20-year IBM veteran is a keywitness to computer evolution
- By John Moore
- Jun 29, 1997
John Nyland's 20-year career at IBM Corp. has given him a front row seat for computing's evolution establishing him as a key player in the company's ability to respond to recent changes in federal computing and procurement.
Nyland joined IBM in 1977 when host computing and custom systems were the rule. He started as a buyer for IBM's Federal Systems Division in Owego N.Y. As he progressed up the management ranks during the 1980s one of his tasks was managing IBM's work on the data processing component of the Air Force's E-3 Advanced Warning and Control System (AWACS) program a large-scale custom project typical of the day. Today as vice president of marketing at IBM's Global Government Industry organization in Bethesda Md. Nyland works in a much different world. "Probably the most significant thing that has happened in the past couple of years is the move to network computing " he said in a recent interview. He refers to network computing as the "third phase" of information technology following the host computing phase and the client/server phase.
Another major shift Nyland has experienced is the move to commercial off-the-shelf technology. "Now the focus is on COTS and using commercially available open technology " he said. "The AWACS hardware and software was specifically designed for that single application. In today's world we would have tried to solve the problem with a more commercial flavor an open-systems orientation."
Nyland's task has been to translate those market trends into services and solutions for government customers. In March he launched an initiative at IBM Global Government Industry that encompasses network computing and standards-based technology. Under this Internet/intranet program IBM provides World Wide Web site creation network design network security software and hardware.
Since then IBM has won two deals in the federal Internet arena. In April IBM's Advantis subsidiary was one of two contractors awarded the General Services Administration's $600 million Commerce Internet Electronic Mail Access (CINEMA) program a government-wide vehicle that will provide customers with a broad range of products and services. In May IBM captured the Census Bureau's $35 million Data Access and Dissemination System (DADS) which calls for a system that will provide Internet access to Census data.
Nyland views both deals as federal infrastructure-building projects that will expand agencies' capabilities and pave the way for network computing applications - group collaboration and electronic commerce among others. He said he hopes the projects and others like them will enhance state local and federal governments' ability to serve their customers.
As for the users' point of entry into network-based applications Nyland envisions network computers or NCs as an emerging platform. "The NC is going to be a big item " he predicted. "Chief information officers are interested in what the NC has to offer."
Nyland said NCs are logical replacements for IBM 3270-type terminals. In addition he said NCs are ideal for organizations that want to better manage software upgrades. In NC-style computing applications reside on centralized servers and are easier to support than applications scattered across multiple PCs. Amid these rapid-fire technology transitions Nyland has become a champion for education programs geared toward managers according to peers. He has been active with Highway 1 a nonprofit organization designed to educate members of Congress and the executive branch on the use of information technology. In addition he has sponsored federal education forums at the IBM Institute for Electronic Government.
Emerging technology is not the only issue facing agencies. They also must deal with a vastly changed procurement environment Nyland said. Blanket purchase agreements spot price reductions on GSA schedule contracts and other new procurement practices are among the options now available to agencies.
"We still find we're doing a lot of education with customers on the fact that they don't have to run [traditional] procurements " Nyland said. He noted that the new procurement environment gives customers an opportunity to avoid the costs of running a conventional procurement while acquiring technology "while it's still state-of-the-art."