Where it started

I studied Physics at University but ended up in Chemistry and later Computer Science.   My passion is still Physics, in particular Astrophysics.

I started Central Data Systems in 1982 and built this into a successful mid-sized IT consultancy in Perth, Western Australia.

In 1995 my view was that the Internet had plateaued.   A number of ISP’s were created by people I had worked with and a couple of these became remarkably large.   The ISPs burden was supporting customers PC’s which they had no visibility of.   When Citrix released Winframe 1.6 I saw an opportunity to create a kind of “Microsoft Mainframe” which could be housed inside the ISP.   The idea was that all the customer programs and data would run on the mainframe where we could support it easily and relieve the main cost burden for the ISP – support.   The benefit to the customers were enormous.    I fell in love with the idea and just had to do it.

I couldn’t afford to buy an ISP so had to build one myself.  A few weekends later and with guidance from a friend, Mark Dignan (Digger), we were operational on Slackware Linux.    The business worked.   By 1999 we had grown to a private network spanning Australia with many business customers running off our Citrix/Microsoft server farm.

On a trip to London in Dec 1999 was reading an IT magazine and came across a new term I had never heard of before.  ASP (Application Service Providers).   The industry analysts had coined a term that described exactly what we had been doing for the last 4 years.  I knew it was a great idea but was still surprised to see just how strongly the analysts approved of it.

We looked at floating the company with the support of one of our major customers.   Fortunately the Dot.Com crash occurred before we got it away and I was left with my company intact.  In fact we thrived during the Dot.Com crash because the ASP idea was so strong and we had real revenue and solid customers.  I believe the analysts missed the sweet spot which was actually the intersection of  (i) providing the server infrastructure,  (ii) providing the computer network and (iii) providing the application software.   It was the vertical integration of all technical levels which allowed us to survive and thrive.

We brought forward all the lessons we had learned into the next generation and started creating a new ASP infrastructure that would eliminate all the software license costs which had outpriced us from most of our intended market.   By 2002 I had seen one of our competitors raise and spend $37 million before folding.   We had leveraged different technology and achieved far more functionality even though we were running off the smell of an oily rag.   I think back now what would have happened if we had raised millions at this time and I’m sure most of it would have been wasted.  There’s nothing that drives efficient innovation more than limited resources.  We called it “Linframe” a play on words combining Linux with Metaframe.

In Dec 2004 we went live with our GoPC,  a Virtual PC (a virtualized desktop infrastructure plus a lot more backend systems running from our data centre) with several trial customers.  My view had always been focused on enterprise and government.   We re-branded Linframe as GoPC.net.   In 2005 during a trip to China the penny dropped and I realized the potential for GoPC.net as a consumer product.   We could actually export to the Chinese – it was quite an exciting idea.

In mid 2005 we spun GoPC.net off from Central Data Systems into its own entity and since then it has taken on a life of its own and become an adventure I would never have dared to even dream of.

In late 2007 I moved to Silicon Valley and now split my time between San Francisco USA,  Perth Australia, and the United Kingdom.


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