IT Life: Building Shops In The Cloud

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Jonathan Bowen is an e-commerce boffin who likes building online shops

Jonathan Bowen is head of product strategy for e-commerce platform vendor Fresca, whose clients include Oasis and Habitat, which was bought by BT in 2008. Before Fresca, Bowen was product manager, enterprise for BT Expedite. He has a degree in mathematics and statistics from the University of Nottingham.

Getting his hands dirty

Jonathan Bowen BT Fresca squareWhat has been your favourite project so far?
A couple of years ago, I had to implement a complex integration project between a number of our e-commerce websites and a client’s head office systems. At the time, we didn’t have the software tools to do this efficiently, so my project was to choose and deploy a tool, as well as develop the integration jobs required for this specific client.

After evaluating a number of different options, I chose Talend’s data integration platform – it was a good fit with our existing technology stack and skillset and it was incredibly powerful and easy to use. I like the high-level strategy work, such as what technologies to use and what features to implement on our products, but I also like to get my hands dirty too, in this case developing the integration jobs required, so for me this was a perfect project.

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Ten years ago I was implementing retail systems. At the time, these were mainly client-server applications using Powerbuilder and Oracle technologies. It is from these applications that I became a database “hacker”. I also remember using Perl, which I love for its simplicity and power.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I’ve always been interested in data and integration so I expect to be using technologies that help with these areas in the future. However, what specific technologies will be around in a decade’s time is anybody’s guess! By then, maybe I’ll be able to do everything I need on my smartphone.

Gates-COMDEX-2001Who’s your tech hero?
Probably a bit unfashionable, but Bill Gates is a hero of mine: such a smart guy and his impact was huge.

Who’s your tech villain?
I don’t have a specific person to name, but maybe it is a technology approach that I don’t like. Specifically, those companies that choose to live off their past glories, rather than trying new things.

Technology is such a fast-moving area that you cannot afford to stand still. Sometimes you need to reinvent yourself too, which is always difficult to do if you have been successful already. On the plus side, the lack of agility that comes from some companies opens the door to new entrants and new ideas, which is what makes the sector so vibrant.

e-commerce? He wrote the book!

Jonathan Bowen Talend bookWhat’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
Two technologies spring to mind:

  • The Windows operating system. I tried to move to a Mac, but it didn’t work out. I was happier (and more productive) on a Windows machine.
  • Talend’s integration platform. I’m not really a developer, but this makes me look like one. When I was learning to use Talend, I tried to buy a book that I could use to help me. Surprisingly, given how popular the software is, I could not find one, so I decided to write one myself – Getting Started with Talend Open Studio for Data Integration (shown here).
    I try to convert everyone I know to using the software. I find it very flexible and powerful and a great productivity booster. For those on a tight budget, the open source version is incredible value and is not simply a “lite” version of the full software. Highly recommended for anyone working in the integration space.

What is your budget outlook? 
The budget outlook for the e-commerce sector remains strong and there is still a continuing demand from clients for developments and enhancements to our platform.

The last few years of economic woes have had little impact upon the e-commerce sector and I think this will continue.

Apart from your own, which companies do you admire most and why?
So many to choose from. I’m a real sucker for a good start-up story and I tend to admire the five-person start-up (rather than the 10,000 employee established company) for what they have achieved in a short space of time.

While they are no longer five-person companies, I really admire companies like Facebook (great movie!), Airbnb, Instagram and even Google.

Garden centre flowers gardening ©  wavebreakmedia ShutterstockWhat’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Doing more, with less. Fortunately, technology progress – cloud, open source, SaaS – for example – helps companies with this challenge.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
I’m definitely a cloud person. I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy servers these days (except cloud providers, of course).

What did you want to be when you were a child?
From an early age, I wanted to run my own business and I recall that my first idea was to own a garden centre!

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