An Interview with Howard Shao

March 29th, 2006

In May of 2005 I had the pleasure of sitting down with Howard Shao, founder of Documentum, in Barcelona Spain during the Documentum’s European user’s conference. Documentum, now owned by EMC Corporation, is a leading enterprise content management (ECM) technology. Joining me for this interview was Jes Wills, a colleague and friend of mine. In this hour-long discussion, we touched on the current and future state of technology and Howard’s personal vision.  For an audio version of this interview, you can go to http://www.dmdeveloper.com/articles/interviews/howard_shao.html.


Neil Brien: In different speeches and press releases you say that architecture cannot be an afterthought. What do you mean by that?

Howard Shao: One thing about building software is that it’s very much like building a house. Actually, believe it or not, in the software program at MIT the professor taught us architecture is everything. As an example, if you look at a mouse which is very agile running around the earth, but the fact is if you … blow him to the size of an elephant he will collapse on his own weight because his bone is hollow. Even though on the surface it looks like “why couldn’t mouse scale,” but the fact is structurally he was designed for that size and purpose and (it’s) the same thing [when] building a house. If you have a foundation that’s good for one or two stories. (If) you build ten on top of that it will topple. Same thing for software, data structures, layering, partition of the system. If you didn’t think through it doesn’t scale and that’s what I mean by after thoughts. Obviously you could renovate and you’ve got all the other things you could potentially do, but it’s often very painful.

One thing you often see in our world: we talk how our system is scalable and that’s reflected in multiple ways, but … the most fundamental level is our data model. Through analogy at my age we learn about FORTRAN programming and or C programming, right? We learn it’s very easy to write an array. Then you can just index access it or you can build a linked list. So obviously why wouldn’t everything be array? Everything could, except now you try to insert something in the middle. Now it becomes very painful, right? So it’s for what purpose it has and how you plan to grow and that also reflects after thoughts, meaning you had to think through what is the purpose, what is the intent of the scalability, to what range and what type of operation are you going to exert on that and then you come to a conclusion now what proper schema or model are you going to have and frankly that thoughtfulness has a pay off.

Frankly we didn’t always make mistakes because it’s very hard to anticipate what the future will be like ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. Frankly sometime even if we can anticipate, we may not be able to afford to build it that way. But from time to time we actually re-architected or cleaned up the portions which we know we had to go back and clean up. So we don’t just continue building (the) house. Occasionally we anticipate that the next level is going to exceed our foundation and we’ll go back and clean up the foundation, strengthen (it) and the people will continue to build, so it’s never in the situation so that we have an unbalanced architecture.

NB: Looking back on when you founded Documentum are there things that you wish you had done differently in the architecture?

HS: On the server side there isn’t that much and that’s partly because myself as well – John Newton and Razmik Abnous – we’re all database guys, so it wasn’t that we guessed right, we actually have done database for a decade or so and we’re the builder of database engines, so when we have a chance to build these; we kind of are already familiar with the general issue of if you think about Documentum both managing content but in a way that there is a lot of metadata tracking and that’s very analogous to database functionality. So that wasn’t a big deal and I think the biggest shock wave which we paid for was mostly the Internet era.

The flexibility of the web infrastructure and how quickly it evolved took us by surprise. I’m not sure necessarily how I would have done it differently, because living in that era is very difficult to anticipate where the future will lie. I remember for a while Marimba was going to be the thing of the future. Now nobody wants Java on clients, even Akamai is no longer in fashion, so it isn’t clear that at that point in time we could have done better. We probably could be more aggressive in investing money in that arena, but the truth is the majority of revenue and expense will be wasted.

I was listening to the Lester Thoreau’s pitch about – he is an economist at MIT – so, he was saying if you were Moses and you could talk to God in 1981 you go talk to God and God say, “invest in PCs because you will be shipping a quarter billion units a year.” And Moses comes down and he buys into the PC company; he will buy Commodore stock, because the real player like Microsoft did not show up until ’85, so I’m just saying it’s very difficult to bet on even the trends, but who knows? There could be more things done. But eventually we did manage to rebuild our architecture reflecting our learning and our competitor hasn’t and so far that has served us well.

NB: John McCormick (Senior VP at Documentum) mentioned this morning there was a debate as to whether or not Documentum version 5.3 should really have been versioned as 6. It looks like there will be a 5.4 version in about 15-18 months. McCormick had one slide with just a few statements about what 6 could be like and it sounded like you were going to address the repository, which has not been addressed for quite some time. What are some things that you think about when you think of 6?

HS: That’s fair. So, the learning about the Internet hasn’t stopped yet. What I mean by that is the Internet really are true learning. What is the user interaction to XML or the HTML, the hyperlink – all the things and collaboration among all, right, that’s very powerful. That’s now reflected in our system. But there is another thing that’s maybe not as obvious is the Internet turned out to be a highly agile infrastructure and totally self service meaning I bring up you to my website. I don’t need to inform everybody else in the world. It just takes care of itself, right? I introduce new a proxy server or a new cache somewhere. All the other browsers benefit from that, right? So if you think about it, that’s a departure from how we built our content infrastructure.

Our content infrastructure assumes planning; you anticipate; you sort of lay out in the right place (and) therefore, we do the right thing. It’s centrally managed and I think, while that’s not a bad idea, we can do better by taking the idea of the Internet, the more adaptive infrastructure. And so, imagine if our distributed content can automatically move around and find its way to the right place so cache and replication have no difference. Obviously that’s also part of the reason we got together with EMC, because we all in the last–actually it was thirteen years–I often thought if I had the ability to push more intelligence into the storage system the problem would get easier. So, for example maybe my software system Documentum don’t have to know the network topology. Let someone else delegate the problem down the line system.

The big difference between C and C++ versus Java is you don’t have to keep track of your pointers. You acquire, you free. In C if you mismatch you have corrupted the system. Java basically says the computer is so cheap let the computer tracked that. Well maybe not as quickly, but it’s got so much memory who cares? And you can imagine that may not be the absolute best and that may not be efficient, but it’s pretty effective. So the (my) thinking is like that. If my content replication, distribution – if my content can propagate to the right place, if my network then was as available and I can afford it, move it but have the systems still coordinate with each other–track it–and I think management of overall Documentum infrastructure could be dramatically simplified. That calls for a re-think of how we do business at the content infrastructure level.

NB: What about from a UI perspective? John mentioned about how with 6 you may have users able to drag and drop different components or sets of components and actually build applications for functionality through that method.
HS: That’s right. So that’s actually not something new to 6. It’s something we always have aspired to and build to. The fact is that 5.25 has already started doing that is, all our components are built in such a way it’s JSR 168 compliant, so why you can use WDK components in the Web Top that you can use it in the portal, have a drag drop behavior. We will take advantage of that infrastructure but go (to the) next step in the way I think the future application will be. Today if you use a product especially like an ERP system, even sometimes Documentum, you are using an interface, you’re seeing all the features laid out in the way somebody in the software vendor has chosen, have made the decision for you. A lack of a context about who you are, what your preference of what you exactly will be doing. Partly that was done because the infrastructure doesn’t support it, and partly because it’s not a well understood problem.

But because we’ve been investing aggressively in BPM engines and life cycle, you can imagine that actually by the time it’s your turn to do something I know actually who you are. I know you, therefore I know your preference, I know what your role is because it’s the context, I know where you in the process. So, potentially I can generate an application just for you, just for that role, just for that task – a moment in time. Then when you’re done you don’t necessarily have to check in everything, because since I know your context I know which one needs to be found, which one can be put away, which ones could be retained as memories and so we can get to the next level and hopefully the new user interface. It’s task-centric, role-centric and highly personalized. I think that’s something we’ve been working on, but you’re right; 6 is probably the time it will materialize as part of that offering.

NB: Will there also be with 6 a consideration of a closer integration with a hardware component or a more appliance view of the world as John talked about? I guess the follow-up question of that is what is the next integration point with EMC?
HS: When you think about and we already know that already, but the last fifteen months what really hit home is when I look at the major EMC drives, you open (them) up they have usually more computing powers than some of the servers, because that’s what it takes. Actually hardware guys have known now a long time that … how you implement–either software or hardware–it’s merely a design choice and so what they’re translating that into is we can pick and choose what the proper functionality is and then courtesy of VMware you can imagine I can easily wrap into say a software appliance. Now if I choose to put in an Intel processor and put it in the box that’s hardware appliance, but the flexibility is there.

So a couple of implications: one is something that we’ve been working on and we’re telling everybody about it is the embedded systems. People often think an enterprise system implies gigantic size. Actually, our footprint is not that big. We have a lot of products. That’s why often sometimes it looks big. But, the server itself and all the key components are rather small. To demonstrate, typically our system engineers with a laptop have everything we have running and can support basically a second prototype running. So, we can fit that in there, and imagine that we run Linux which we do. We run it on some open software, database, app server, whatever. Actually, it may not be open software, but it will be something inexpensive cost-wise and essentially I can create a content management appliance that can be distributed rapidly and that’s well within our capability and if nothing else, the EMC folks—-the classical hardware guy–will be better at selling the product.

But there is something that’s pretty cool that I’m working on with our EMC team. It’s actually trying to get all the file systems under control. So, what I mean by that is, to benefit from Documentum–to have a proper classif[ification] putting (the file) in the right folder with all the access control and life cycle–implies you have to check key every file which is great, but as hard as I try, 90% of the information is still on the shared drives or laptop for that matter. They’re not inside Documentum. True the high value (files) are in there, but there is so much more outside and the typical files that people look at.

If you run an analysis you’ll find out almost 50% of the information is duplicated. Because imagine I send you a PowerPoint document and what would you do? If you think that’s irrelevant well you will immediately put it in your shared folders and where everybody makes a copy (and) EMC thanks you for that, right? And then people come and go. It’s like my laptop. I never delete any file, because I’m always afraid I may lose something, so my drive goes from under 5 Gig to now 80 Gig and I’m running out of space. So imagine what could be done is with Documentum we could easily catalog everything. Since we already have a concept of external content I have no reason to take the content in. I could apply, I could analyze, I can look at all the files throughout, I could change the file names.

With our content intelligence service I can figure out what the concept is about. Doing some hash key of things I can find out whether there is a uniqueness and then imagine after I’ve done that I can now actually management your file system. One thing is if I find out all the duplicates I can remove every one of them, but fix up the link to only the original file. Now why didn’t we do that before? Because I don’t control the file system, but EMC has a file system. So, as far as the user is concerned every file remains in the same place, but they all point to the same place now. Now imagine the next step. I say, well now all these contracts and things like that should be on this shared drive. Import it into Documentum silently then leave the forwarding address where they are, so when the user is trying to access contract through their normal file system they get it.

NB: Like a break crumb?

HS: Exactly, but the real file is now under management with record management and all the proper “take care.”

NB: The user doesn’t care.

HS: That’s right, exactly. So we preserve the location integrity, which is really how people think about that kind of information. Yeah, we’re adding all sorts of value in a totally non-intrusive manner, and that can completely redefine what so-called managed content is and what it isn’t. It isn’t just copying to Documentum. I can decide this one was important, therefore move it to a disaster recovery site, but you don’t want everybody’s MP3 all moved over. Maybe you want, maybe you don’t, but the fact is now you can start choosing it. You do all those back-ups, archives, disaster recovery without human interventions. You just have to have a policy.

That’s also part of what EMC calls Information Life Cycle Management. So I can also tier to a slower storage serial ATA and things like that, but in essence all your information could be under management. And, actually, the level of management–the level of effort–can for the first time proportion to your business needs. It’s not an all or nothing exercise and something like that will be a natural progression of our marriage and we hope to have that out soon enough.

NB: We know from a Content Management perspective you have competitors like FileNet and Hummingbird, but with Information Life Cycle Management, if you look at two years from now, what are the threats to the strategy that you talked about?

HS: Well, actually Information Life Cycle Management is something that pretty much everybody embraced. EMC is the one I think coined the phrase of Information Life Cycle Management pretty much the same way we talk about Content Life Cycle. The thesis is information has different values in during its life cycle so you don’t need to … put that in the most expensive places all this time, because it doesn’t pay off and be able to assert knowing where they are through application awareness and application agnostic information like when it was last accessed and stuff like that, you can dramatically reduce your cost without sacrificing the service level. So that’s a very much a user perspective value proposition.

We really don’t see anybody who’s come out attacking that. The fact is, we see pretty much all the storage vendors are lining up embracing that–big or small. We’re talking about IBM, I’m talking about HP or Hitachi. Everybody is. If you go to the storage conference that’s what they all talk about. And, also, in the storage world the customer also has a huge demand for interoperability. So actually in that area we did a pretty good job, Documentum has. And EMC also encourages that we continue that way and actually the overall EMC software group – Dave DeWalt is the head of that organization – he is aggressively using our past experience best practice to recruit partners, open up the infrastructure, so instead of being highly competitive at every turn we’re really looking for a win-win, or “coop-petition” with pretty much everyone. Cooperation if possible, but at the end of day we believe we’ll be successful if we listen to the customer and deliver what they wanted rather than spend all our energy preserving what little we can … hold onto.

NB: Are there things in 5.3 that you’re especially proud of where customers said “we really want this” and you were able to deliver?

HS: Yes. There are really several things. I think the biggest one, which my personal pride and joy is the BPM engines. We’ve done a good job in that one. I always had aspirations to do a good job in that. That’s why we always had that router or workflow in there, but this time we really kick it up a notch and take the best practice off all the BPM engine and sunk enough money in there and actually being used by some of the largest mortgage processing—those high end BPM and then we benchmark that so we can have millions of transactions per hour for the workflow process. So that’s something that’s important.

The other one is less obvious to see. I’m talking about a user benefit thing is the time they spent in polishing the user interface and we are already getting feedback from our customer base. Customers say migration from the 5.2 to 5.3 actually requires significantly less customizations. A lot of things that you’re starting to do are all gone and a lot of our user interface–there is much less clicks to do. Ironically that’s a different server architecture. On (the) server people can see the benefits of that and UI – it’s attention to detail. It’s a polishing. It’s a huge amount of effort, but it’s not obvious where they are but if you’re a user you’re not hitting those speed bumps every step of the way and that’s very significant. These two are very user visible.

Architecturally obviously the most important thing for us is unification. Unification – it’s a dangerous word meaning we always unify – meaning we have a strategy – actually more than a strategy. here is a sort of ongoing religion. We acquire a company; we never buy one to sort of just connect them side by side. We don’t buy market share. We always pick up domain knowledge, which is expensive because we basically not only have to learn what the functionality is, we have to re-implement that so it will become part of our core competency and we’ve been doing that. Obviously when we first bought Bulldog, which is digital asset management systems and Relevance we’ve done each one of those things, but eRoom, by the time we bought that it was a pretty big company already. They do hundreds of millions annually and frankly they have a lot of know how that we did not have, so this one turned out to be a multiyear unification exercise and also TrueArc has been the record management being pooled in together. That’s painful. That’s painful, but I think it’s very exciting now, because you can do collaboration.

Well actually the whole idea is you should be able to have your user interface like we talked about past centrex so you should be able to do anything using any functionality inside of Documentum unconstrained by the application packaging or engineering architecture, which is a big difference flaw on unified products, because then you basically have to jump from one UI to another UI and one function doesn’t interoperate with another. We basically eliminated that so we can basically continue. You should be able to do anything you want unconstrained by technology. So again, it’s focus on the customer – what they wish to see.

NB: The other big one which affects users is the whole idea of information access. So you made a big switch from Verity to FAST. Can you tell a little bit about the switch?

HS: It wasn’t the main point of switching from Verity to FAST. It’s a very important one, but as I had mentioned in the beginning the architecture is not an after thought, but occasionally you learn something you need to redo. Why I rebuilt the whole server during the late ‘90s, search infrastructure was not rebuilt. We did not know enough about that. So the Internet really showed us the power of search. Actually it’s all about search and through search you emulate organization structure and also a collaboration capability as evidenced in by Google.

So, through that process we are always torn between how do you search fast yet secure. So nobody wants to one day expose everything inadvertently. So we finally figured it out, meaning I want to be able to deliver Internet search experience – I mean, sub second response yet ACL applied. You can imagine that’s a long trivial exercise. So we end up having to rethink how we built the system not to mention I ended up doing the XML which all the components of the structure or the folder or in the picture, so it’s a pretty big problem. It’s clearly a problem that we did not understand fifteen years ago. We finally got it, so other than we end up having to re-architect that particular portion. We yanked a whole portion of code out. We did that. When we do that it’s reasonable to say we still have the state of art search engine underneath us that can deliver. The world had changed. Our first repository maximum number of objects you can have in your database was four billion. Now it’s not a big deal. We rewrote 256 peta objects.

So Verity is like Documentum. Verity is actually older than Documentum. Its architecture reflects on the older thinking and to my disappointment they did not rewrite their servers, so what that translates into in extreme size of system we are free. I don’t think it we’re ready to say they definitely could not scale, but we are concerned how well they could scale. Now given we have a choice to look at alternatives we choose to go where it was one search engine – a well known Internet scale search engine, which is Fast and so we did two things. We re-architect and we pick a different vendor and we’ll go with that, but the other thing we also have done is we realize we may not be right and also an Internet search – just technology evolved that – the speed is unheard of. Frankly the money really helped driving that. We have now open system interface. What that means is now if the user feels Verity is appropriate we can still work with Verity to build a connector, so the Verity engine is still the one embedded or it could be FAST or it could be anybody else that may come along which has better mouse that people like. We make it open. It’s flexible now.

NB: Speaking of the future looking at some of the technological opportunities over the last ten years you’ve had the Internet, you’ve had mobile connectivity, nanotechnology is emerging. What are some emerging technologies that you think will impact the space of ILM?

HS: There are quite a few things. There is short term and longer term. The short term one I’m particularly psyched about (is) RSS. RSS, blog, WIKI- I think that’s changed the interaction model. Imagine anything you put in a folder I can syndicate through RSS. Who needs web content management? No, that’s exaggeration, but you can imagine management intranet website could be dramatically easier and I’m sure it’s just like any new technology–I most likely underestimate what it could do. But I see (in) RSS, blog and WIKI (that) they democratized the sharing of the information. They’ve gone beyond what the web could do and that means if you translate it into our world probably it means the exciting thing is contribution into a content repository world gets easier, simpler. A next level of – frictionless is possible. I think it’s a short term.

Longer term I’m particularly excited more like for grid computing higher bandwidth. Internet2 is going to hit the market commercially. It’s already on campus and that means it’s a hundred times the current Internet speeds. That completely redefines what’s near and what’s far, what caching means, what disaster recovery means. So when I talk about the content network initially we think that’s what we anticipate – something like that. That would be really powerful. That also means where the software engines sit could be very different. I think ASP in another life could be successful. If you’re thinking about Google an example I hear people use Gmail and actually build a file system and UI on top of that. Somehow nobody’s getting nervous. It’s not exactly … next door, so while I don’t think that particular implementation will win, I think that’s behavior modification so people just get comfortable with doing that type of thing. I think those type of things are pretty exciting – will change the world.

Overall I think virtualization, the location transparency – all the things will finally come to fruition.

NB: Someone said they remember talking to you ten years ago and you had mentioned that it was a personal hope of yours that Documentum would be one of the supporting technologies that would help find a cure for cancer. Tell me a little bit about that.

HS: Yes. So that’s also part of why we have aggressively invested in collaborations and so one of our taglines-—well we only had one tagline for a while – was “Uniting the world through content.” We may not be able to make anybody smarter, but hopefully we can at least let any individual know everything there is to be known about a particular topic, so out of that insight will come and there lies the categorization of the file system that ECIS can search all repositories, data systems or all content management system. And that’s also our acquisition of Relevance, content intelligence service, concept categorizations and things like that. Another thing is also why we are aggressively driving (the) content value chain. That means you go for the biotech, pharmaceutical, contract manufacturer, contract research hospital, FDA – we’re trying to link all that together and by getting everybody into a similar infrastructure – it does not have to Documentum obviously to be a standard, to be visible, accessible. I think we ultimately will change people’s lives. It may actually save our lives individually, because … I believe mistakes should be made only once and a lesson learned by everyone. So it’s a good point you say.

I think another thing, there is not enough progress, but I hope to drive part of that: overall knowledge management. Actually I should say courtesy of those terrorist activities they are a renewed interest in analytical content and analytical discover relationship where they are now. That’s the base for knowledge mining and we see more research in that arena and we would like to help out as well. The world will just be a better place.

NB: I know you’re very passionate about this stuff and there are a lot of founders who after they went public they would have quit or done something else, but you are still very, very involved. What drives you? What keeps you going?

HS: I think it has a lot to do with why would somebody start a company? It’s some for the glory, some for the money, some for the process – whatever. I did this because I think I really saw the world could be a better place like I mentioned those content value trying to sharing and learning and because I believe that and I also have been looking back. If you think about fifteen years ago what the world was like today, but back then what is today? Look at the type of things we could do today. We talk about pharmaceutical and new drug getting to market six months to a year quicker. Power plants (that) used to take four years to build can be done in two and a half years. A lot of things get done quicker, faster, more accurate and we are changing people’s life and (at the) end of day I’d like to leave the world a better place than I started. I also feel everybody feels that way. Life will be easier and I think I’m sure many people have the same wish, but I’m in good fortune that I actually could see the change made. That’s a huge reinforcement for me – actually for our team. You look at the world which you couldn’t share information easily until today. It’s a different world. It’s a better world and I know a few more years it will get better. It will get better and hopefully when my girls grow up they wouldn’t know what the ancient world was like. What a kick.

Jes Wills: If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?

HS: It never occurred to me.

JW: This was always what you wanted to do?

HS: I always wanted to change the world for better. Actually in a way I’m merely trying to restore a timeline. I’m science fiction fan. So 1978 I’m a graduate of MIT. At that time there was Multix, there is VAX… software was the way it’s supposed to be; all the virtualization, VM, all those things were there. Then there was DOS which threw the world completely into tangents. Now credit (goes) to Microsoft. Now we have all these PCs, but a lot of the computer science knowledge is rendered irrelevant overnight. Not anymore. They’re coming back now. And we find even Microsoft is going to have a versionable file system eventually soon enough. EMC will have one, but I think … we’re getting back to the right track to really benefit from computer science. I think we have a very high level of all the innovations then we sort of go to the lowest common denominator. We’re rebuilding it. It takes a while. It takes a while. So to be able to put it back, it’s a good thing.

JW: Have there been any bits of architecture and pieces of architecture you put into Documentum where you’ve kind of been surprised that people didn’t share what you wanted to do with it and they’ve done stuff and you said, that really wasn’t what I planned or you had the vision and you put the pieces in and then it’s—

HS: That’s a good point. So when it comes to architecture I practice active management. Here’s an old phrase I learned from our old CEO Jeff Miller. He said, inspect, don’t expect. Architecture generally is another thing. Even architecture rebuilding they go into what work site to check, so we do that. Occasionally we do have incorrect implementation but by next release we get them out, because I’m firm believer there is no right way of doing the wrong. Take two, so if somebody took us the wrong path it’s easier just to shoot that problem and restart again and that’s why it’s expensive to keep it up, but we have benefit[ed] from that. We never evolved this as quickly as I wished and so I’ve been like this (for) fifteen years. If you ask me, I thought the world would be this way ten years ago. I’m learning. I’m learning. The world [isn't moving] at a pace I (would) like it (to).

NB: Is there anything else that we didn’t ask that you wanted to share?

HS: Since a lot of developers read your things I thought that there is a sort of culture I want to encourage. As we grow bigger people may be afraid of it, but we’re really reinforcing. Years ago I worked for a company who was famous for that technology, but not much of solutions and so when I start a company I focus on solution then we build a platform to deliver the solution. That has not changed and will not change. That’s actually how we’re trending. What we’re looking for is more developers who actually understand what we want to do and to help us get there. So change the world together. What that translates into the call to action is actually “talk to us,” say “this area sucks, fix this, fix that.” Tell us what we do wrong, and whether we [fix] it together… Like you helped us get the import done, because our customers say, how ridiculous is it to have a content management system with no easy way to import a system in there. Those are oversized and things like that. I think we’re trying to encourage … this one becomes a community and we would also like to know and say, “hey we don’t think you should be in this field. (Get) out of here,” or whatever, because that’s another thing I do. I want to be a kinder, gentler company, so it’s not like my way or no way exercise. Part of it is encouraging people to share our vision then go there together. Not here is EMC and thank you very much. That’s also why we invest in the community is we care. This problem is way too big for any individual, any company to solve and everybody sees this interaction. We could make a difference. We’re making a difference, but we could make a bigger difference if quicker.

I’m getting low on patience. I want to build before I retire.

NB: Is it as much fun now as it used to be or do you have to be so much more careful with what you say and who you talk to? Has anything changed since you started?

HS: Yes and no. We will talk about the difference between and start and here. It’s actually E=MC squared ironically. When you start you have high velocity acceleration for less mass. Now you have lots of mass and less velocity. You multiply together. That’s equal to impact and so I think there is some weight shifting, but clearly we’re careful what we say. Actually more importantly is I certainly feel and I’m sure a lot of our executives feel that way there is implied obligations meaning when I’m smart doing anything I want I’m less likely to cause collateral damages especially in our partner organization, because just like I see my employees or our team’s. It’s not my employees now, but I feel if you’re my team you bought my story, so we’re together and we should go to bat together, we have a lot together. It’s not like I’m stronger, you’re weaker, I win exercise. So now we are bigger EMC. I could inadvertently do things which are unintended causing harm and sometime even corrective action takes time to fix it, so that’s part of why I want to get more feedback or hear people who guide us. At least we have a willingness to listen and so I want to make sure as we are addressing customer’s needs, because what our customer is asking is give us a solution that can be deployed readily, cost hardly anything. I ask who doesn’t want that? And that’s as we’re moving from that so called visionary early adopter now to the mainstream invention laggers. People have different expectations. We have to move into an arena’s certain area, so we are trying to foretell our direction much in the longer term so everybody can kind of get out of the way or people know where to collaborate with us to magnify the power and benefit from that and I thought those things are becoming a bigger issue in my mind than ever.

NB: So is it the difference between steering a small boat and steering an oil tanker?

HS: Yes. Very much so. Yeah. It’s no longer sort of a joy ride’s let the wind take me. Right? Now I have to plow the path, because otherwise I would .. I could run onto the island too. You know what I’m saying? So yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s more premeditated; more thinking going behind. But the good news is when I get there I do get there and it’s what we can move the whole industry to, so that’s another thing. Besides another thing for the developer is I really think part of the reason for our willingness to sell to EMC – to join forces with EMC is I do think software industry is a joy and I often think some of my hero economists because they see (the) macro-picture. So, in 1900 there are about 1,000 automotive vendors, because every bicycle manufacturer is now building cars. Thirty years later there are hundreds of automotive companies. Fifty years later three automotive companies. Distribution channel behind each dealership’s manufacturing capability even though just a few that distinguish people from the first top three and the rest of it just gone. I think software is gradually turning into that situation. Channels matter. Customer wants only one neck to choke, they’re looking for solutions that are interoperable, so if you think about Documentum partnership it is not only just building on the platform.

What we can bring [to] our developer community is we can bring channels to the community. So that’s why Rob Tarkoff is strategically driving that. Imagine that in the future it’s the catalog. You can buy all the accessories, therefore you know this product works and it’s greater for customers and greater for our developers, but because you don’t have to worry about the channel’s setup. Life gets easier and so that’s another angle to look at this now is beyond this particular software supplier. We can do more for our partners.

NB: Howard, thank you so much for taking time out to speak with us.

HS: Thank you. I really enjoyed the discussion.

Entry Filed under: Interviews

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