12 July 2011
Martin Harris, head of Global Field Operations, Altium
Chris Shaw asks Martin Harris about the latest developments at Altium
CS: Martin, you have just been promoted from CEO EMEA to Head of Global Field Operations. How does that role change affect your responsibilities?
MH: As CEO EMEA I was responsible for all European business operations - and we could demonstrate very impressive successes contributing a huge value to Altium's overall business. In my new role, I am now responsible for Altium's sales and support activities worldwide. My focus is to build up a tightly integrated sales and support team, which will form a bridge between our customers and our development team.
We are constantly bringing new technologies to the market, currently against the backdrop of improving the integration of electronic design data with overall business processes and, in this context, close links between local teams and development are of particular importance.
We recently launched our new online community and ecosystem AltiumLive, which represents a communication platform for electronic developers with direct links into the supply chain. This gives our customers and us totally new ways of managing design flows and life cycle processes. For our organisation in the field, this means that we will have to build additional training and consultancy services in order to complement this solution. Implementing these services is part of my new job.
CS: I was surprised to hear that Altium is relocating its headquarters from Sydney to Shanghai. What are the reasons for this move?
MH: If we believe that China will develop in a similar way as Taiwan and Korea did, then we can assume that China will develop its own electronics industry, with its own IP and global brands. The industry there is experiencing a shift away from mere production to product development. We are already witnessing a shift of labour intensive production away from the more developed coastal areas to cities in the inner provinces – an obvious result of increased labour costs. This means that the coastal industries need to bring additional value to the product chain – a trend that will continue to accelerate.
What is more, the Chinese government is actively pursuing a course which focuses on the 'Internet of Things' and what this means for the local industry and its future development. Altium has decided to be involved in these topics, both in the local business environment and against the backdrop of taking this opportunity to develop tools and services to give customers in other parts of the world a head start when developing products for the Internet of Things. As a positive side effect of our move, we can expand our R&D team in China thereby enabling us to offer new content, products and features faster. Our move to China underlines our commitment to a significant trend for the future of our industry. And due to our characteristic flexibility, we are able to carry off such a move with all our key players in R&D and management.
CS: In this day and age of global connectivity, does it actually matter where a company's headquarters is located?
MH: For our worldwide customers and their relationship with Altium there will be no major difference – with the exception that we will be able to implement new plans and provide our customers with new technology faster thanks to our expanded R&D team. While the internet simplifies many things and brings us closer to all aspects of a networked world, the proximity of a headquarters to key markets still makes a difference. By the way, this is not the first time Altium moved headquarters. In the early 90s, our CEO Nick Martin moved the company, then known then as Protel, to Silicon Valley, to return to Australia a few years later with a much stronger US position.
CS: The recent announcement of the AltiumLive portal has brought the entire electronics supply chain under one roof. What role does cloud computing play in this development?
MH: Cloud computing is an essential factor in this development. Take for example the seemingly simple request to be able to use a unified library at different locations – or to generally share IP with everyone in the value chain. The combination of AltiumLive and our Vault technology for the intelligent management of electronic design data elevates these issues to new levels. The flexibility and scalability of cloud based systems in terms of data volume and bandwidth play a key role when it comes to rolling out and delivering such services worldwide.
CS: How does Altium manage the cloud and how do you share responsibilities?
MH: We use a combination of services from Amazon, Salesforce and Google for our cloud based data. The Altium Vaults are hosted at Amazon while our customer data is stored in Salesforce. Internally, all this is managed by our IT team in collaboration with our R&D team. Our Director of Cloud Infrastructure is responsible for provision, operation and configuration of these services.
CS: How safe is sensitive data when stored in the cloud?
MH: When we talk about data in the cloud, we need to make sure that everybody understands which data is managed there actually. If we have a look at our recently announced Satellite Vault products, only user authentication data is cloud based. The customer's design data is stored and remains local to their network. So in this instance no design related information is stored in the cloud. However, there is a vast amount of material on security in the cloud in general.
Overall, it's probably safe to conclude that the providers of cloud services are much better prepared when it comes to securing their facilities and systems, than this is feasible for individual companies. There are international standards for security in the cloud and all our suppliers comply with them. However, I'd like to point out that the cloud, as well as internal systems, can only be as secure as the processes a business has put into place for the daily use of such systems. While we use the services of these cloud providers, we have made a number of arrangements for compliance with best practices.