IT Life: Taking Customers To The Clouds

Ian Finlay may have made the first international WAN. At Abiquo he just wants to meet customer needs without undue complexity

Ian Finlay is vice president of products at Abiquo, which provides a software based cloud management platform for private, hosted and public IT infrastructure. He’s done plenty of other things before that, including building what might just have been the first international WAN.

What got you into tech?
apple III’ve been in IT since I was about 15, when my mother’s company imported some of the first Apple II computers into the UK [Ahh, the Apple II. It had a song – Editor]. She read about Visicalc in the FT, couldn’t figure it out and asked me to help. I built some basic financial spreadsheets for her, and got paid! It was better than washing cars at the weekend.

In my adult professional career I’ve been a database developer, business analyst, networking tech (I go back to Arcnet days), IT manager and so on until my last role as CIO (at Abiquo customer Claranet). My areas of expertise cover enterprise and service provider IT, having run teams with the full set of analysis, development and operational responsibility. I feel my key skill is to bring together technical understanding and business focus. Leading the product management at Abiquo needs all these skills, to both understand our customers’ needs and create a roadmap to fulfil them.

The first international WAN?

novell logo squareWhat’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?
Back when I worked at Novell, a colleague in the US and I had a beta copy of our X.25 gateway. It was intended as a method to connect to public services, but we realised that we could use it to link Novell networks together. We tested this in two labs, one in the US and one in the UK, and it worked straight away! We think we may have created the first international WAN, but didn’t keep any record of the date sadly. I remember the excitement of seeing the server list build and realising what we’d achieved.

More recently, building the Virtual Data Centre product at Claranet, a cloud service built on Abiquo’s software, was pretty exciting. We were set a tough deadline and delivered it, and the product has won many awards since.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?
Mainly Cisco networking technology – routers, switches, firewalls etc. and monitoring tools.

Graphical business rules, please!

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I remain open minded on that! I’d like to see more software with graphical process implementation tools – developing business rules in code presents such a barrier between the business and the technology that it has to go!

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
It depends. For many it is having to deal with “legacy” applications (I don’t like that word though), for others it is recruiting and retaining the right people.

To cloud or not to cloud?
There are lots of clouds, like there are lots of cars or foods. Pick the right one to match the business need and use it.

Engineering idols

R J Mitchell spitfire designerWho is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?
If I have any heroes, they’re not in IT but more in engineering. People like Barnes Wallace, the NASA teams that sent people into space and R. J. Mitchell [pictured – who designed the Spitfire] . People who turned an art into a science like Sir Jackie Stewart. Also, possibly Steve Jobs, who created devices people formed emotional attachments to.

Villains? Anyone who creates a device capable of gaming without parental controls!

What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?
My MacBook Pro would be my favourite. My iPhone runs it a close second, and is the device I use the most.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
I admire First Direct, the bank. They have customer service absolutely right and they use technology sensibly without trying to be flashy. For tech companies, I’d choose Apple. They show you don’t have to have the best technology to create a great product.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to design cars, but I’d have been useless at it. Mind you, the personal computer hadn’t been invented then, so IT wasn’t really a choice.

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