Greg Papadopolous

AGE: 44

CLAIM TO FAME: Before joining Sun in 1994, Papadopoulos was senior architect at Thinking Machines in Cambridge, Mass., and an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. He also co-founded three companies: PictureTel Corp. (videoconferencing), Ergo (high-end PCs) and Exa Corp. (computational fluid dynamics).

WHAT HE'S DOING NOW: Senior vice president and chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems Inc.

Q: What's been the biggest technology influence on your life?
A:
By far, open network protocols such as NFS and TCP/IP. Being able to innovate with the Internet Protocol stack -- with an open, end-to-end view of network protocols -- takes you into a whole new space in computing when you get them to talk to each other. The foundations were actually laid about 35 years ago, in the 1960s. And the impact of switching networks is one of the biggest insights made in the early '70s: the idea that you really want the network to be stupid and put the intelligence at the edge.

Greg Papadopolous of Sun Microsystems Inc.
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Greg Papadopolous of Sun Microsystems Inc.
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Q: What will be the next technology advance to radically change the business landscape?
A:
I'd put that under the broad banner of what I call Internet telemetry and control: extending business processes to the things that companies make. That's giving a network presence to anything we manufacture -- and keeping a relationship with it after it's made, distributed and used. One big example of that is the computers in cars.

Q: How will IT leadership change in the next 10 years?
A:
I think it continues on the trend of IT truly being viewed more as a business advantage and competitive weapon. It's not about saving cost with automated business processes but about the intricate interwiring of business processes and the capabilities of IT. How does that lead to competitive advantage? The people to answer that are the CIO and CTO.

Q: What's preventing that from happening now?
A:
The integration and tech assembly -- it's much too hard and complex now. I want the CIO to truly be the chief information officer, not the chief integration or infrastructure officer. [We have to] reduce complexity by getting to the next level of systems design, building systems that are networkcentric and selling infrastructure that works together across the network.

Q: How will we interact with our computers in the future?
A:
That's the wrong question. It's our computers interacting with us. Despite all the accomplishments of the past 35 years, these systems are much too hard to use. The best designs are the ones that conform to people, so the systems themselves "disappear."

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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