Candidates Look at UniForum's Future

Ballots for four seats to be mailed in June

Ten candidates, including four incumbents, are running for four seats on the UniForum Association Board of Directors. UniNews asked each the 10 nominees to answer four questions. Presented here are the replies from five candidates; the answers of the other five appeared in the last issue. The nominees answering below are:
1. Describe your work and how you use and/or are affected by open systems on the job.

Baccash: For 11 years until the end of 1993, I had a number of jobs in the UNIX development organization (USL) within AT&T and then Novell. In these jobs I was responsible for UNIX System V development, strategic planning, definition of UNIX system releases, representation to industry standards and consortia. I and my associates lived and breathed open systems in all aspects of our work activities. Open systems drove the work we did and the way we thought. UNIX System V and AT&T were among the early creators and leaders in pushing open systems. My organization defined and developed the System V Interface Definition which became the basis for the POSIX standard, the XPG standard and most recently Spec 1170, which unified the UNIX system variants. We also defined the application binary interfaces that allow binary portability of applications within an architecture family.

In my current job as head of the network and systems management business unit within AT&T/GIS, I am a user of open systems and a continuing contributor to the open systems arena in the areas of network and systems management.

Bell: Open systems affect my daily life and work in two major ways. First, they serve as a tool, providing my most effective means of timely communication and information access. Second, the focus of my daily work activities is almost exclusively devoted to various facets of open systems: open systems interface standards (X/Open), joint development of open systems source technology (OSF), and open systems binary compatibility standards (Precision RISC Organization).

Howard: Mortice Kern Systems Inc. is an open systems company, supplying open systems technology solutions to most of the largest vendors in the industry. From the very earliest years, we architected our code to be extremely portable, and have now successfully ported our shell and utilities to 15 individual platforms, including DOS, Digital OpenVMS, Fujitsu SURE 2000, Hewlett-Packard MPE/IX, IBM AS/400 and MVS, OS/2, Unisys CTOS, Windows and Windows NT.

We have built our corporate success and our market-leading products around open systems standards and continue to actively participate in POSIX working and balloting groups and X/Open to ensure the broadest possible interpretation of the term open systems.

Keatley: I help design and implement open systems solutions for American Airlines. I introduced UNIX to American when I first joined the company in 1987. I led them away from more expensive proprietary OSs long before UNIX was popular. Since then I have always worked with UNIX systems. Some of the work I do is to integrate client-server systems. Many of our products use MS Windows or OS/2 PM front ends but UNIX database servers.

I have always pushed TCP/IP as a local- and wide-area network solution. I designed and implemented our help desk and support system that provides IP and IPX support. This gives our support desk just-like-being-there access to solve our customers' problems. Since we use dial-IP access, all customers are available at any time to support personnel, analysts and programmers. It saves money because the phone lines will disconnect and reconnect as needed with no manual intervention.

Recently I have begun planning Internet projects with two other groups at the airline. Whether it's Internet or the future SII project, the tools and services available will redefine corporate America.

Prince: Everything we do at Burlington Coat Factory is built upon open systems. As director of MIS, a great deal of my time is spent thinking about how to re-engineer our business systems leveraging the flood of technology that open systems have unleashed.

2. Over the course of the next two years (the full term of office), what areas of the association's activities would occupy your attention the most, and why?

Baccash: I want UniForum to be the premier information resource for its members and I want to lead it there. The UniForum Technical Steering Committee, which I currently chair, would also occupy my time. I recently reconstituted the committee and we have changed its charter to focus on being an information source to the members of UniForum. We have recruited very talented, industrious members from all aspects of the open systems industry - hardware and software vendors, ISVs, government agencies and end users. This mixed group is doing truly exciting and interesting things and more is planned for the year ahead. We conducted a number of BOFs at the recent UniForum Conference on topics such as Systems Management, Multimedia, X/Open, POSIX, Spec 1170 and CDE, and have written a number of articles for UniForum Monthly magazine. These activities need to continue and with the rest of the Board and UniForum staff, we will define a University Program to attract members of academia to UniForum and an Internet Services Program to better meet the information needs of all the current and future UniForum members. UniForum must see itself as a first stop information source for those wanting to know more about the many diverse aspects of this open systems industry. I am excited and challenged by the programs UniForum can undertake in the years ahead.

Bell: As described in more detail below, the areas of UniForum's activities that would occupy most of my attention would be education, publications, conferences and the technical program.

Howard: If elected to the UniForum Board of Directors, I would work toward the following goals:

I fundamentally believe that UniForum is well poised to meet these goals. Already, under its new leadership, the organization has exhibited renewed energy and a momentum of change. Financial stability, greater unity between UniForum and other standards organizations and continued innovative marketing of the open systems message will only work to help the organization and the open systems industry as a whole grow and prosper.

Keatley: The most important directions would be twofold. The primary concern is making open systems recognized as the right business choice. Daily I face arguments that MS Windows and the follow-on Windows 32 products are the only way to go. There are sound business arguments that this might become so. There is still time to fix issues that divide open systems providers and provide better and more cost-effective solutions before Microsoft can reach the market. Moving UniForum to become the arbitrator and accelerator of open systems would be a major activity.

The other thrust I have been pushing is to improve the value proposition for our members. For $100 a year, I feel you should get value that you can directly relate to your professional career. So I will also push to provide a communication platform and providing services our members need in their careers.

Prince: Burlington Coat Factory has been active in a group called MOSES [Massive Open Systems Environment Standard]. This group, which recently joined forces with UniForum, works to empower the deployment of open systems by confronting the issues of managing large scale open systems data centers. I am the current chairman of MOSES. I want to work through UniForum to draw more members into the MOSES process.

3. There are many areas where UniForum can be active and play a role as an information resource - from education to publishing to standardization work. Where should UniForum concentrate its efforts, its resources and why?

Baccash: I believe UniForum should focus its efforts today on being an information resource to its members through articles, periodicals, and an Internet service where questions can be raised and answered. Our open systems world is a large and complex one and very confusing to both the newcomer and the experienced professional. Knowing what information is available, what standards exist, what topics are being defined is all very overwhelming. UniForum can help its members wade through the mire by providing information, overviews, summaries and analyses, and by helping direct them to more detailed resources. When UniForum started more than 10 years ago, its primary role was in standardization. No one else was doing standards and it was a critical area if open systems were to become a reality. Today, bodies such as IEEE, X/Open, OSF and others are doing standardization work, and the real void is now helping people understand what is out there, and where and how they can find information as they enter the open systems arena or move from one facet of it to another. UniForum can fill this need and truly act as a conduit and interface for the end users and suppliers of today's open systems.

Bell: If re-elected as a director of UniForum, I will encourage the board to focus particular energy on five topics:

In each of the above areas, I will help lead UniForum to build on its significant accomplishments over the past few years - accomplishments that can serve as an excellent foundation for further progress.

Howard: All these areas are important, individually and collectively, in determining UniForum's success. I would need to have a fuller understanding of the issues and access to financial information and implications of these activities (which I would have as a board member) to better prioritize these efforts.

I should note, however, that as a corporate sponsor of UniForum and an open system supplier, MKS makes active use of UniForum's materials, conferences and educational forums. We have found all of the materials to be of great value to ourselves and our clients.

I believe there is an opportunity available for UniForum to be its own best case study in the deployment of open systems technology. The organization has a wide and diverse audience and a great amount of information to disseminate. To that end, it should use new and innovative electronic communications and delivery techniques.

Keatley: Education on why open systems is a better choice is critical now. Our efforts are to make the open systems choice truly the right choice. UNIX replaced proprietary systems because it was the right choice. It was faster, cheaper and met the business needs of that time. Now we are facing a challenge from the very cheap and competitive PC world. These are oversized competitors who are not easily knocked out. Targeting this challenge are open systems operating systems and many third-party products like databases and vertical-market software. One company wants it all and they have a very good marketing department. They are defeatable only if UniForum and organizations like it can bridge the gaps and provide a quick solution - through the standards organizations - that meets and beats our large, proprietary competitor.

Prince: I am pleased with the current balance of UniForum activities. However, I would like to see more activities, like MOSES meetings, that provide for one-on-one, peer-to-peer information exchanges.

4. How has your own opinion of UniForum changed (or has it?) over time, and what are the three biggest challenges the association must face over the next two years?

Baccash: As I previously noted, when I first joined UniForum more than 10 years ago, it was a group focused on trying to define standards - initially in the OS arena, and then in areas such as test suites, security and internationalization. These were critical areas where UniForum helped bring the various constituents around the table. Today these areas are being addressed by IEEE, X/Open and others, but their genesis was the UniForum committees. UniForum now needs to focus on making sense out of these and other activities in the industry for its members. The biggest challenge the association faces is to be the information resource to its open systems industry members. This requires UniForum's staff, Board and technical committee members to have both depth and breadth of contacts within all aspects of the industry so they can better serve the UniForum members. UniForum needs to continue to grow and expand its membership and be responsive to that growing and diverse community.

Bell: As UniForum has grown and the open systems field has matured over the last few years, my view of UniForum has changed as well. Originally, UniForum was strongly focused on UNIX, especially technical standards for UNIX. These topics are still a vital aspect of UniForum's activities. However, over time the scope of open systems has grown to embrace additional technical areas and UniForum's technical focus has been complemented by additional emphasis on the business and other issues connected with open systems computing.

As we move toward the future, I see three major challenges facing the association over the next few years:

Howard: UniForum grew from an extremely technical forum and has, in my mind, successfully moved beyond that forum to embrace and represent the commercial marketplace. This was an important step in the evolution of the open systems industry, which is, in fact, largely dominated by vendors and their end users. UniForum presented these commercial players with the organization and the voice they needed and wanted.

I think the three biggest challenges the organization must face in the next two years are:

Keatley: UniForum is trying to move away from the image of just a trade show. Actually, many people only think of UniForum as a trade show. One challenge is to move UniForum from that image to be recognized as what it really is - an organization for open systems professionals. Once this is done, we can move into being the voice of those professionals to the various suppliers of open systems solutions.

UniForum must provide more than just a product directory to our users. This did help a small percentage of our members, but wasn't worth the price of membership for many members. Over the past two years we have seen a vast improvement in our magazine and newsletter. I suggested the implementation of the job search section in our newsletter that has proven very successful from reports of those who have used it. These types of services and the new ones we are bringing on-line will make UniForum an unquestionable value to the computing professional.

UniForum is really moving on boosting our membership. We have done this with innovative programs like trial memberships and by really working with our affiliates in the United States and in the world. We are trying to make our presence known by increased attendance and participation in other organizations. I was planning to attend the EurOpen meeting this month, but an emergency meeting was called at UniForum that I had to attend. I will be visiting affiliates and other international open systems groups this year. I do this voluntarily, at my cost, because I think it is important to bridge our organizations and communicate with groups throughout the world.

Prince: The industry is changing and so is UniForum. Open systems has moved from what was perceived to be a cult into the mainstream. The association has done a good job so far of evolving with the industry. One can only assume that the pace of change will continue to accelerate and that this will place pressure on the organization to evolve new ways to help its members. One of the benefits of open systems has been to make the industry move user-driven. I think that we can make UniForum the user's conduit to the industry.

UniForum urges all General Members to vote in the Board of Directors election. Look for ballots with complete biographical information and candidate position statements in the mail in June.