Fred Luiz: Bringing It All Together

Industry and the UniForum board benefit from his broad experience


 Name: Fred Luiz

Place of Birth: Maui, Hawaii

Current Position: General manager of Open Systems Software Division, Hewlett-Packard Co.

Years in Current Position: 3

Years in the Industry: 30

Family: Wife and two grown sons

Cars He Drives: 1996 Ford Explorer and 1994 BMW

Favorite Nonwork Activities: Runs three miles on weekdays and six miles on weekend days. Enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, traveling and going to concerts.

On UniForum: "UniForum should be concerned about the interests of professional individuals."

Fred Luiz, newly elected to a two-year term on the UniForum board of directors, has seen computing develop from the early days of IBM's mainframes in the 1960s through RISC architecture to the interfacing of operating systems with the Internet and intranets. During his 30 years in the industry, he has put his name on 17 patents and worked for giants like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, as well as a venture capital-funded startup. That varied experience, in addition to having worked in both East Coast and West Coast computer development centers as both an engineer and a manager, means that Luiz brings one of the broadest possible backgrounds to the board.

Born on the island of Maui in Hawaii, Luiz lived in various locales in the Far East-Singapore, Japan and China-as his father was moved to various jobs in the U.S. Foreign Service. He graduated from a high school in the French sector of Shanghai where the instruction was in both English and French. He went on to earn the equivalent of a master's degree in electrical engineering at the French-administered Aurora University in Shanghai, before the university was closed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

"My father died in China of typhoid," Luiz says. "The Cultural Revolution was then starting, so we left." In the early 1960s, he moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong, where he saw first-hand how China had been held back. "The Chinese had rolled a lot of things back in terms of infrastructure and technology," he remembers. "When I moved to Hong Kong, it was pretty apparent that the world had moved on. It was almost as if China was in a time warp."

Introduction to Computers

Luiz took an engineering job with the British government, which he held for two years before moving to the U.S. mainland. Here, he worked for a small electronic controls firm in Los Angeles for two years before joining IBM in 1966. "In L.A. I became acquainted with computers and my interest was piqued," he says. "IBM was hiring a lot and I had that interest, although not an in-depth exposure to computers. After I joined IBM, I got a lot of exposure." He started as a systems engineer, working in San Francisco with machines used by the large banks in the city's financial center.

After that introduction to computer applications, he moved to IBM's research and development center at Poughkeepsie, NY, where he worked on the last models of the company's 7000-series machines that predated the 360 series. He then helped engineer the development of the 360 series in Poughkeepsie and Endicott, NY. "Somewhere along the way I spent a tour of duty with [IBM's] Yorktown research center, looking at the next generation of computer systems. The result of some of that work was the current [midrange] AS400 series."

In 1970, Luiz moved back to California, where he worked with Gene Amdahl, then still with IBM, in Menlo Park on a fellowship grant. When that program ended, he moved to the company's disk drive and storage systems operation in San Jose, where he helped guide research and development of both hardware and software. "I really liked the hardware side because the disk interfacing and signal processing was a totally new technology for me. The software side was interesting because it makes the hardware useful in a systems context."

The Move to HP

In 1979 Luiz left IBM and joined Computer Research Corp., a startup developing a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based mainframe, helping produce the first prototypes and data models. The company lost financing and went out of business. In 1982, Luiz joined Hewlett-Packard, where he has spent 11 of the last 14 years. In his first position there-in the HP Laboratories' computer science department in Palo Alto, CA-he helped develop the Precision Architecture-Reduced Instruction Set Computing (PA-RISC) chip technology that now forms the basis of its Unix servers and workstations. When that technology was incorporated into the product line, Luiz moved to Cupertino, where he was R&D manager for the operating system laboratory that developed HP's first 32-bit operating system, now called MPE.

Luiz took a hiatus from HP from 1987 to 1990, when he worked in telecommunications for Rolm Corp. "I was interested in computer-integrated telephony on a large scale," he says. "I got involved in several PBX products as well as online telephone-assisted transaction systems. I left after Siemens bought the company and they decided to return to fundamentals in terms of telecommunications."

Returning to HP, Luiz headed a small research group in distributed computing, which made some of HP's contributions to the Open Software Foundation's Distributed Computing Environment (OSF DCE). Since 1993, he has been general manager of the Open Systems Software division, developing not just Unix operating systems but also systems management and operating environment software.

Luiz is excited by his current work because it takes in more than just software development. "This is a purely software job, but we do software that interfaces directly with the hardware and we have to provide services to applications. What I find interesting in a job is the system software aspect. Software, more and more, is what integrates all the system functions and realizes the capability of the hardware. It makes the whole system useful to the user and the application developer. More and more, software is the life of a system and what magnifies the usefulness of the system."

HP is moving in two directions with its system software, Luiz says. "One direction is away from just the raw hardware as something to integrate with, primarily because more and more hardware is becoming standardized. So we have to move upwards to magnify the usefulness of the hardware. Another direction we're moving is sideways, taking in the breadth of connected users and the breadth of connected services-the whole wave of the Internet and the intranet."

Board Member

As a UniForum board member, Luiz sees himself with two responsibilities: "I have multiple personalities, in a way. Representing a large system vendor, I am concerned with the interest of system vendors providing computing systems that we want to make useful to the world. But I'm also concerned with the interests of individual professionals-people who are not directly represented in vendor forums. UniForum provides a unique forum for individuals to voice their opinions, where they can get information and training."

Reiterating what he has said in the past, Luiz suggests that over the coming two years of his tenure, UniForum should continue to broaden its channels of education and the disseminnation of information. He also sees UniForum as a vehicle for industry discussion that could lead to some general statements of consensus, to help guide the open systems community. "Too often, we are engrossed in areas where we can compete, rather than thinking how we can cooperate," he says. "Perhaps we can start to change that."

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