Mills kick-starts Iona channel

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Web services-focused vendor Iona Technologies has closed its Australian offices in favour of an indirect channel model, prompting former local MD Rob Mills to set up a new distributor, Open Frameworks, to carry Iona products.

Rob Mills, former Australasian managing director at Iona, said the US middleware vendor had closed its local offices in February, following a strategic restructure that would re-focus Iona on its core activities and markets.

“[Iona] had diversified into too many products, so they set some new operational guidelines. They could get the returns, but not in the timeframe, or they could go into a channel model,” he said. “So they said, 'let's go for the channel model and we want you to be the channel'.”

In March, Mills set up independent distributor OPEN Frameworks, to serve Iona customers here. He would run the operation, which had offices in Sydney and Melbourne, as managing director.

Although it was true Iona had been in financial difficulties, that needed to be taken in the context that the IT industry as a whole had been through difficult times, Mills pointed out.

“Iona basically had some pretty fixed investment criteria and they had similar problems all over the world. So they decided to re-focus on their biggest markets, US and Europe,” he said.

Iona had maintained an Australian office since the mid-90s. Mills came on board as ANZ managing director in the first quarter of 2003, he said.

OPEN Frameworks would initially focus on Iona's Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) middleware platforms and Artix web services software -- for which the vendor still had high hopes locally, he said.

The new distributor had inherited Iona's local customers, including Telstra, the Department of Defence, Macquarie Bank, Centrelink and the ACT Government. “It's a relatively small number, but they're big customers,” Mills said.

However, OPEN Frameworks' vendor relationships wouldn't stop with Iona. Mills had plans and was already discussing possibilities for expansion into other vendors representing open source-derived middleware for enterprise IT infrastructures, he said.

So far, OPEN Frameworks had three staff -- all former Iona stalwarts -- but Mills said he was still hiring, with the aim to have 12 on board in as many months.

“In the interviews I'm doing, many are ex-Iona. It's amazing when you get a product that's gone around the world, people keep speaking up and saying, 'I used to work for Iona',” he said.

Last year, Iona was reportedly hinging a bid for renewed profitability on its Artix middleware, partly because Artix was expected to help customers build service-oriented architectures without fork-lifting out older applications.

Artix helped companies model in Web Services Definition Language (WSDL) using mainframes running applications such as MQSeries, Iona said at the time.

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