Like most former Digital veterans, John Rose was instrumental in the dramatic changes in computing over the last 30 years. Currently vice president and group general manager of Compaq's enterprise computing group, Rose spoke with David Pendery about the PC giant's future direction.
IDG: How will Compaq's industry-standards approach to Digital Unix, Alpha, and OpenVMS impact those technologies?
Rose: The next couple of years will be a new and exciting era. A big driver of that is electronic commerce. That environment is going to be driven by object-oriented transaction processing. We see 64-bits as being the fundamental processing technology [supporting these developments].
Alpha is the performance leader for those capabilities, and Compaq is driving Alpha as a standard.
Our Unix will be different than any of the others in that it will be the most interoperable because customers are going to have mixed environments. People will have Unix. People will have [Windows] NT. They will also have specialty systems like OpenVMS and Tandem. We're focused around this whole area of interoperability for these mixed environments. I think it's a powerful strategy, it's a powerful set of capabilities that Hewlett-Packard, IBM, or Sun Microsystems cannot match in any way.
Have Compaq's statements about Alpha as the 64-bit platform of choice going forward affected your relationship with Intel?
No. Our strategy of driving 64-bit capability is going to use two microprocessor architectures: Alpha and IA-64. The other ones are going to be seriously challenged or, from our view, disappear. They include PA-RISC, SPARC - which is seriously challenged even today from a performance standpoint - and PowerPC.
So I think our strategy is a positive to Intel as the marketplace begins to move toward 64-bit platforms.
HP, Compaq, and IBM recently proposed the PCIx upgrade to PCI technology. What dictated your decision to cooperate with your competitors on this standard?
If you take the perspective of "What's the customer looking for?", PCIx is relatively easy because the three companies have been predominant in the industry-standard server market area. So rather than go and create a different I/O infrastructure, we've expanded that performance collectively through this PCIx architecture.
There are a number of other similar areas. For example, we cooperate with IBM and Tivoli in the management area. We also cooperate with the Lotus side of IBM. So for the benefit of customers in this open-standards environment, you need to cooperate in some areas with people that you may compete with in other areas.
Could cohesive standardisation across the computer industry stifle innovation?
There is still plenty of room to innovate, but the bar of where you innovate changes. Years ago everyone innovated in a vertical model. Then in the early '80s we got into this industry-standard domain, oriented toward the client.
Compaq started the wave of industry standards for servers back in 1989 and we continue to drive that, directly partnering with others, creating industry standards, enhancing standards to put more of the technologies that in the past were only proprietary, and drive those as open industry standards.
You've got to then take your innovation to the next level.
How does Compaq intend to use direct and indirect sales models to its competitive advantage?
It's really a hybrid model that's going to be successful. It's one that supports all customers in the way that they want to buy. The predominance of Compaq's business goes through the channel. We're working in combination with the channel to refine the efficiency of that model, to be as efficient as the direct model.
At the same time we recognise that customers want to buy through the Web, they want to buy through tele-selling. A customer wants to be able to buy in any way, and get products in any way that they desire.
What are your most serious concerns going forward in the industry?
This whole inflection point that's going to occur after 2000, where the real opportunity for major new waves of business solutions and the new technologies to support those solutions presents an enormous opportunity.
The other part of it is just managing this whole Digital transition because the acquisition is the largest in the history of the industry. If you look over the history of these acquisitions, most don't succeed.
We are committed to creating history and ensuring that these not only succeed, but their overall successful growth for the future is ensured.