What will the 'father of WebSphere' do at Microsoft?

What will the 'father of WebSphere' do at Microsoft?

Summary: Microsoft has hired Donald Ferguson, the so-called "father of WebSphere," to work in Microsoft's Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) with Ray Ozzie, as reported by the .Net Developers Journal. But what, exactly, will Ferguson do in his new role as technical fellow in the "Platforms and Strategy" area?

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Microsoft has hired Donald Ferguson, the "father of WebSphere," to work in Microsoft's Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) with Ray Ozzie, as reported by the .Net Developer's Journal.

So what, exactly, will Ferguson do in his new role as technical fellow in the "Platforms and Strategy" area?

Ferguson's job description, posted on the Microsoft Web site on January 8, is short on specifics:

"Don focuses on both the evolutionary and revolutionary role of information technology in business. Understanding the trends, architecting and piloting the implications for existing and new products and evangelizing Microsoft’s vision are the key aspects of Don’s job."

At IBM, where he was on 53 fellows, Ferguson served as chief architect for IBM's software group. In addition to being chief architect for the WebSphere family of products, Ferguson helped guide IBM's strategy for SOA (service-oriented architecture) and Web services.

It's tough to get a handle on exactly what WebSphere is. (It's kind of like .Net, both an ever-changing brand, plus a set of technologies.) WebSphere is everything from an application server, to an IBM synonym for middleware.

But over on Ferguson's blog on IBM DeveloperWorks (which Ferguson, understandably, hasn't updated for several months), it's possible to get a sense of the kinds of priorities and projects in which Ferguson is interested. From his post "Software in the Next Five Years," Ferguson lists the top ten trends/hot spots as:

1. Software appliances and SW configurations integrated with virtual middleware

2. Situational applications and end-user Web programming

3. An enterprise SW architecture that includes open source, good enough middleware and products from IBM and other companies

4. SOA and business policy/rules

5. Composite Applications and Business Services

6. SW evolving to exploit next generation HW, e.g. multi-core and intelligent network storage.

7. SOA and EDA (electronic-design automation)

8. A web approach to data and storage

9. Recipes, Patterns and Templates

10.Web 2.0

Microsoft is exploring all of these areas itself, even the inevitable integration of open-source into enterprise software architectures. It's a fair guess Ferguson will be helping to create Microsoft policies and products in these very general categories.

It also looks like Ferguson will be the same kind of behind-the-curtain mystery exec as Ozzie.

"I do not like blogging. It is not because I do not have the time or 'do not get the Web,'" Ferguson blogged last year. "I don't like talking. My nickname in college was 'Silent Don.' I am from rural New England."

I asked Microsoft for a chance to chat with Ferguson. I'm not holding my breath.

Topic: Enterprise Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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