLogic Service Bus.

In 2004 we started seeing real impact on the core business from JBoss, and my GM Chet Kapoor wanted BEA to get into the open source software game.  Top management didn’t like the idea, and shortly after Tod Nielsen left the company, a few dozen directors and VPs followed his lead, as did Chet.  Shortly after I’d joined Microsoft, Chet became the CEO of Gluecode and asked me to join.  I couldn’t see how their business model could be defended, and stayed at Microsoft.  Six months later, Chet sold the company to IBM and became VP of IBM’s Open Source group.  I admit that I kicked myself.

I joined Microsoft originally to work directly with startups, in the hope that I could have a positive impact on people pouring their hearts and minds into risky technology bets.  After batting 1 for 5 I know how tough it can be.  Microsoft generates nearly all its revenue from partners (96%) but gets hammered on lack of innovation, so this seemed like a good fit.  In Dan’l Lewin’s group in Silicon Valley (Mountain View) I got to meet and help a number of different startups.  During this time, I saw advantages of open source economics for some of these companies, especially in SaaS.  It was clear to me that something had to change in our licensing and pricing – two very challenging things to shift.  I spent several months advocating within the company for change, with good results.

When Bill Hilf offered me the chance to join the Open Source Software Lab, I jumped at the chance.  Open source is a pivot for the software industry at large as well as for Microsoft.  I’m very curious to understand the breadth and depth of technologies available in open source, and deeply committed to driving interoperability between open source and Microsoft technologies.

This is longer than I’d intended, so I’ll stop here.  For those who want more background, my blog is at http://samus.typepad.com, and I have to point out an interaction I had with Matt Asay, a smart and outspoken leader in the open source community.

PS: In my first post (“Why is it called Computer Science”) one reader pointed out the similarity of the topic to Paul Graham’s brilliant essay “Hackers and Painters”.  While the point was made with a degree of suspicion, I’m grateful to the poster for leading me to Paul’s essay.  Thanks, cblazek.

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