From the President

A Word from Our President

UniForum and The Open Group: Combined Strengths

Organizations like UniForum must change, because the needs of the people who create and sustain the organization will always change. UniForum was born in 1980 as /usr/group, with the distinct mission to make Unix a standardized operating system that industry would adopt and use, within an open competitive framework. Later, /usr/group evolved into UniForum as a reflection of what we had become: a thriving community of open systems professionals.

Now the evolutionary clock has chimed again. UniForum, while keeping its name, its assets and its board of directors (as more fully described below) expects to merge its operations and staff with The Open Group. The planned date for the new combination is March 1997--with appropriate fanfare at UniForum '97, Mar. 10-14 in San Francisco. Steps along the way include the negotiation of a final definitive agreement and a formal poll of our membership.

If you are a UniForum member you should by now have received a letter from us along with a press release filling in some of the details of the new arrangement. Let me explain more of the reasons why your Board of Directors felt this step was not only in your best interest as members of UniForum but an extremely positive step for the cause of industry collaboration. I'll also use this opportunity to formally welcome Tom Mace on board as UniForum's new executive director. Starting next issue, this will be his column.

Good Reasons

First, why combine UniForum operations and staff with The Open Group? We and The Open Group share a common mission to further the cause of open systems. The combination will allow us to focus energy and resources, draw on mutual strengths and better meet the requirements of you, the members of UniForum. When we began to explore ways in which The Open Group and UniForum could work more closely together, we found enormous opportunities to achieve more goals with the resources we have. Each organization has unique strengths that are a good match to the other. When we looked at what we did well and what The Open Group did well, we saw that together we could be a powerful organization with a broad array of services and a clear mission for both end users and vendors of open systems.

For instance, UniForum's membership publications such as this magazine, UniNews online and the Open Systems Products Directory are all unique and represent significant value to our members; moreover, publications of this kind do not exist within The Open Group. As another example, UniForum's Professional Training Series and our annual UniForum Conference represent some of the best educational opportunities to be found anywhere. Again, these services are not replicated within The Open Group. From the other direction, we found that such critically important projects such as the Technology Task Forces, branding, technical requirements publications and The Open Group Research Institute were unique to that organization. UniForum will enhance what it provides to individual members and do more of what it does well, while at the same time offering our members the benefits of the initiatives spearheaded by The Open Group.

Some Specifics

UniForum members can look forward to a continuation of UniForum's IT Solutions, and the magazine should grow in circulation, content and impact as our coordinated efforts with The Open Group blossom. UniForum members will soon be receiving their 1997 Open Systems Products Directory, this time on CD-ROM; but there's much more in store here as we work with The Open Group's new Software Registry project that will result in a significantly larger and more detailed procurement resource unique in the industry.

Members can expect to see much more training and education come their way as the UniForum conference and seminar department continues its growth. Fueling this growth will be coordinated programs with The Open Group as UniForum develops curricula that taps into their rich vein of technology advancement. By way of example, I am pleased to announce that at UniForum '97, The Open Group Research Institute Symposium will be held, giving attendees an opportunity to learn in significant detail the progress that body is making in the fields of scalability, distribution/mobility, realtime, fault tolerance, security and high-assurance computing. Further, each of The Open Group's Task Force initiatives in areas such as architecture, desktop, the information superhighway and others, can be the wellspring of new and exciting educational programs that UniForum can offer to professionals worldwide.

UniForum's mission to serve individuals remains undiluted. The UniForum board, throughout the negotiations with The Open Group, insisted that its role remain that of the voice for individual open systems professionals. This is a role with which The Open Group is in full accord. Through the actions and review of an executive director, the UniForum board will monitor the services provided to the membership, while continuing to manage the association's key assets, including its revenues and trademarked offerings such as the annual trade show and conference. Your board will be represented with a full voting seat on the board of The Open Group, while the staff will become active in directing the programs of The Open Group that pertain in particular to publications, education, trade shows and outbound communications. This meaningful oversight will preserve the character of UniForum, which is to serve the needs of individual members. And of course, we'll now provide The Open Group with an effective channel to work with individual professionals.

One of the most exciting aspects of our operational combination is the further internationalization of UniForum. By joining forces with The Open Group, UniForum gains a presence through offices in Tokyo, Reading (U.K.), Brussels and Grenoble, as well as in Cambridge, MA, and Falls Church, VA, in the U.S. This opportunity to expand will add an unprecedented richness to UniForum programs. Our publications and educational offerings will reach a wider audience, more quickly than ever. We'll be able to attract the services and expertise of more people and we'll be able to add value to existing Open Group programs around the world. UniForum has always prided itself on its international membership, and now we'll be in the position to grow our membership throughout the world while strengthening our services for all.

Good People

New arrangements of this kind can seldom occur without the trust and goodwill of the parties involved. Our relationships with The Open Group--and its predecessor bodies OSF and X/Open--have always been excellent, and in the time since we began negotiations in earnest, this relationship has grown to the point where we are able to move ahead toward a definitive agreement in record time. I would like to take this opportunity to thank several of my colleagues at The Open Group for the work and cooperative good spirit they have exhibited toward us. First, of course, is Jim Bell, The Open Group's interim CEO (and the immediate past president of UniForum). Jim's unique ability to bring groups together and inspire them to work to and beyond their capabilities, never ceases to amaze. Let me also add that I look forward to a new and productive relationship with Joseph DeFeo, The Open Group's new CEO. Both Peter Shaw and Allen Brown, vice presidents of The Open Group, have worked diligently with UniForum to put the agreement into words and the words into effect. There are many others at The Open Group who are contributing time and effort toward making the new arrangement work. My thanks go to them all.

On the UniForum side of the ledger, let me also thank Richard Jaross. As executive director (until his resignation took effect last month), Richard was highly instrumental in creating the framework for the combination of operations with The Open Group. Please join me in thanking him for all of his contributions to UniForum and in wishing him well in his new ventures. His work has been ably continued by our new executive director, Tom Mace, and his team at UniForum who have already made significant contributions to the development of the new relationship.

Let me close by telling you a little bit more about Tom Mace. Those of you who received his letter along with our press release got a sense of what he stands for and what his accomplishments are. Readers of UniNews online have also recently seen an interview with Tom in which he outlines his views about UniForum's future and about open systems in general. Tom has been a member of UniForum for a decade; he's seen it grow and expand well beyond its roots as a purely Unix-centric organization to its new position today. Indeed, he has contributed to UniForum's growth through his past work at Convergent Technologies where he was responsible for the Mighty Frame product line of Unix servers. Tom is perhaps best known to many of you through his leadership of two important industry consortia: 88 Open and PowerOpen where his experience in dealing with diverse memberships has made him an ideal selection as UniForum executive director. Tom has the requisite knowledge and leadership qualities that will enable UniForum to gain maximum advantage from its new affiliation with The Open Group. I urge all of you to join me in welcoming Tom to the UniForum family.

UniForum is embarking on a course of change. The measure of our success will be in how well we deliver on our promise of increased and improved services to more people in more countries around the world. I hope that you'll continue to support UniForum through your active membership. If you're not already a member, you'll consider this the perfect time to join an exciting new organization with a limitless future.

Michael Tilson is president of the UniForum Association. He can be reached at