John Chen, CEO of Dublin, Calif.-based Sybase, this week spoke with Computerworld about a range of controversial issues, including The SCO Group Inc.'s claims that Linux infringes its Unix copyrights and the security implications of offshore outsourcing. Excerpts follow:
Q: Given that Sybase has such a strong presence in Linux shops, how concerned are you and your customers about SCO's claims?
I have had customers express concern about it. Two major customers of mine have already told me that they're going to slow down their rollouts on Linux and wait to see how this develops.
I think it's rather a shame. The Linux platform serves a segment of the market, and I hate to see this being challenged by a very established player. I think it's very unfortunate that this garbage is being thrown around. A small group of players just wants to protect the status quo.
Q: Sybase and PeopleSoft Inc. have had a strong partnership for years. What's your take on Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison's hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft?
It certainly won't be good for Sybase, because Sybase and PeopleSoft have a Tier 1 relationship; we have an installed base of 400 to 500 customers out there, and we're trying to push into new areas like health care in China together.
Larry went public to say that (PeopleSoft CEO Craig) Conway had approached him a year ago. I don't know if it's true or not; I'm not in a position to comment on that. But the code of engagement between CEOs has certainly been violated. And I think that's a bad thing.
Q: Earlier this month, you were elected to the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. What do you think the chamber's position on H-1B visas should be?
H-1B is not being fully utilized because we just don't have enough jobs in the U.S. So right now, H-1B is not the biggest threat. I'm a supporter of the H-1B visa because most of the H-1B visa holders are people we've trained in the U.S. I'd rather see the people we've trained come back to the U.S. and help boost our IT development and innovation.
The chamber probably takes the same line -- let's create more jobs in the U.S., and if they need to be filled by foreign personnel, so be it. Ultimately, it helps the economy because it's innovation.
I think your readers should be more concerned about the whole outsourcing phenomenon. Because if you have so many foreigners creating code that is ultimately shipped back to the U.S., and if you have the U.S. government policy of buying off-the-shelf software, guess what's happening?
We may be unknowingly allowing backdoor traps in the code. Hackers could very well be putting in compromising code. We have to be careful, because more and more companies, by necessity, are building their code overseas.
The industry ought to come together and have some kind of standard, equivalent to an ISO standard, that we subject all of our development and code review to.
The problem with the industry is we can never agree on anything. But it's something we need to fix.