Lost for words at Machupicchu

I am a Senior Distinguished Engineer in software engineering at Dell in Round Rock, Texas. Formerly I was Director of Systems Engineering. At Dell my first position was that of chief software architect, overseeing a number of projects in the software, firmware and embedded management areas. In 2012, I moved to the newly formed Dell Global Software Group, to work for the Chief Technology Officer. Currently I’m working on and responsible for the integration of the Research and Development team at Quest Software, a Dell acquisition.

Prior to my time at Dell,  I was an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems and Technology Group in Austin Texas and the Chief Solutions Architect for IBM Power Systems and an elected member of the IBM Academy of Technology.

My prior assignments have included virtualization; design and architecture team for the technical side of IBM’s on demand initiative; as a Technology Evangelist in IBM Software Group; the new technology consultant for IBM Mainframes; and a Systems Engineer and Senior Consulting IT Specialist in IBM Sales and Distribution working on and leading customer projects.

I am a poacher turned game keeper after spending 13-years as an IBM customer, I’ve spent much of my career standing on the shoulders of giants through their open source contributions, and I have to say I’ve never applied for, or had my name included on a patent application.

I’m a mentor and will always take time to help people find their way in life, both in the real world and in the corporate world. I’m delighted to have helped four others become IBM Distinguished Engineers, five more become Senior Consulting IT Specilists and look forward to more success with the people I’m working with now. I’ve never had a formal mentoring relationship with someone outside the company I’m working at, but have worked with a number of people to make major career and personal changes. I am now working on bringing some of the same career and professional development opportunities to Dell.

Disclaimer: I work in a senior position, I have to take responsibility for what I say and do at all times, including this blog. I didn’t get where I am today(Reggie?) without being able to be differentiate between my needs and my employers sensitivities.

Personal: I’m a keen triathlete having competed in distances from sprint to Ironman distance; I’ve represented Great Britain three times, although didn’t distinguish myself in any of them :-( – I won my division for the first time in a race in 2006 at the Sand Key triathlon in Clearwater, FL. In 2003 I was voted British Triathlon volunteer of the year and formally ran the Tri-Force triathlon club in the UK.

I am an advisory board member for KnowledgeContext, a 501(c)(3) educational not-for-profit corporation, that helps students and teachers KnowledgeContext’s technological literacy curriculum places technology in the context of history, science, math, and language arts. It instills in children the critical thinking skills necessary to understand past, present, and future technology, and to influence how that technology will affect their world.

I’ve helped KnowledgeContext publish a book, Technology Challenged: Understanding Our Creations & Choosing Our Future, a book on understanding and evaluating nanotechnology. The book is also available through amazon.com

One final note, why is this blog called cathcam? Apart from the fact its a derivation of my name, it was the name of the IBM PROFS Userid I was given when I joined IBM UK in 1987!

Evangelism

To avoid clogging up a blog entry on the main page, and to document for my own purposes, I thought I would list here the times in my career I was and my proof points for my evangelism.

76-93 – “VM Bigot” – From my early days with P&O Cumpter Services, I learned the value of a virtualized environment, and the business value of workload management, accounting and provisioning that would stand me in great stead for the rest of my career. I’m indebited to Terry Childs who gave me me my first chance to work on VM, and to John Coe for taking time to explain to me how VM worked, much to his cost. I later went on as a Systems Programmer to implement the first ever production MVS credit card processing System under VM on a 12Mb main memory 4341; to run the worlds first ever SWIFT Funds transfer System under VM and on a 3033 MP System – this work lead to numerous fixes/rewrites in IBM source ode; and to me being involved in, giving my ideas and opinions on the design and implementation of Reversed Attached Processor Mode in VM/HPO, the VM/XA I/O Subsystem and the design of the IBM Logical Partitioning microcode. This work was all done under the grace and favor of my then boss, Phil Gross at Chemical Bank in NY. I also implemented the first and possibly biggest implementation of VCNA, VTAM networking on VM. My last ever day as a customer, I gave a presentation on the VM/SP5 Group Control System and implementation of “native” VTAM networking in VM. In all this time, the most important influence on me was Adrian Walmsley of IBM UK. When IBM first declined to hire me, Adrian got the now IBM UK CEO, Larry Hirst to interview me and offer me a job. Next month marks 20-years for me at IBM.

76-today – Open source believer. Long before GNU, GPL, Linux and Stallman were popular, I followed the lead of many before me, but most of all Melinda Varian of Princeton University in advocating IBM’s continued publication and supply of source code for many of it’s products but most importantly the VM Operating system. Despite my willingness to work for my employer on Patent related issues, to support their business objectives. I’ve never believed that Patents were right for software, period. I have this year alone(2007) turned down the opportunity to have my name included on three patent filings. Almost my entire career is founded on the ability to read the source code of others. If all source closed were closed, many today would be starved of reference points and the motivation to improve on what has gone before. However, this “freedom” comes with responsibility. Any software programmer filing for a patent that has not already done a thorough investigation into prior art, or who files just becuase they can, is no better that a used car dealer who sells a car knowing it is defective.

In 1991, as a result of my work, IBM changed direction on a couple of significant projects. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped for, but it was enough for me to be satisfied with my contributions.

79-83 Micro/PC for business benefit – way before the launch of the IBM PC I was convinced of the benefit that a truly programmable device would bring to business. Jim Nelhams at Canada Life Assurance gave me my first heads-up with the TRASH 80; shortly afterwards at Chemical Bank in New York I worked with (Henry) Hank Kee, one of the first PC Tech Journal Gold Award winners with Bill Gates, Phillipe Karn and others. Hank encouraged me to further explore the use of the PC as a programmer workbench, which later lead to my work setting up a “grid” of PC’s for batch job submission and offload(circa ’85).

88-92 PC Workstation and Data Management – While others were arguing against PC’s a s corporate tools, for poor TCO value, I was more concerned about the data used on them, the security, audit, tracking and backup of data on workstations. During this time we ran a number of roadshows, published both technical and marketing whitepapers and I did hundreds of presentations including winning a best session award for a keynote presentation at SHARE Europe. Most of this work was done under the banner of Workstation Management: From Chaos to Order and PC Data: An Accident Waiting to Happen.

94-today – Interoperability – Starting in around 1994 I became concerned about not just open source, but interoperability and standards implementations. I am both proudest and most disappointed with my contributions during the early years of this period. I was actively involved in promoting CORBA and DCE. Both of which came to little or nothing due to their complexity. The MVS implementation of the UNIX Standards in OpenEdition/MVS, later XPG et al was I feel a success, and still is. It achieved everything that IBM expected and more. I am most disappointed in the failure of OpenEdition/VM. This really should have been persevered with, but as IBM is a business, something people forget from time to time, it was deemed not to be a good investment. As it turns out, Linux was a better choice, both standalone and under VM. However I still feel I failed to cmmunicate the real value of OpenEdition/VM both internally and externally.

Later, involved in the Java Connector and EJB architecture, again I wasn’t really in the right place or at the right time to make a difference, yet I still ended up promoting technologies which were a compromise rather than what was the best solution. Today, I am even more convinced for the need to a genuinely open, event driven infrastructure for the data center of the future. At this point I can’t say much more than this, except to say that I think that the current CIM and WSDM implementations are the right technologies, but a small part in a much bigger future. I had almost nothing to do with IBM’s technical contributions to GRID and Globus toolkit. I am though proud of the internal lobbying and evangelism I did to make these things happen.

98-2001 Linux – Through my work with Project Pandora, to re-invent the mainframe, I worked with a communicated with a young IBMer in the IBM Boeblingen Laboratory in Germany. Boas Betzler was working on a one-release product called infomally “auto-UNIX”. It was in essence a mainframe repackaged as a UNIX server. Boas and I exchanged mainly emails as his project finally wound down. At the same tim, Linus Torvalds brainchild Linux was coming into view. It didn’t take long looking at the GNU toolset and Linux source code to realise that one could build Linux on mainframes. Once again I was in the position of being the pied-piper or lobbyost rather than implementor. Once of my favorite memories from this period, apart from the incredulity of numerous journalists and executives, was the “vigorous debate” we had the night before disclosing the strategy to SAP in Waldorf. There we were, a team of senior IBMers in a field near Waldorf at a Weinfest to agree how and what we would actually disclose to SAP over both what we were going to do with Linux and how that would be used. Jeff Nick then at IBM, now at EMC was the most important person in this effort, but again it the lobbying, following executives into the bathroom to get a couple of minutes with them that helped turn the corner.

There are many other instances of evangelism in my career, including my current assignment, where my focus is trying to get hardware designers to focus on the systems that customer want, rather than the ones they can build or the ones they want to build. See these blog posts for more on evangelism.

4 Responses to “About”


  1. 1 Bob March 2, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Congrats on your move. Drop me an e-mail with your new contact info.

  2. 3 Andrew Pelt March 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.


  1. 1 Is SOA dead? « Adventures in systems land Trackback on January 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group. I was formerly Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell, and an IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

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