Ian Osborne of Intellect is busy in the Government’s Knowledge Transfer Networks, helping put innovation to work
Ian Osborne is project director at the IT industry body, Intellect. He is heavily involved in the Government-backed Knowledge Transfer Networks, designed to get innovations out into use within public and private sector IT. He is particularly interested in IT as a Service, Open Standards and Sustainable Computing, especially for Government and SME applications.
What is your favourite project in your work so far?
My career has had many highlights from my first software projects at Cornhill to the British Airways Booking System (BABS) and International Computer Limited (ICL)’s VME/B, a fabulous mainframe operating system. At HP there was the e-Beam project calibrating an electron beam for world leading geometries in 1980.
Research and development
There was HP Labs Bristol in the 1990s, which was a new research centre for a new age of computing, wireless, ubiquity and handheld devices and there was HP’s Telecom Systems Business which manages the world’s telephone systems. And now, there are the Technology Strategy Board’s Knowledge Transfer Networks – Grid, Virtulisation, Green IT and the G-cloud programme.
What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
I was using HP-UX and distributed monitoring systems for telecom networks with thousands of monitoring points. We were able to show operators pictures of their traffic that they had never seen!
Taking a RISC
Who’s your tech hero and who’s your tech villain?
My tech hero is Joel Birnbaum of IBM and HP Labs. He invited Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) and was a blast to work for during the 1990s. My tech villain is any organisation which locks a customer into a regime that they don’t want with high licensing fees or maintenance costs which add no value but are required to continue to operate.
What is your favourite technology ever made and what do you use the most?
I was hugely impressed by the initial PCs. I had one in 1983 and the idea of having this to play with was such a breath of fresh air. The Internet and mobile communications have liberated us all but the emergence of the iPod, iPhone and iPad has changed the way I live and enriched every aspect of it, including the way I work. It’s nice not having to carry a weighty laptop now.
What’s your budget outlook going forward?
Budgets will remain under pressure for a while yet as confidence is weak and we’ll bump along the bottom until growth restarts. I don’t think it will get worse though.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
Since working for HP I have had a particular enthusiasm for innovation; the useful application of an idea in business or our social life. Therefore I admire greatly the work done by Apple, how they took tired products and ideas and made them lead the way forward for professionals and consumers alike.
I also have huge admiration for the work done by Amazon in creating the infrastructure services that have changed our deployment models for good.
Balancing in-house with the cloud
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Balancing the need to provide secure, timely services with the decision on how invest resources in the Cloud or in-house. It wouldn’t be so bad if the situation was static, but it’s not. Today’s added value systems and services will become tomorrow’s commodity services, but how do we ride that wave of change?
Staying close to the business and understanding their key challenges and opportunities will help and staying close to developments in the industry and market will also provide insight. The job of the CIO is no longer about making IT work but making sure IT is a key contributor to the business. The stakes are much higher now.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
To ignore the Cloud is to deny the waves of change and to attempt to replicate the Cloud in a safe environment is to miss the point of commodity services. To embrace the Cloud is the recipe for innovation for the business and its customers. Who on earth still wants to run an email service?
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I started programming at the age of 16 and, yes, there were computers then! This one was a Ferranti Pegasus II which can now be seen in the Science Museum. It had valves, was fed by a 5-hole paper tape and it filled and entire building on the Brooklands College Campus in Weybridge. It had been used in the testing of Concorde’s systems.
I guess that getting the best from computers has been my life ever since. Apart from the football, squash, cricket, family, singing…