IT Life: Open Source Is Open For Business

Steve Nice, CTO at Reconnix, tells TechWeekEurope that the future is in the cloud, as long as we can secure it

Reconnix, formerly ForLinux, is an open source technology solutions provider. The company was founded by Steve Nice, its current CTO, and his wife in 2001, with the aim of promoting open source software for business.

Prior to Reconnix, Nice worked as a computer operator on ICL Mainframes at a local engineering company, before progressing into more technical, support-focused roles. His areas of expertise include applications, networking, cloud and retro computers. He is also a certified ‘ethical hacker’.

Below, we talk to Nice about the future of open source, mobile security and the impact that Sinclair ZX81 has had on his life.

Open is beautiful

What’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?
Since technology is always evolving, it is the new thing that’s most interesting to me at any given time. My current projects – working with new Cloud IaaS/PaaS software – are very exciting, fundamentally changing how hardware and software are used. Cloud technologies are going to revolutionise the way we work.

WTux in a suithat technology were you involved with ten years ago?
A decade ago I was working with very early versions of Linux and other open source software – it’s amazing to see how far they have come in that time. Fifteen years ago, Microsoft had the back office and desktop all tied up. Open source software was the newcomer, which ran another newcomer, called the World Wide Web. Microsoft never saw open source as a threat but now their business model is in tatters, diverging into games, hardware and software.

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
Some emerging trends are Quantum computers, DNA-based storage and 3D printers being as ubiquitous as paper printers are now – they have the potential to radically alter the global supply chain. I also think that all devices will feature “always-on” connectivity to some network or another. I think the way people use the Internet will change, and we could see it broken up into industrial, consumer/business, entertainment segments.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
Security. An average user does not understand security and has no comprehension of how vulnerable they are. With more devices in the hands of the public/staff, and more transactions taking place through these devices, we are on the edge of a cliff. The magnitude of this risk is greater than the threat of PC viruses back in the 1990’s. Mobile devices will be “always-on” and could be exploited as part of a massive grid, with unused CPU cycles being utilised for good or evil. A massive education drive is needed and should be a priority for the Government if they want the UK to stay a global power.

To cloud or nor to cloud?
Cloud is the future. Long gone are the days of monolithic applications with rigid data sets and user-unfriendly interfaces. With current Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service technologies, software should be created to provide today’s Internet-savvy society with applications on demand, accessible from all devices.

The appeal of ZX81

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?
My tech heroes are all the early contributors to open source. Not just Linus Torvalds or Richard Stallman, but everyone who gave it the momentum to bring it to where it is today. Coding is a passion for these developers. Like any passion, you are committed and work tirelessly until you reach your limit. These guys are the unsung heroes of the movement, and without them we wouldn’t have the multi-billion pound economy that we call the Internet.

For me, the villains are the tech giants of this world that have in the past attempted to stifle innovation. However, we are now seeing them playing catch-up with the new technologies, and the open source movement can take some credit for this.

ZX81-closeup (Custom)What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?
ZX81 – my first computer. I have a collection of retro computers. It makes me realise how far technologies have advanced in 30 years.

The piece of technology I use most is probably my iPod, which is with me most days. Like a large proportion of the population, I have several Apple devices.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
RedHat – they had the vision of taking Linux to the enterprise. RedHat set the standard for commercial open source software back in 1994, and continue to innovate today.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
From the age of 13 I had a computer, my ZX81, so technology has always been my calling. I did think about a degree in Art when I left school, but my rational side decided on a career in technology as I thought it would pay more.

How well do you know open source software? Take our quiz!