Stephane Boisvert: Senior VP, Sun Microsystems
The newest Canadian in Silicon Valley still keeps one foot in this country as he takes control of Sun’s customer sales organizationAt the start of the year Stephane Boisvert was president of Sun Microsystems of Canada.
As it ends he’s senior vice-president of the company’s global client solutions organization, responsible for US$12 billion of Sun’s revenue, as well as chairman of Sun Canada.
For the channel, that means the Canadian is the man at the top for sculpting the company’s worldwide sales, solutions and strategic programs.
The promotion is a reward for overhauling Sun’s operations here.
He’ll need all the skills he can muster. Since the dot.com collapse and the rise in power of commodity servers the company has been struggling.
Last month it reported a quarterly loss of US$123 million, extending a string of unprofitable periods. In April it looked like Sun had finally turned itself around when the loss for the previous quarter had been trimmed to a mere US$9 million.
Although its strategy has been to move downmarket, it has learned it can only go so far. Last month Sun abandoned its partnership in the U.S. with Tech Data to sell its AMD Opteron and Sparc servers to small businesses, vowing to concentrate more on enterprise customers.
But to hear Boisvert tell it, the future of the company is, well, sunny.
It is flush with cash (US$4.5 billion), he said, and with Solaris offered on three platforms, is the only hardware manufacturer with an operating system strategy beyond Windows.
It just acquired tape storage system manufacturer Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) and SeeBeyond Technology, which makes enterprise integration software, divisions he’s now responsible for.
It has a CPU strategy, he says, its OEM business is growing and recently overhauled its partner program.
In 2006 more new servers and storage will be released. “It’s the first time since I joined (three years ago, from IBM) so much technology is coming at once in the marketplace,” he declares.
For hardware partners “there’s a set of boxes now you can have a blast with,” while those selling Sun solutions will see applications “that will resonate in the marketplace.”
What Sun headquarters is gaining is a self-described Type A personality who isn’t afraid to shake things up.
“I’m a pace-setter, I expect honesty, passion for my business. I try to create an environment where everyone feels the same way.”
“I’m somewhat of a perfectionist in terms of making sure I have a set of objectives in the marketplace and overachieve them,” he adds.
When he joined Sun Canada he “added fresh blood in all departments, reshaping the management team.
(In fact, he says his biggest mistake was not grabbing some of those people fast enough.)
Software “was just an afterthought,” so he added sales and services teams.
Although he wouldn’t divulge figures, he says in 2005 the Canad-ian division achieved double-digit growth.
Still, efforts to grab mid-market accounts were “average,” with Sun Canada still relying on enterprise sales.
“Much more needs to be done,” he says.
While Sun won’t give up its direct sales staff, he says the company expects its partners to “go beyond fulfilling a transaction and get serious about servicing our accounts and providing some great added value.”
Although promoted to head office, he didn’t want to move his family to California (for one thing, his wife heads Nokia Canada. No getting away from IT when he goes home). So he’s here one week out of every four.
In his role as Sun Canada chair Boisvert acts as “coach” for his replacement, Andy Canham, as well as a resource for Quebec customers because of his fluency in French.
He also sits on the board of the Information Technology Association of Canada.
While Sun has challenges, he urges critics to be patient.
“It took years for us to steer this ship in the right direction because we had some problems with quality three years ago,” he says.
“When I came in we had 49,000 employees, and we had to go down 18,000. That takes time.”
It took Lou Gerstner eight years to turn around IBM, adds.
How much time Sun – and Boisvert – has to get its finances in order is debatable. Meanwhile he relishes his role in IT.
“There’s so much news, so much interesting plays, so much interesting characters in this business.”
Susan Harper: Licence compliance manager, Microsoft Canada
The gloves are off at Microsoft Canada, and the punches are being levelled by someone who knows what system builders are going throughSusan Harper has worked for some of the biggest technology corporations in the world, but right now her main concern is for the little guy.
Harper, who has held positions at Dell and IBM, currently works for Microsoft Canada as licence compliance manager. Before that she was marketing manager for the system builder channel for Microsoft.
“A lot of my energy on anti-piracy and copyright comes from being in the system builder community for the last four and a half years and listening to their pain,” she says.
Harper is responsible for educating system builders, consumers and small businesses about software piracy: how to avoid it and what happens if you don’t. Microsoft sued a number of Canadian resellers in 2005 for selling pirated copies of software and “hard-disk loading,” i.e. selling PCs to consumers with software that doesn’t have a legitimate licence key and has been installed on multiple machines. In the last two years it settled 20 such cases with resellers just in Ontario.
Harper, who took on the role in July, says it isn’t about picking on the little guy but protecting resellers, system builders and retailers that are doing their best to make sure their products are legally obtained and sold.
Microsoft used to take a “kinder, gentler approach,” says Harper, and was reluctant to publicize the prosecution of channel players that weren’t selling legal software.
“But the partners were getting so frustrated and felt like we didn’t care,” she says. “My system builders were constantly saying to me, ‘Why isn’t Microsoft doing more?
The guy around the corner is constantly ripping me off. Why aren’t you doing anything?’”
By taking a stand, Microsoft can actually promote itself as a “good corporate citizen.” ISVs have taken note of the efforts, she says, since piracy is a problem that affects all software publishers.
“We try to adhere to the laws and that helps some of the smaller software developers that are trying to get their software out there. They’re constantly being pirated as well. It’s hurting the smaller guys just as much as it hurts the big guys.”
Microsoft stepped up its anti-piracy campaign with the launch of Windows Genuine Advantage earlier this year. Through it, consumers can register their version of Windows online. If it isn’t legit, they’re directed to a place to buy a legal copy and provided recourse to report the person or company that sold them the illegal version.
Losing the battle
There was a hack available to confuse WGA within 24 hours of its launch in the form of a line of Java code, but Harper says that the anti-piracy program has actually been a success overall.
WGA has been in trial mode since July and was officially launched in October. Since then, 74 million people globally have validated their software, she says.
Despite Microsoft’s successes in combating piracy in the past year, the company is still losing the battle.
According to Harper, piracy actually increased one per cent in Canada over the period of a year. In 2003, 33 per cent of software sold in Canada was pirated. In 2004, it was 34 per cent.
The biggest issue isn’t corruption in the channel, says Harper, but a more ubiquitous enemy: the Internet.
“It isn’t any one particular group that (pirates software),” she says.
“I tend to be a little more concerned when it comes to things that are purchased off the Internet. It’s the Internet sites that concern me the most. A lot of volume licence keys are sold (online).”
What’s surprising, she says, is the number of people who obtain an illegal copy of Windows, then expect Microsoft to provide technical support for problems.
Some people who buy a pirated copy of Windows pay close to the price of a legitimate version of the software. “Those are the people we’re trying to educate,” she says.
Overall, the piracy problem is somewhat worse in Canada than it is in the United States.
According to Harper, 21 per cent of software there is illegal. Microsoft continues to work with the Business Software Alliance in the U.S. and the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft up here. That organization includes members like Apple, Symantec and Adobe.
“Will I know whether I’ve made a difference or not?” says Harper. “I’ll guess I’ll know from the next survey that we do.”
Jennifer Stoddard: Canada’s privacy commissioner
How strong is Canada’s privacy legislation? The federal privacy commissioner discovered the ard way it’s not strong enoughIf Jennifer Stoddart didn’t have enough on her plate already, her role as the Privacy Commissioner of Canada just got a lot tougher.
Appointed exactly two years ago, she’s been trying to rebuild the office’s tarnished reputation stemming from former commissioner George Radwanski’s spending habits.
But last month a Maclean’s magazine article suggested federal legislation can’t even protect her privacy after it obtained Stoddart’s home and BlackBerry cellphone usage from a U.S.-based Internet data broker.
It was just the latest in privacy and security breaches that dominated headlines in 2005 and why Stoddart is one of this year’s Top 25 Newsmakers.
While the commissioner has spoken with CDN a number of times this year, was not available for an interview by press time. A spokesperson said Stoddart was tied up in meetings.
The Maclean’s article prompted the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission’s (CRTC) to send a terse letter to the three Bell Canada, Telus and Rogers to investigate how the magazine was able to obtain Stoddart’s phone records via a Tennessee-based online service.
It asked all three to submit a report to the commission outlining what happened and what safeguards were in place at the time of the privacy breach. The CRTC declined CDN’s request for an interview while it investigates the incident.
Jan Innes, vice-president of communications at Rogers Communications Inc. said it has completed an investigation and has forwarded it to the Commission.
“The breach that happened or was identified in the Maclean’s article didn’t involve our system,” he said.
Drew McArthur, vice-president of corporate affairs at Telus, said the phone records were obtained “through fraud and social engineering.”
“It wasn’t obtained through a security breach but it was rather obtained through pretexting one of our agents,” said McArthur in an interview with CDN.
Bell spokesperson Mohammed Nakhooda said the utility “never discloses explicit customer information without customer consent. The privacy of our customers is absolutely number one priority for Bell.”
Nakhooda added that Bell continuously reviews and updates its policies and procedures to protect its customer and the company.
Not enough power
A Toronto Star columnist and University of Ottawa Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law said in a recent column that the Maclean’s article highlights what many critics have been publicly arguing for quite some time: The Commissioner simply does not have enough powers to address the issue.
Likewise, Kitchener, Ont.-based advocacy group Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC) said the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which is up for review next year, does not go far enough in terms of giving the commissioner the necessary means to go after offenders of the act.
“Given certain constraints in PIPEDA (Stoddart’s) doing a good job,” said Richard Rosenberg, EFC vice-president and professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia.
He added that the current legislation does not give the Commissioner enough legal muscle.
“The fact that rulings are not widely publicized weakens the impact of the office.”
In January, for example, a federal appeals court overturned one of the first findings under PIPEDA in which a Vancouver-based lawyer brought a complaint against Telus over his right to keep his name out of the phone book.
Stoddart has also spoken out on numerous other privacy issues that were splashed across the front pages of dailies this year including the Office’s investigation into the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s misdirected faxes to two organizations in Canada and the U.S.
The CIBC followed up her investigation’s findings by implementing a national database to track privacy issues.
This summer Stoddart made headlines again when her office submitted a list of questions to Transport minister Jean-C. Lapierre on the Passenger Protect program, which will see the creation of a “no fly” list for certain passengers when it comes into effect next year.