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March 2007

Information systems: heading towards freedom
Interview with Didier Lamouche, Bull’s Chairman and CEO

D Lamouche

In the same way as globalization and the convergence of IT and Telecoms will profoundly impact business ecosystems, information systems today are undergoing a far-reaching revolution. How can we liberate their full potential in an open world?

What does the ‘open world’ revolution consist of?
The digital revolution is currently shaking up our economy on a massive scale. And imposing its own characteristics on it: abolishing distance and time, flattening hierarchies. Up to now, information technology (IT) had, above all, revolutionized productivity within the enterprise. Today, thanks to the convergence of telecoms and the Internet, the ‘commoditization’ of terminals and the increase in computing power, individuals and enterprises have access to a universal communication, processing and exchange platform. E-commerce marked the first step in this revolution. Now, it is accelerating and becoming widespread. For the first time, we are actually witnessing the transition from a traditional industrial economy to an open, digital economy. This revolution, combined with globalization, will profoundly modify business ecosystems. And it is also changing the way that IT is bound to evolve.

What are the signs of this revolution?
It’s something we can see every day. Telecommunications operators are becoming media giants. Leading search engines and advertising sites are launching themselves into software and IT services. On-line auction sites are competing with the biggest leaders in retailing. Thanks to digitalization, emerging countries can compete with local players in numerous areas of services. A new world is starting to appear just where the options for the open enterprise are expanding: in other words, working in a mobile and distributed way, being closely integrated with both suppliers and partners, outsourcing services that do not form part of their core business, putting customers at the very centre of their organization. But it is also about opening up to new ideas and doing things that would have been impossible before: organizing the contribution that customers themselves can make to creating products, co-operating with competitors, making profits from ‘free’ services, creating new business models.

The impact, for enterprises, is phenomenal. We’re moving from pyramid organizations to dynamic, networked structures. From rigid processes, organized for mass production, to more flexible, ‘one-to-one’ approaches, delivered in real time, centered on customers or citizens. With Web 2.0, we can also witness how extended collaboration and collective intelligence are flourishing. It is a fundamental revolution that covers the whole planet and is gathering speed.

Why are openness and the ‘liberation’ of information systems so essential today?
This open world is a veritable revolution for information systems (IS). They are becoming the backbone of the networked world; they make up the global digital platform that will progressively link up all individuals and business ecosystems. They’re also moving from the status of being just tools to improve productivity to being real drivers for business. On the other hand, in the open world, the information system is no longer centered on the enterprise, but on the whole business ecosystem, from suppliers to customers. This means information systems have to have three fundamental qualities. Firstly and most importantly, the capacity for building interoperable business applications with all customers, suppliers, and partners; very flexible, highly oriented towards value creation (SCM, CRM, etc.). Secondly, the ability to supply the processing power – and therefore a reliable 24/7 infrastructure – capable of evolving dynamically on demand because, it may affect millions of individuals. We forget too often, for example, that Google is not just an application, but also above all a formidable processing capacity, deployed over thousands of servers. And finally the third quality, the ability to preserve sovereignty and security, the only essential guarantees of trust when it comes to the organization’s capacity to control its destiny in a competitive world.

Interoperability and business agility, power, security: these are the three technological pillars of the open world. Along with a fourth, without doubt: the ability of information systems to become a ‘transparent service’ to users, as simple to use as water or electricity: because for too long, and even still today, the world of IT has been content to take an approach to innovation that is somewhat closed, and still very proprietary. The result: information systems in monolithic, compartmentalized silos. Numerous surveys undertaken by Gartner and Forbes show this to be true: while NICTs* are one of the major drivers for business development, company executives believe that information systems are the main obstacle to change. In an open world, it is now up to businesses to take control of IT. And to make their choices in complete freedom!

What is Bull hoping to bring with its 7 initiatives?
To be open, flexible, and interoperable, IT itself must be designed according to the principles of openness. The essential thing is the ability to build bridges. To ‘cross-fertilize’. To reconcile heterogeneous worlds. Hence importance of taking the same approach of co-operative innovation and collective intelligence to IT that enterprises would apply to their own business activity. The best example of this is the formidable breakthroughs made by the development of standards and of Open Source.

For years now, Bull has been committed to supporting its customers in this evolution and helping them to liberate themselves from technological shackles, with an open approach to information systems, an approach that enables Microsoft and Linux, Open Source and proprietary solutions all to be linked. Today, we are strengthening this momentum with around 7 solutions and services offerings, which we intend to back up with 7 key initiatives. Our ambition is to bring together the best open world technologies, to help enterprises to facilitate their growth and decision-making, accelerate innovation, manage knowledge capital, encourage exchanges, gain in flexibility and guarantee trust. With open technologies. Which permit them to interoperate simply with their partners, and which enable them to develop without worrying about whether or not their information system will be able to keep up. Because it will be right there with them.

How is Bull well placed to guarantee this openness?
Among the IT industry players, we are no doubt the first to place this approach of freedom and interoperability at the heart of our strategy and of our offering. As ‘Architect of an Open World’, this competence is the core of our know-how and the core of Bull’s DNA: to ally openness with in-depth understanding of critical infrastructures and security. As a solutions designer – from servers to storage, and from HPC to security – we have put industry standards at the heart of our offering, with an approach centered on partners and collaborative R&D, with Microsoft and IBM, SAP and Oracle, Red Hat and Novell, ObjectWeb (now OW2) and JBoss, and others besides. With striking results: over the past few years, Bull has helped seven of the ten new entrants to the EU modernized their customs and excise systems. In just two years, we helped the French Atomic Energy Authority (the CEA) to re-position itself as world leader in innovation, by moving up from 229th place to seventh place worldwide in the high-performance computing superleague. We are helping some of the largest American States to build the world’s most advanced business intelligence systems for their Medicaid programs. The largest government bodies are consolidating their servers and storage systems with Bull. New telecoms operators are depending on Bull to develop tomorrow’s telecommunication services. We are helping organizations to open up towards their partners in total security as, for example, when we helped Dassault Aviation to accelerate development work on the Falcon 7x by creating a secure virtual platform that links up all its partners worldwide.

With our 7 initiatives, we want to help our customers accelerate this momentum, bringing together our existing offerings, and bringing on board new services, solutions and approaches that enable the enterprise to reap the benefit of the formidable opportunities an open world offers. As ‘Architect of an Open World’, our ambition is to be one of the pioneers actively helping customers to ensure that their information systems are drivers for growth and innovation in tomorrow’s open business ecosystems.


*NICT: New Information and Communication Technologies



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