Monday, June 15, 2009

Introducing MTConnect

By far the most fun and most satisfaction that I have had in my 32+ years in the computer industry and my 22 1/2 years at Sun Microsystems was working with Dave Patterson of UCB to create MTConnect.    While Dave and I were the catalyst that provided the guiding vision and roadmap for MTConnect, how any great standard becomes real were/are the many talented individuals that came together from manufacturing, the computer industry, academia, industry groups and most importantly customers to build a great, open and royalty free standard.  AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology provide the funding to make MTConnect real.   Without their leadership and money, MTConnect never happens.

AMT's membership includes machine tool and software companies used in the CAD/CAM industry. Machine tools are the large machines that are used to create a variety of parts such as engine blocks out of raw materials typically by using a variety of cutting devices. AMT's membership also includes software companies used in the CAD/CAM industry. This is a classic American industry. This industry employees many of my relatives who live in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Back to the beginning of the story.   I was ask to line up a Sun Manufacturing Executive to speak at AMT's Annual Member Meeting in October 2006. When my third contact at Sun was no longer available to speak, I called the President of AMT, John Byrd, to apologize that we had let AMT down. After finishing the half-hour long conversation with Mr. Byrd, Peter Eelman, VP of Marketing for AMT, called me and asked if I would like to do the keynote. While I was flattered that I would be asked to give this keynote, I explained I would Need to get up to speed on the machine tool industry.

To prepare for the Annual Meeting, I spent two days in Chicago at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) meeting with a number of companies in mid September. IMTS is the world's largest trade show of machine tool companies. I was very fortunate to have Paul Warndorf, ATM's CTO, taking me through IMTS introducing me to the largest as well as the most influential hardware and software machine tool-CAD/CAM companies.

At the end of the second day I met with John Byrd, along with a number of his VPs, to discuss what he learned. I told them I felt the machine tool industry did not have a manufacturing problem, but a computer science collaboration problem. When I inquired on the economics of our industry, I was told that the American machine tool companies have seen their domestic market share go from 70% in 1986 to 15% in 2006.

I made two suggestions for the machine tool industry:

1) They needed a wakeup call to start a revolution.
2) They needed to hear from someone who has led technology revolutions.

I said that I could, with proper preparation, do the wakeup call. The real challenge was that I knew of only one person who had the credentials to discuss the technology revolution that our machine tool industry CEOs would be able to relate to. That person was Dr. Dave Patterson of University California at Berkeley. I told AMT about Dr. Patterson's leadership with RISC and RAID. I said I would reach out to Dr. Patterson, but I felt the odds that Dr. Patterson would be available to do this, in a little over five weeks time, would be a long shot at best.

Fortunately for the American machine tool industry, Dr. Patterson agreed to change his busy schedule to come to speak at our member meeting.

There were numerous emails, con calls and meetings during that brief five week period to bring both Dr. Patterson and me up to speed as well as to collaborate on the wake up call and the revolution or "moon shot" as I called it.

The title of my talk was, "How The Internet's Participation Age Will Drive Dramatic Changes In The Machine Tool Industry".

Historically, the Machine Tool industry has been very Microsoft centric from the developer tools to the systems running the actual machine tools on the shop floor. I drove home the importance of open systems and open standards to AMT's members. I discussed the importance of taking advantage of the grid to reduce costs. Embracing standards has been a huge problem for our industry. In 2005, the manufacturing industry lost $90 billion dollars in data incompatibility costs. I discussed Sun's NFS Connectathons as a viable mechanism we could model to take standards from theory to reality.

The title of Dr. Patterson's talk was "Creating a Thriving Manufacturing Base in 21st Century America".

Dr. Patterson explained the "miracle" of university research. Dr. Patterson pointed to one example after another of university research efforts that turned into multi-billion dollar a year companies and industries. As he summarized his presentation, Dr. Patterson issued a set of challenges to the CEOs in attendance to start the revolution. There was a lengthy Q&A session after Dr. Patterson's talk.

The meeting was a tremendous success.   Dr. Patterson was brilliant and I was not too bad myself :-) in providing a wakeup call and issuing a set of challenges to our industry with a clear framework to accomplish these very important goals.

Next I will blog about what has happened in the past year since Dr. Patterson and I spoke in Lake Las Vegas at AMT's Annual Members Meeting.....

My 21st Anniversary * CommunityOne & JavaOne 2008

Today, May 4th 2008 was my 21st anniversary working for Sun Microsystems. I am in San Fancisco preparing for CommunityOne and JavaOne. 2007 on May 4th, it was hard for me to believe that twenty years had gone by so quickly.

CommunityOne will become more important than JavaOne by 2015 in my opinion. More important in the sense of the overall scope and reach. JavaOne will always be an important event, but the depth and breadth of CommunityOne should just continue to grow and mature. The open source model will continue to grow and evolve with new twists and turns that we can not even predict today. Last year at CommunityOne, Rich Green made the statement to Jonathan Scwhartz, that "today we have Robin Hood in reverse." Rich went on to explain that, "today, we have the rich taking from the poor." He was referring to large companies taking code from the small developer with little or no direct payback.

The truth, with open source today, is that most large companies are funding open source. This is no secret to anyone who is the business. The challenge going forward will be around creating new and interesting revenue opportunities so the small developer or small partner can make a living off being a developer in the pure open source world.

CommunityOne starts tomorrow and if it is anything like last year's inaugural event, it should be a great day. I was amazed at the attendance and excitement last year at CommunityOne. JavaOne starts and when you have Neil Young as part of your event, how can you go wrong? :-)