• United States
IDG Enterprise Consulting Director

Saying good-bye to John Sidgmore

Dec 18, 20036 mins
Data Center

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge.

“Business!” cried (Marley’s) Ghost, wringing its hands again.  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Dear Vorticians,

Two very different themes this week.

First, just a few moments after I sent out VORTEX Digest last week, I learned that John Sidgmore had died. John was a great supporter of Vortex and I offer my condolences to his family and to the many of you who knew John and had the pleasure of working with him over the years.

John’s obits did a wonderful job of relating his life’s accomplishments, which were many. But they fail to capture his personality and his classiness. John was quick-witted, smart as hell and funny to boot. He was open with his time and ideas and, on many occasions, I personally benefited from his insights on the industry. More important, I just plain liked the guy and always enjoyed talking with him. (He had great stories and I hope you heard his tales about driving a beer delivery truck.)

One personal anecdote illustrates John’s nature. I had lined John up to speak at Vortex 2002. John was going to appear on the so-called “Thought Leaders” panel. But weeks before Vortex, as Worldcom was spiraling deeper into crisis, John agreed to take over as CEO of the embattled telco. Big job, and I fully expected to get that dreaded call from his assistant saying he wouldn’t be at the conference. Heck, I wouldn’t have showed up knowing the kinds of questions that were likely to be posed by the nosy executive producer (me) and the audience.

Days went by and I hadn’t heard anything, so I finally got in touch with John. To my surprise and delight, he simply reiterated that he’d be there – and he was. In fact, he came in the night before and spent an hour or so talking with other speakers at a reception.

John had made a commitment and he followed through. That’s more than can be said of some business leaders, who think nothing of bailing on conference promoters and their audiences at the last minute. What’s more, John stayed and mingled with his peers after his presentation, unlike celebrity CEOs who helicopter into events and vamoose as soon as they can.

Not surprisingly, John faced tough questions about the future of Worldcom (now MCI) and he was scrappy and fiercely Worldcom-loyal in his responses. He famously vowed that Worldcom would not go bankrupt, something that proved impossible to prevent after he quickly came to grips with the bitter depths of Worldcom’s financial fraud. But by rooting out that fraud and coming clean to the public, John did as much as anyone could to restore a piece of Worldcom’s reputation and at least some public confidence in the company.

There’s an old saying that if a person is nice to you but not nice to the waiter, he or she isn’t a nice person. Turning that a different way, if someone follows through on their commitments on the little things (like appearing on a panel), that tells me a great deal about his commitment to the big, important things.

Thanks, John. We’ll miss you around the campus.

Now, in what can only be described as a stunning change of focus, I want to quickly revisit the topic I brought up last week. If you’ll recall, I talked about what the future holds for the IT industry and began to lay out my views of what’s ahead – views that are embodied in an architecture I’m calling the “New Data Center”. I briefly described this New Data Center model and offered up a draft white paper on the topic that quite a large number of Vorticians requested. (Thanks for that. If you haven’t gotten a copy or you’ve lost your first one or you want one for your mom, drop me a note at

Many of the readers who responded to last week’s note agreed with my basic premise that there’s massive structural change underway in IT, and that we lack a clear label for defining this next-generation of computing. Vorticians representing some of the industry’s top players – for example, IBM, Nortel, Lucent, Oracle, among others – offered their corporate stances on the emerging landscape, and I’m looking forward to exploring their ideas and other reactions to the New Data Center.

But in an interesting confirmation of the architectural changes under way, EMC this week agreed to pay $635 million to buy VMWare, which supports operating system virtualization on Intel servers. VMWare’s CEO Diane Greene spoke on the topic at Vortex 2003, so we like to think we’re responsible for making her company famous and her rich. (Don’t forget the little people, Vortician Greene!)

EMC’s move from the storage world into the server world points out one of the most important aspects of this new landscape. Companies that have dominated one layer of the networked computing model are trying to extend their control into other layers. Think Dell getting into servers and networking, Cisco in storage, Oracle into grid computing and Microsoft into autonomic computing, etc., etc. More important, each is trying to brand the future of computing. Think IBM’s “On Demand,” HP’s “Adaptive Enterprise,” etc.

These companies are simultaneously trying to secure ownership of the next wave of computing and struggling to find new growth markets. Both trends put them on collision courses with each other. Expect a fierce battle for the hearts and minds of IT buyers. Controlling how IT execs view this next generation of computing will define the winners and losers of tomorrow. It’ll be tough for all these big names – but not nearly as tough as it will be for startups or mid-tier companies trying to survive in a market where elephants are stomping their feet. We’ll explore these issues in upcoming Digests.

I’ll be off next week and I wish you happy holidays. As always, send your thoughts and criticisms to me at

Bye for now.