Into the Cloud

Posted by Lou Person on Apr 10, 2011 in Cloud Journey

I am really excited about transforming my business to a Cloud-based company. I see it as the culmination of a 25 year career that has brought me to this specific point in the evolution of Technology.

Before going forward, I wanted to look back. I remember interning in the 80’s and working to phase out the last punch card system at a hospital in New York. I also remember the green screen terminals which did VT220 emulation (this model seems identical to today’s virtualized desktops).

In college in the 80s and early 90s, I recall blowing through my time-sharing processing budget as a program would get caught in an infinite loop. As I would wait on line to recharge it, I remember seeing a print out of a dot matrix map with a few big circles, a few small circles and a bunch of lines. Inside the circle were words such as “ARPANet”, “SATNet”, “BBN”, “MIT”, etc. This was the genesis of the Internet. (Today, BTW, you can’t read the words on the map of the Internet).

After college, I went to Coopers and Lybrand and focused on IT Auditing and controls. This was a tremendous experience which, in hindsight, I took for granted. Auditing Operational, Business Continuity, Backup, Change Control and developing audit reconciliation software for companies such as Nynex/Bell companies (now Verizon), Goldman, Prodigy and General Mills gave me tremendous insights into sound IT and business practices. After Coopers, I went to Price Waterhouse. I would like to think I had some hand in the two companies merging to form Price Waterhouse Coopers, but not so much. At Price, I was a DBA for a Global Royalty System at Sony Music. We would take the paper contracts and convert them into an Oracle database frontend by power builder in order to calculate artists’ royalties. Each song writer, performer and Ex-Spouse, along with ASCAP and BMI, was entitled to a piece of each mechanical and published license. I left before the project completed, I hear they are still working on it.

After Price, I started a company with a few friends, Media Connection of New York (MCNY). Before I was there full time, I took a contract with c|net, I was the first “webmaster”. I recall receiving an email to webmaster@cnet.com with an invitation from Steve Jobs to attend “Object World” in San Francisco, all expenses paid. I had lunch with Steve that day, along with 20 others. I was at the table across from him and I had the opportunity to meet him and chat with him a bit. At c|net, before I got there, they were running a 3D animation of the OJ Simpson Murders. I knew they were onto something big when the web traffic was showing thousands of hits a minute right before we launched. I programmed a red button that said “Launch” for Halsey Minor, the CEO to press. The script simply redirect the root content directory. Halsey told me to press it. I’ll never forget that day. We made two big mistakes; the first was having a script on the main page which did a query every time it was loaded to count the number of new users (we fixed that by running it one time every minute and updating the page). We also had performance issues with Apache. Back in those days, you could actually get the developer of the open source platform on the phone. I think we were running a sub 1.0 release. We spoke with someone named Brian who helped us do performance tuning, which made it into subsequent Apache releases.

Back to MCNY, we were one of New York City’s first web hosting and application development companies. We had a number of SUN servers and Windows NT 4.0 servers, hosted off of first a 56K Frame Relay, then an internet T1. Our firewalls were Checkpoint. We were using Windows 95 and even had a few NEXT boxes (mine had a serial number less than 1000, it is still in my basement. NEXT was the company Steve Jobs founded after he left Apple for a bit). We used an Informix backend. We provided what was probably the first Cloud application – hosted POP3 email. We were acquired by Winstar Communications (Winstar provided Fixed Wireless Broadband). Winstar found us because they searched “New York City Web Hosting” and we came up first. What is interesting is, back then, there was no SEO market. We paid someone $12,000 to get us ranked first in the searches. Nobody else knew about this at the time, and this later became the SEO industry.

Winstar was a great place to get experience building the Cloud. Although, there, we called it “Hosting”, “Collocation” and “Application Service Provider (ASP)”. Microsoft invested $450 million in Winstar and we were one of the first providers of Hosted Exchange. We were way too early. At Winstar, I became an expert in voice technology (Winstar was a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier - CLEC) and Broadband. I designed and built datacenters, one in Brooklyn, one in San Francisco and one in Virginia. One of the greatest experiences was building a sales team selling the datacenter, ASP, broadband and professional services. I worked with some great people at Winstar, we were just ahead of our time. Then the bubble burst and WCII went bankrupt. After Winstar, I started a company that evolved into brightstack. At first, we focused on PC and server deployments, managing them on a break/fix basis. Along the way we started deploying VoIP Phone systems. We converted to a “Managed Services” methodology and built out a world class service delivery model while training our team on Virtualization and Storage technologies, key components of the Cloud.

Now, looking forward, I am going to take all of these experiences and set out on a journey to be a leader in the Cloud.