Eubanks: Building of Web Infrastructure Just Starting
Gordon Eubanks was the president and CEO of Cupertino, Calif.-based software vendor Symantec Corp. until early last year, when he became the CEO at Oblix Inc., also in Cupertino. Oblix develops software for use in setting and enforcing Internet access policies and identifying users. In an interview with Computerworld reporter Jennifer DiSabatino last week, Eubanks talked about e-commerce and the network architectures that can help companies take advantage of the Internet.
Q: To do business on the Web, what changes to internal architectures are required and how are users allowed access corporate databases ?
A: What's happening today is there's a massive effort to get businesses to connect directly with each other. In order to do that, you have to know who the people are and what they're authorized to connect with. At the end of the day, you have to open up your firewall [in front of] the Web server so that people can access the Web server. [Users should] build a unified architecture for Web-enabling [their systems]]. Build the right architecture, enable the infrastructure and then start picking the applications to put online.
Q: Is it easy to build on different types of authentication if you're talking about technologies such as smart cards or biometrics?
A: Yes. The authentication systems aren't really that complex. It's like a password is not really that complex. It's just really an algorithm.
Q: How does peer-to-peer computing fit into this new Internet-enabled architecture?
A: [The Internet] is the heart and soul of peer-to-peer. [It] allows a business to connect directly with another business . . . . I'm amazed that people are talking about peer-to-peer being this whole new thing. Peer-to-peer is not, in my mind, fundamentally different than what we've been doing with the Internet all along. It is what the Internet's about -- being able to publish information or being able to publish access to applications. In a business context, though, you have to apply business rules to these things. And part of the business rules are who is allowed and who isn't allowed, and what kind of an authorization and oversight is involved in accessing systems.
Q: Is the stock market's more skeptical view of dot-com ventures a result of companies that didn't have good business plans to begin with?
A: The Internet is really [more] about reduced costs of interaction . . . than it is about selling things. It's akin to the railroad or to the telegraph. Unfortunately, I think we got sidetracked with a lot of really dumb ideas, because [the view was that] they were sort of Internet [so] they must be good. And, of course, that's getting sorted out.
Q: What still needs to be done to make the Internet really useful to companies?
A: Look at the railroads as a good example. In order to make the railroads happen, you had to agree not only on the gauge of the tracks, but you had to agree on how couplings work. They had to agree on whole accounting processes. They invented a whole set of systems. A whole bunch of infrastructure had to be put in place. . . . If you look at historic data, we're really early on in building the infrastructure [for the Internet].