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Articles about DEC
Volume 7, #6 August, 1988
Explaining Digital’s Product Strategy by Bill Strecker, vice president, Product Strategy and Architecture
Digital Supports Open Software Foundation
Digital’s Unix And Open Systems Strategy by Don McInnis, vice president, Engineering Systems Group and Unix Program Office
The Meaning Of 'Transportable' Software by Ken Olsen, president
Trade, Public Policy And A Global Digital by Cliff Clarke, manager, International Trade and Policy
A Systems Vision Of Data Storage Management by Grant Saviers, vice president, Storage Systems Group
Research As A Market: A Window Of Opportunity by Gary Eichhorn, group marketing manager, Laboratory Data Products/Science
Fernando Colon Osorio Named Corporate Consulting Engineer
Personnel Policies And Procedures Now On-Line
Infinite Voyage Discovers Ancient America
When talking to the press, there are three areas of our product strategy that often come into question: the VAX family, desktop systems and Unix*.
We started the VAX family of products over a decade ago. Today, there are a number of other vendors who claim that they offer better cost/performance, or offer features that in some narrow dimension are better than a VAX system. That’s how new vendors get started — by finding some area that is different and focusing on it. That’s the nature of business. Today, VAX computers are the standard against which everybody measures themselves, and everybody tries to do better.
As for overall system capability - the whole set of things that it does - the VAX family solves customer problems better than any other system. That’s why we continue to be very enthusiastic about it, and support it and develop it.
Also, today, the cost of customer solutions is not driven primarily by hardware — it is driven by software and systems. Faster, less expensive hardware may not help customers at all. They end up paying far more for development of software and system capabilities — costs they would not incur if they started with a VAX system.
In the area of desktop systems, Digital has a major program to create leadership 32-bit desktop systems, which build on our existing VAX, VMS and ULTRIX architecture strengths. In addition, sales of our terminals are increasing rapidly, and terminal-based systems will remain important to Digital for the foreseeable future. Terminal-based systems have the advantage of lower per-user costs, no management responsibility on the part of the user, and having data centralized in a minicomputer or larger computer, as opposed to being scattered on everybody’s desk.
Through our Network Application Services (NAS) program, we also help customers who have made major investments in the computing architectures of multiple vendors to integrate all those architectures into their enterprise-wide networks. For instance, customers with MS-DOS*, OS/2* and Apple-Macintosh* personal computers will be able to access applications from anywhere on the network, communicate with other users on the network and share such resources as printers, files and databases. (Cont’d on page 2)
Some reporters are puzzled that Digital has two major software products - a VMS product and a Unix product. The answer is obvious - most companies have a multiplicity of products to serve the multiple needs and desires of their customers. Ford makes Escorts and also Lincoln Continentals. They don’t have a problem being enthusiastic about both of them. Likewise we can be enthusiastic about ULTRIX (our Unix product) and our VMS software.
We are in business to provide solutions for customers. We believe that VMS software by virtue of its underlying functionality will be a preferred base for a large percentage of our customers for the indefinite future. We also recognize that some customers want the attributes of Unix, or want applications that run on Unix, or are more interested in having a "standard" software system than they are in the underlying functionality.
Digital’s operating system strategy is to develop both VMS and ULTRIX software within the framework of a common, single-system architecture. Currently, this common architecture includes the VAX hardware, the DECnet communication architecture and the Application Integration Architecture (AlA). We are also working with multiple vendors to insure that Unix interfaces are true industry standard and not a proprietary interface of a single vendor.
We expect to see a large number of common applications across both VMS and ULTRIX software. The fact that Digital has the two most important computing environments — VMS and Unix — and that we have common applications which run on both, will be a very important message that is unique to Digital.
Overall, Digital’s mission is to be the leading supplier of enterprise-wide information systems. We are developing our wide-area networking infrastructure and product set, as well as network management tools, to help our customers manage large, complex networks. Also, since many enterprise-wide applications require large, high-performance databases and the transaction processing style of computing, Digital has initiated a major program to enhance its capabilities in this area.
As the term "enterprise-wide" implies, customers today are less interested in isolated products and more interested in total solutions. Increasingly, the capabilities of an individual piece of hardware or software are far less important than how all of the pieces can work together as a single expanding computing environment.
As the technology evolves, so does our business. In its beginnings, Digital sold modules. Later those modules became the basis for computers. Today computers, software and support are coming to be seen as components of enterprise-wide information systems.
First Digital sold only hardware; later, it sold hardware, software and services. Now Digital is in a position to take full responsibility for enterprise-wide systems — from the basic engineering of the systems through integration, testing, installing, maintaining and evolving those systems.
Digital’s unique position and competitive advantage will result from its broad range of capabilities. We will build on our current strengths to ensure that we have the necessary products and support to help customers who need computing environments that are both distributed and closely integrated. And we will do so in ways that are both profitable for Digital and cost- effective for customers. (Cont’d on page 3)
*Unix is a trademark of AT&T Bell Laboratories.
*OS/2 is a trademark of International Business Machines Corporation.
*MS-DOS is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
* Apple and Macintosh are trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc.
Seven leading computer companies - Digital, Apollo, Groupe Bull, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Nixdorf and Siemens — recently announced an international foundation to develop and provide an open software environment to make it easier for customers to use computers and software from many vendors.
The Open Software Foundation (OSF) will define specifications and promote an open, portable application environment. Its software environment will include application interfaces, advanced system extensions and a new operating system, using X/Open* and POSIX specifications as the starting point. POSIX is an operating system standard, closely related to the Unix system, which specifies how software should be written to run on computers from different vendors.
OSF is incorporated as a non-profit, industry-supported research and development organization. It has a funding commitment in excess of $90 million to begin immediate operations. Its initial development will be based on technologies offered by the members and its own research, to be carried out worldwide. Digital was one of the key initiators of the OSF concept. Henry Crouse, Digital’s vice president of Strategic Relations, is the acting president of OSF, and Don McInnis, Digital’s Engineering Systems Group vice president, is on the OSF board of directors.
To support its application environment, the foundation will provide software that makes it easier for users to mix and match computers and applications from different suppliers by addressing the following needs:
o portability - the ability to use application software on computers from multiple vendors; o interoperability — the ability to have computers from different vendors work together;
o scalability - the ability to use the same software environment on many classes of computers, from personal computers to supercomputers.
The foundation will follow a direction consistent with international standards. Where standards do not exist, the foundation will work with standards groups to help define them. To achieve maximum acceptance for the new software environment, the foundation will provide all members early and equal access to the development process.
The foundation’s software environment includes a set of application programming interfaces to make it easier to write applications for a variety of systems. The initial set of interfaces will support POSIX and X/Open specifications, and will be extended to include areas such as distributed computing, graphics, and user interfaces. To encourage its widespread use, the software will run on a wide range of single- and multi-processor computers. Vendors will be able to add value through compatible extensions.
"OSF will help Digital respond to customer needs and requirements for open software systems," explains Bill Strecker, vice president, Product Strategy and Architecture. "Prior to the formation of OSF, the de facto ’open’ software system was Unix, which is really a proprietary system, carefully controlled and licensed by AT&T. Through OSF, Digital can now participate along with other vendors in an open process for defining the open system. We’ll all have a level playing field. Then we’ll all seek to add unique value to our implementations of the standard. Standards provide a common denominator that everybody agrees to provide; then each vendor typically strives to add value beyond that.
"OSF will define a set of software specifications so that customers and third parties will know the interfaces to which they can write their software. That will be a big help to many people. Programmers who write to these interfaces can be relatively sure that multiple vendors will support these interfaces. Customers will be better able to buy software that has longevity, and suppliers of software will be able to go after larger markets.
"But from the systems engineering point of view, the benefits of this effort are not yet clear," notes Bill. "There is no automatic guarantee that if everybody follows the specifications, pieces from different vendors will be able to be plugged together and work as a single complex system. Having common interfaces helps a lot, but it doesn’t finish the job, because there are so many aspects to designing and building complex systems. Many issues around testing and discipline and so forth go well beyond the ability to capture all of that within simple specifications. So it’s not at all clear that OSF can solve that problem. Very likely, the vendor will remain responsible for building complex systems, making them work and guaranteeing that they continue to work for the customer."
*X/Open is a trademark of X/Open Co., Ltd.
The Unix market is big business at Digital. It represents a minimum of 10% of the VAX system revenues. In fact, independent market research firms, such as IDC and Dataquest, rate Digital as number one in terms of worldwide system revenues for Unix systems. We have been number one in the UNIX market for 19 years.
There has been a sharp increase in the demand for Unix over the last few years, and Unix growth is projected to be very strong for the next three to four years.
In the 1970s, early interest in Unix was generated in universities and some of the research community. Now that base has broadened. In particular, the U.S. government and other free- world governments, as well as some leading commercial and engineering customers, are now interested in Unix as well. And based on AT&T’s experience, regional Bell operating companies, and other telecommunications firms, such as Siemens, have adopted Unix.
Digital has been in the Unix marketplace from its inception 19 years ago and has done much to promote the success of Unix. In the 1970s Digital distributed Unix software for PDP-11 computers to universities, and helped fund Unix development activities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the University of California at Berkeley. Today, Digital has the widest range of fully compatible Unix systems available in the marketplace — from the desktop to a million-dollar VAX system. (Cont’d on page 5)
Unix is a general term, referring to many different flavors of software. There is no single, unified standard for Unix. We offer ULTRIX software, a version of Unix designed to take advantage of the capabilities of our VAX computers and networking capabilities and that also complies with key industry standards. We also offer a direct copy of AT&T’s 5.3 UNIX to the Telecommunications industry.
Over the years, we have enhanced ULTRIX software to support all the popular features developed at Berkeley and from AT&T System 5. And we are adding features to comply with the POSIX specifications, soon to be sanctioned by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). The POSIX IEEE 1003 standards effort will unify the various derivatives of UNIX.
The POSIX standards have been endorsed by all the major UNIX vendors and by OSF. Our next release of ULTRIX (3.0), to be released in the next few months, is compliant with the current POSIX standards and the OSF level 0 portability guide. In other words, ULTRIX software merges a number of industry standards, and adds to the capabilities unique to Digital.
ULTRIX compliance with standards and our support for the Open Software Foundation [see related article in this issue] are a continuation of Digital’s long-standing support for industry standards, for instance in networking and languages. Today, ULTRIX and Digital’s VMS operating system use many common products, such as DECnet capabilities and languages. Through our DECwindows program, we will provide users of both ULTRIX and VMS software with the same user interface. And, over time, we plan to converge more parts of the VMS and ULTRIX environments, as part of our single-system architecture. When you have the same networking protocols, the same user interface, the same compilers and some of the same applications available on both operating systems, then the differences between ULTRIX and VMS software become less of an issue for us in sales situations.
It is important to note that the increasing emphasis on Unix does not mean that Digital is deemphasizing its VMS software. VMS software has a very wide customer base and is selling very well. We’ll continue to enhance it and market it across the whole spectrum. Basically, Digital is now big enough, and VMS software is successful enough, that we can enthusiastically support both systems.
We all need to realize that ULTRIX is a critical part of Digital’s strategy. Key customers are starting to require it. It is important that all parts of the company make the necessary changes, and move to respond to this demand. We need to position ourselves to get in front of this growing opportunity to optimize our business.
Software can only be truly "transportable" if it is generated and maintained with discipline. Software often grows over many years. It is patched and patched again, with patches on top of patches. This is often done without discipline, without documentation or careful record-keeping. In time, the people who did the patching and correcting move on, and what is left is incomprehensible to anyone else. People only know that the software works on the particular equipment that it was built and grown in. (Cont’d on page 6)
Nothing will replace discipline in the writing and maintaining of software. It has to be done in a planned and organized way. It has to be tested, maintained, improved, fixed, and patched with discipline and careful documentation and careful record-keeping.
Simple programs for personal computers and workstations do well-defined jobs for one user and can often get by without such discipline. But when a job grows to include a number of users and complex software, and needs to be connected to different parts of the organization, discipline is essential.
Unix was written 19 years ago for people who wanted to build small, simple systems without the discipline that goes with big systems. It was purposely unplanned and undisciplined. It made a contribution to computing by allowing people to write casual software for small computers and workstations. Now, many people would like to maintain some of that freedom, but add the discipline necessary to make Unix software truly transportable. Digital has joined in that effort, by supporting the Open Software Foundation.
Software is normally written in one of about two dozen languages, such as FORTRAN, COBOL or C. The languages are designed to make it easy for people to write down what they want a computer to do. The operating system takes these instructions and converts them to machine language — a form that is optimized for efficiency and speed of computing, but is very awkward for a human. The operating system also does many things automatically so that the software writer does not have to think about them or even know about them.
Each language is standardized, documented, disciplined, updated and maintained by an open, public organization. Everyone has a right to input, and everyone receives changes and updates at the same time. If someone follows the rules of the language, then any operating system that accepts that language should be able to use the software written in that language. In other words, it should be completely transportable between different computers with different operating systems.
Often, this does not work. Problems arise because people do not limit themselves to the standard language, but instead, take advantage of unique features in the operating system to make their software more efficient. As a result, the software becomes dependent on a particular operating system and the computer that goes with it, and cannot be readily transported to another.
Unix has probably suffered more than others with this problem because of the informality with which it was originally written. Therefore, IEEE in the U.S. and the X Open organization in Europe have set about to write standards to isolate software from the characteristics of the operating system. For Unix-type operating systems they call this set of standards "POSIX" for "portable operating system interface." POSIX defines and limits the calls that a piece of software can make on the operating system. This means that if someone writes in a language and is limited by the calls or openings to the operating system, that are defined by POSIX, and if the operating system allows all the calls or openings of POSIX, software written with these limitations will be transportable between operating systems that follow POSIX.
The transportability of POSIX software will only be possible if software writers limit their software to the POSIX calls on the system. But, today, every manufacturer has its own variation of Unix with its own set of features, and every manufacturer is trying to make its features better than the competitors’ features. The whole justification for investing in writing Unix software and generating hardware that use it is the belief that their features will be so much better than others that customers will buy their system. But when people try to take advantage of these features and go beyond the calls allowed in POSIX, they lose all claim to transportable software.
So customers should not presume that they can buy Unix systems today from several different vendors, plug them all together and they will work instantly. The label "Unix" is not a magic word.
They should also keep in mind that large installations, particularly those which are based on networks, are very complex. The necessary discipline and testing and effort required to make them actually work is very hard. You cannot assume that you can build a large network simply by plugging together a set of pieces that were acquired from companies that may never have talked to one another. Claims that you can do that are unrealistic. I sometimes compare that kind of marketing to "selling snake oil."
Unix is a strategic product for Digital. We like it, and we try to do well at it. But we don't want our customers to choose it because they have unrealistic expectations.
Our VAX family of computers and our VMS operating system are very popular because software written ten years ago will play on the newest computers designed today; and software written today will play on new machines many years from now. Also, software written for the very smallest desktop machine will work in a giant cluster of VAX computers. These two forms of transportability are accomplished by the careful discipline we follow in the standard interface between the operating system and the CPU. This Application Binary Interface (ABI) very carefully defines and limits the calls an operating system can make on the CPU. So, if a CPU, regardless of size or date of manufacture, follows the VAX ABI standard, the software is interchangeable without recompiling. So much work goes into building a software system and a computer, and maintaining that kind of discipline, that only a company with a proprietary interest in them would make that investment.
In other words, today, Unix software is less transportable than people commonly presume, and VMS software is transportable in ways that are often overlooked and undervalued.
For the long term, Digital is a strong supporter of the kinds of standards that will make software far more transportable in the future — for instance, for networking, human interfaces and distributed systems. When communications within a building or to anywhere in the world are part of the software system, the protocols have to be standardized. We are incorporating the OSI networking standards in our DECnet software.
For simple software, the hardest part of changing software from one system to another is usually in the human interface, including the keyboard, the monitor and the windowing system. Every system an organization uses should have the same human interfaces. Digital and other major major manufacturers in the Open Software Foundation (OSF) have accepted the MIT X-Window system. If followed, that will be a big step toward making software for workstations and other small computer systems transportable. (Cont’d on page 8)
For distributed systems, it is important that access to data bases be standardized both in how one has access and how access is restricted. OSF has picked the SQL systems, which came from IBM. If all manufacturers pick that, computers by different manufacturers with different operating systems will be able to operate on the same database.
These efforts will eventually lead to significant results. But, for today, customers should beware of exaggerated claims of the transportability of software.
Today we do business in nearly 70 countries. The number is up significantly from only three years ago. All of the countries Digital has entered recently have undergone major changes in a relatively short time. Similarly, countries in which we have had subsidiaries for years have experienced dramatic changes inside their major internal markets. In planning our international marketing strategies, we have had to better understand the dynamics underlying these changes in order to meet our goals.
All of our analysis points to a critical observation and that is the importance of public policy to our success.
Collectively, governments make up what is called the public sector. The public sector purchases computers for most of the same reasons that the private sector does. Many opportunities that would be classified as private sector in the U.S. are public sector activities in other countries. In almost all the countries in which we do business the public sector buys directly and indirectly at least half of the computer systems sold in those countries. Globally, the public sector represents an enormous market.
The rules are different in marketing to the public sector as compared to the private sector, and this difference is crucial. In the public sector, since purchases are made with public funds, it is expected that the government will insist on particular terms and conditions in order to further certain public policies. In practical terms, the notion of fair and open trading applies to the private sector within countries but not the public sector.
During our industry’s history, most important products and technologies have come from the U.S. and more recently Japan. Because of the great strategic importance of computer and telecommunications technology however, governments everywhere have targeted the transfer of this technology into their country as a high public policy priority.
As we grow in a country, we quickly learn that our success in selling to the public sector becomes directly tied to and in many cases limited by public policy. We find great pressure is applied to transfer technology in exchange for access to the public sector market. At a time when there is a steadily declining labor content in our hardware products and a scarcity of qualified vendors outside of the U.S. and Japan, governments are insisting that we build factories and purchase within their borders as a condition of sale.
While dealing with governments and the public sector is very much like managing a relationship with a large commercial account, at the macro level, the kinds of needs that governments are attempting to satisfy are different. (Cont’d on page 9)
At the country level, public policy represents the contemporary goals and priorities of the nation. These goals represent social, economic and foreign policy considerations. The governmental process for establishing the laws and regulations and carrying out these imperatives varies greatly from country to country. Culture and the ebb and flow reflected in political process often mask the reasonably predictable nature of most governments’ machinery. To Digital, what is important to grasp in all of this is that while governments may place great priority on technology transfer and exports, like commercial organizations, they often don’t know how to undertake solutions that will satisfy these needs. They look to us for information, technical assistance and guidance on matters which we are perceived to be truly expert. There is broad interest in a Digital solution. The challenge is to advance the solution in an appropriate and effective manner.
The Digital public sector solution requires that our strategy address public policy in each country. Because of the special needs involved however, our offering, selling style, and selling cycle will be different than in the private sector.
Programs to forge public policy directions with governments take considerable time. Further, engineering, R&D, manufacturing and sourcing are integral to our solution. We have learned that a good solution must integrate Digital’s needs and strategies with a careful appraisal of the country’s needs and public policy. Again, especially regarding computer technology, often what is requested by governments does not support the stated public objective. While political considerations are a factor, limited knowledge of the technology and industry trends account for most of the disparity. As in a commercial setting, it is up to us to develop and present alternate ways forward.
The International Industry Marketing groups are preparing strategies and messages that will enable the countries to more efficiently pursue these opportunities in the public sector. Further, there are important regulatory and standards public policy considerations that must be integrated into our strategies and plans.
The nature of the global trading environment has become complex and economically very interdependent. Technology and trade initiatives of any country are carefully scrutinized by all others in the global trading community. Countries openly admit to being global, economic competitors. Coordinated and integrated global marketing messages are vital to our effectively meeting our goals. Likewise, global strategies carefully crafted and consistently represented in the public policy arena are critical to our continued success around the world.
[This article is based on a speech delivered at the Dataquest Storage Track ’88 Conference, Santa Clara, California.]
On our way to the 1990s, computers went from being number-driven to data-oriented or information-based. Our challenges were much simpler when we had to process and save the simple sequence of arithmetic answers to scientific formulas and accounting calculations.
But data, which today means words, pictures and ideas as well as numbers, doesn’t come to simple, logical, or easily managed conclusions. We’ve evolved, say the management experts, from a computing environment of sequence to one of synchrony. Overall data management or information management — our ability to synchronize our corporate thought-process — embodies much more complex and strategic issues than disk drive design. Today, we’re in the thoughtprocessing business.
Numbers were the domain of a select group of technical people. Words are the domain of a larger set of communicators. Graphics have opened our horizons that much more. Today our computers systems must both emulate and advance the corporate thinking process.
That’s why today we’re not talking about 64-user systems. We’re talking about 640-user systems, 6,400-user systems, even 64,000-user systems. That’s already the order of magnitude of Digital’s own internal network.
Corporations want computers that help guarantee worldwide customer service consistencies, that can help the entire organization work in concert to bring new products to market faster, more cheaply. They want computer systems that understand the management complexities of gaining marketshare. They want comprehensive, corporate-wide systems that can streamline their distribution channels, shorten the sales cycle, help locate, manage and integrate merger and acquisition targets. They want computer systems that not only provide a real-time view of the company’s balance sheet and income statement, but also help define and execute the corporation’s money management opportunities.
Instead, too many corporations have a raging crisis of incompatibility - canyons of data separations, and polarized communications strategies often at odds with one another or at odds with the corporate purpose. In too many instances, users have accepted single-purpose, technology-driven products full of great ideas but suffering from a terminal case of interactive speechlessness.
Data storage management technology is the next strategic frontier. Business success in the 1990s will depend on managing data - which implies a lot more than simply storing it in ever- increasing amounts. Tomorrow’s systems will be driven by their total, comprehensive ability to capture, hold, access and manipulate data.
Two years ago, only 20% of Digital’s total installed base of storage products was co-located with IBM systems. Today, more than 45% of that installed base is IBM co-located. In the same period, gross sales of Digital storage products have almost tripled. During roughly the same period between 1985-86 and 1986-87, IBM’s storage revenues reportedly declined by 11% percent and 6% respectively.
Our sales and market penetration over the past few years has not come exclusively because our product specifications lead the competition. Particular Digital storage products may be slower in absolute terms than those made by competitors. But the systems and methodologies required to perform corporate-wide thought processing are not commodity issues to be decided solely on the basis of mathematical, product-to-product comparisons.
At Digital, we view data management as a core component and major player in the synergy of our systems. Our storage products, both separately and in the way they inter-operate and interconnect, are becoming major computer devices in their own right. Intelligent data management servers are becoming sophisticated computers in and of themselves.
Tomorrow’s solutions will evolve out of the collective data management achievements we are working on now: totally integrated hardware and software systems, integrated components and distributed intelligent servers. The whole can and must be greater than the sum of its parts.
This is not meant to diminish the importance of advances in the processing power of central processors, in the bandwidth and topologies of networking, the streamlining of operating systems, or the strategic advance of applications interfaces. But all the processing power in the world, all the networking capacity, the most highly evolved operating systems and the best applications are worthless if the right data isn’t available at the right time, from the right source, at the right price for the right user.
Our storage products will continue to have more and more intelligence - because the loads these devices will have to handle will increase by orders of magnitude in the coming years, and also because host computers would be degraded to the point of uselessness if all information management functions were made the responsibility of the CPU.
Our data management products will continue to have built-in interchangeabilities so they can attach, reattach, and detach without disruption, not only to and from each other, but to different hosts or multiple hosts.
Through controller interconnectivity and inter-operability, Digital will continue to promote approaches that favor long-distance linkages to host systems, because we see the long-term need for small and large pockets of data to be located wherever people work.
Along the same line, Digital will continue to advance its work with storage subsystem architectures to meet the full range of low- to mid-sized systems requirements, without any temporary or lasting incompatibilities.
So that we can be more certain that the right data management performance is available for the right data need, Digital will also continue its work on storage subsystems that will match the performance need with the right device at the best-possible economy.
Digital will continue to leverage the advantages of the various memory technologies. We have an immediate and long-term interest in solid state disk technologies. Optical technology, which for several years has been a very appealing technology in terms of raw specifications, has now finally achieved systems viability. Today, we’ve managed to combine the optical drive’s enormous capacity potential with the attendant systems needed to make optical storage a practical option within the total framework of information management.
In database developments, our goals are simple and ambitious. By 1991, Digital’s database systems will be the leading products in terms of ease-of-use, and inter-operability. They will be the price/performance leaders, too, but that goal wouldn’t matter much if ease-of-use and inter-operability weren’t among its leading features.
Because data availability and data integrity are so immeasurably important, more and more Digital data storage management products will anticipate faults in advance of user-noticeable problems. For instance, a recently introduced tool, VAXsimPLUS, can predict RA Series disk drive failures in time for volume data shadowing to take over before there’s any data loss or downtime. This proprietary service technology effectively increases the overall availability of stored data by orders of magnitude.
Storage product installation will move more aggressively toward push-button simplicity, with automatic on-line reconfigurability, automatic data migration for least cost and highest performance, error prediction systems, and automated back-up and shadow recording redundancies for the protection of valuable data.
Collectively, these advances will define tomorrow’s systems. Thousands of engineers at seven Digital sites worldwide are now working on the product-specific problems from which technological breakthroughs are achieved. But they are equally focused on the overall synergistic requirements of corporate-wide, nation-wide, and worldwide data management, which represents the next strategic frontier.
[This article is based on a presentation delivered at Digital’s State of the Company Meeting, on May 5 in Merrimack, N.H.J
Research is one of Digital’s "traditional" markets. In fact, we’ve been selling into Research for so long that we’ve developed a number of different ideas about what the customers in this market want and need. There is a large window of opportunity for Digital in Research, one we cannot afford to ignore.
Perhaps a good way to illustrate the needs of the modem research organization — and Digital’s ability to meet those needs — is to contrast the computing environment of the 1970s with that of today.
Let’s start our comparison where all computer purchases start, with the company’s key decision maker. In 1975, this individual — let’s call him Bob Gold — is the manager of the Research Department. Bob Gold has a Ph.D. in Chemistry. As manager, he is responsible for lab operations and quality control.
Bob’s lab operations center on taking readings from instruments. These readings and other test results are manually recorded in a collection of notebooks. Bob’s quality control operations are, for all practical purposes, non-existent. Lab work just takes too much of his staff’s time.
Within the corporation, Bob’s operation is isolated from other departments. His contact with Manufacturing on new products, for example, is minimal.
Bob’s department computer in 1975 is a PDP-11/10 with 16K core memory and a VT05 video terminal. The computer processes test data and even connects to some instruments that directly collect analog signals. The view into Bob’s computing environment was through his terminal into his PDP-11 computer. All he could access was his own little world and, in fact, Bob’s view was really only a mirror of that world. Things have changed since 1975. Today, because of an increasingly competitive worldwide economy, Bob’s department and his role in the corporation both have gained in stature.
Corporate survival in the 1980s depends on an ability to provide new products ahead of the competition; products with unique features; high quality products with differentiation. Bob’s company realizes that in each of these three areas Research plays a key role.
With increased status has come increased size and complexity for the Research group within the corporation. Today’s modem Research organization incorporates teams of scientists working at labs throughout the world. Bob Gold is now vice president of Research with responsibility to improve time to market, added value and quality. To accomplish these goals, he must maximize the productivity of the Research organization and truly integrate it into corporate operations.
To this high level decision maker, implementing the right computing strategy is critical. He needs the right tools to provide staff scientist access to information while enhancing their ability to share ideas and communicate with the rest of the company.
The computing strategy has evolved with the Research organization. The PDP-11/10 computer has developed into two large VAXcluster systems used for timesharing, data analysis, conferencing, and mail. In addition, the department professionals have purchased and installed a number of workstations ranging from a VAXlab system running VMS or ULTRIX software to an IBM PC under MS-DOS or an Apple Macintosh.
Today’s lab has seen the advent of Ethernet. Now, with networking, connections to a variety of departments and systems are possible. Included on the list of connectable systems of nonDigital computers such as a Cray supercomputer or a corporate-level IBM mainframe.
Vice President Bob Gold’s organization is a snapshot of the Research organization of the 1980s. Its role within the company is more significant. Its computing needs are greater so its resources are larger and more sophisticated. Networks allow researchers to work with each other and with other departments. Yet computing resource issues still exist around productivity and integration.
In 1975, the single PDP-11/10 computer simply mirrored the department’s operations, but today’s extensive network should provide a picture window view of the corporate computing resources. It should, but it doesn’t. The truth is it only provides a view the size of a keyhole.
Although the network allows the various departmental systems to connect in order to share data, exchange messages, access electronic conferences and notes files; it only does so through great effort and even then, it does not permit "true" integration of these system resources.
So as the Research organization moves into the future, it finds itself in an ironic situation. It has growing influence within the enterprise yet its ability to share information within the corporate computing environment is difficult and restricted.
Like trying to look into a room through a keyhole, it takes the Research Department a lot of effort to get only a limited view of the corporate computing resources. The key issue for Research productivity has become making network connections more usable.
How has this happened? Quite simply, as the corporate computing environment evolved, incompatible software applications grew up in each department.
As an example, Manufacturing and Quality Control must track samples, perform statistical analysis and report on their work, just as the Research department does. At its discretion, each department either purchases or writes programs to do this. Each program has its own user interface, data format, screen format, and commands. As a result, interaction among these departmental applications requires a "brute force" approach. Data conversion and interface programs must be custom-written to integrate the various applications. For every software change and enhancement, there is a ripple effect of custom programming to make sure all the software pieces can still communicate.
Ironically, the Research organization’s productivity, so important to corporate survival, is steadily eaten up with the programming, reprogramming, and training required for researchers to keep up with the computer tools purchased to save them time.
But as the 1980s portend a future of increasingly complex application requirements to the Research and Corporate organization, recent Digital products and programs continue to provide new solutions.
For example, the Digital DECwindows software brings together a variety of applications into a single, consistent, easy-to-use interface for the researcher, providing easy access to even remote system applications on the network. The resulting cut in programming and training time frees the researcher for more pure research.
Digital’s Applications Architecture will mean that future applications will be written with a consistent data format, common communication mechanisms and calling standards to truly integrate systems throughout the enterprise. The architecture will also make program enhancements painless.
The Integrated Laboratory Automation standards program will extend laboratory automation even further within the lab by promoting consistent, standard instrument-to-computer interfaces.
More packaged applications will be available for Digital systems through the company’s cooperative marketing programs.
Add these recent offerings to Digital’s existing systems, software and networking, and research management has unparalleled access to the rest of the organization. The groundwork has been laid for highly productive integration with:
o Manufacturing to improve quality control and cut time to market,
o Corporate Administration to report to management for new product and marketing planning,
o Legal to speed patent and government regulation issues,
o Corporate Library to access new information, and
o Satellite Labs to share information for more productive research.
In effect, Digital’s recent offerings continue to improve integration and productivity for the Research organization, increasing its value to the corporation. In turn, the productivity and competitive viability of the corporation improves as well.
Instead of a 1970s mirror of his own organization or an 1980s limited "keyhole" view of the corporation, the Research manager in the future will have the computing resources to gain a broader view. He or she will have easy access to corporate resources — a true window to other departments. (Cont’d on page 15)
Finally, the evolving range of Digital solutions not only creates a window of resources for the Research manager, but also a window of opportunity for Digital in the Research market.
Fernando Colon Osorio has been named Corporate Consulting Engineer, reporting to Bob Glorioso, vice president, High Performance Systems (HPS). Senior corporate and corporate consulting engineers are the most advanced technical positions at Digital. With the naming of Fernando, 13 persons hold those titles.
As the technical leader and manager of HPS Systems Research and Engineering and as acting manager of Clusters and High Availability Systems, Fernando has made major contributions to systems engineering, availability and reliability, and has led the development of Digital’s High Availability Systems strategy. He also was a principal contributor to the VAX 8600 Program, through which he developed new techniques for the software verification and system testing methodology used today in the design of high performance VAX systems.
Fernando joined Digital in 1976. He was named consulting engineer in 1981 and senior consulting engineer in 1984. He is the author of a textbook on artificial intelligence entitled "Engineering Intelligent Systems." He received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and a master’s and doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts.
Lee Pledger has been appointed U.S. Human Resource manager for Field Service, reporting to Donna Blaney, U.S. Field Personnel manager; Joe Gaffney, Human Resource manager for Corporate Field Service; and Don Zereski, vice president, U.S. Field Service. During her 11 years at Digital, Lee has held various Personnel management positions, including Plant Personnel manager for the Hudson, Massachusetts, Semiconductor Facility; U.S. Field Employee Relations manager; and Northeast Area and In-DEC Personnel manager.
Pat Spratt has been named Corporate Planning manager, reporting to Jim Osterhoff, vice president, Finance. In his new role, Pat will integrate the multi-dimensional planning process of products, markets and geographies to develop a revenue, cost and profit plan for each. He will also be a member of the Finance staff. Pat has held senior Finance and Strategic Planning positions with Software, Manufacturing, Engineering and Field Operations. Most recently, he was Finance and Planning manager for Product Marketing.
Steve Thomas has been appointed to the newly created position of U.S. Product Sales manager, reporting to Chick Shue, vice president, U.S. Sales. In this role, he is responsible for assuring that U.S. Sales meets or exceeds its product sales commitments in several major product segments, including mid-range systems, software products, networks and worksystems. A Digital employee for 10 years, Steve began his career as a sales representative in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has held a number of position in the Sales organization, most recently as Connecticut District Sales manager.
The Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual (the orange book) is now available on-line over the Easynet network in the U.S. Any employee in the U.S. with a VAX account can access the manual by typing "VTX ORANGEBOOK" at the dollar sign ($) prompt. The main menu will provide directions to specific policies, i.e., benefits, compensation, employee relations, employment, relocation and travel, security, and new/revised policies. Whereas before, employees having questions about such policies had to borrow a manual from a manager, now all employees in the U.S. should be able to access this information readily.
Hard copies of the manual, which are now distributed to all managers, supervisors and Personnel people, will still be offered. Currently, there are over 12,000 owners of manuals in the U.S. Updates to the on-line manual will appear simultaneously with the hard copy updates.
Contact your local systems manager if you have any questions or problems accessing the manual.
The fifth episode of Digital’s Infinite Voyage series - "The Search for Ancient Americans" - will air in the U.S. nationwide over PBS on September 7, and on local commercial and cable stations on September 12. This show will deal with the origin of early Americans, showing recent discoveries of archaeologists in Florida, New Mexico and Honduras.
This series of programs is underwritten on
public television and sponsored on commercial television by
Digital. Future shows will cover "The New Dinosaurs," "The Web of
Life," and "Natural Disasters."