Name: Jeff Harrow
Title: Founder, The Harrow Group
Web Info: www.theharrowgroup.com
Claims to Fame: Former Compaq futurist; DECnet guru
Back in 1984, when Jeff Harrow worked at Digital Equipment Corp. before there were sophisticated design tools, he tackled networking the old-fashioned way: with a set of blueprints, some string, a can of tacks and a pair of scissors. "We designed an Ethernet network with a piece of kite string, and wed mark the string to the blueprints scale as to where each node was suppose to go," Harrow recalls.
These days, the kite string is just a memory, but there is something about understanding the design of things that keeps Harrow busy as he sifts through piles of data, IT developments and trends to draw strings of understanding.
Harrows latest epiphany: After a long career at Digital and Compaqs Corporate Strategy Group, where as Principal Member of Technical Staff his job was to get to the heart of trends before they became trends, hes now setting up shop on his own.
His new business, known as The Harrow Group, is extending into new directions the work he began 15 years ago as the author of Digital/Compaqs weekly journal, titled "The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing" (www.compaq.com/rcfoc). That is, he plans to help people understand and appreciate a wide range of current and emerging technologies.
Harrow notes that storage price/performance is doubling every six to nine months, and fiber bandwidth is increasing even faster—both of those faster than Moores Law! Toss in new fields such as nanotechnology and bioelectronics, and the future promises to be a fascinating place.
Through an Internet-based publication called "The Harrow Technology Report" available on his Web site, Harrow brings this knowledge and his insights to a wide spectrum of businesses: from those that create technologies and technological products, and so might benefit from drawing connections across technological stovepipes, to those businesses that use technology and can profit by staying abreast of the next waves.
"I look at the white space of the technological industry. The place where things arent yet, when it comes to current products and current services," says Harrow. "I look at the trends and innovations that are going to shape our industry over the next decade or two. I try and track this and help people understand not only the specific trends and innovations that are happening, but also how to draw connections between them."
In essence, Harrow, is a one-man band. A mix of thinker, tinker and social scientist, he invented the first iconic network management prototype for DECnet. His job at Compaq was to keep employees and the general public abreast of what was going on. Harrow often spoke to Compaqs sales staff and executives, business leaders, and integrators and VARs about what lies ahead, and how to get ready for it. He says hes not a visionary or techno-prophet, but more of an investigator who enjoys getting under the skin of what is happening in the labs and in the new startups, and, generally, in technology.
Like many other industry technophiles, Harrow was "impressed" when IBM debuted the personal computer in 1981. The IBM 5150 came loaded with a 16-bit, 4.77-MHz Intel 8088 processor, 64K of RAM and a 5.25-inch floppy drive. Harrow never bought one, but he did buy the IBM PC clones after buying his first Mac.
Even though companies like Compaq will rely less on PCs for revenue growth, Harrow doesnt see PCs going away. "The necessity of having our ultraflexible PCs at work and at home is only going to continue to increase. Just because PCs are being more and more commoditized, that doesnt mean there isnt any innovation," he says, pointing to Compaqs iPaq handheld as an example.
Despite the IT industrys recent struggles, Harrow remains upbeat about the sectors health. "I remain entirely an optimist for how people are going to innovate to gain great value from the computing and communications infrastructure that they are developing," he says.