Getting to the source of the problem

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This article appeared in the Issue 183, 17 October 2005 issue of CRN magazine.

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Con Zymaris is a man on a mission, and that is to educate both the local IT community and government to the benefits of Linux and open source technology.

As founder and CEO of Melbournebased Cybersource, Zymaris has acquired something of a reputation as an open source zealot, though he himself prefers to be referred to as an evangelist.

In other words, while he is extremely passionate about the technology and how he believes it can benefit its users, he is perfectly willing to listen to the views of the opposing side.

Zymaris’ career in software started in the late 1970s when he stumbled across EDE-IBM PC systems and Apple IIs as a 12 and13 year old.

By the age of 15, he was already getting software content published for early PC entertainment packages, working for a software publisher called Dreamcards. It was at about this time, Zymaris says, that he developed a passion for information technology in general.

He started programming around the same period and was paid to write serious software for the first time somewhere around the age of 15 or 16, something he says was not at all remarkable at the time. "In those days, there were plenty of kids like me around doing the same thing," he says. "There were lots of opportunities for writing software for robotics control and machine systems movement," he added.

During the mid 1980s, while also finding time for a physics degree, Zymaris ended up working for a software tools provider, where he had his first exposure to PC platforms, becoming one of the early users of both Windows and Unix platforms.

Con Zymaris

Early adopter

By the end of that decade, Zymaris had become one of the early adopters of the internet. This consisted largely of file transference via FTP and email with various other early adopters via Usenet news groups.

This, he says, gave him the ability to indulge his passion for technology with other like-minded individuals all over the world. "There were roughly four million people using the internet in 1989, which has now grown by a factor of over 250.

"It was a very exciting time. There was lots of great discussion going on over the possible uses of the technology, and I was able to converse freely with leaders in areas such as C++ programming language within a particular news group. The writers of a particular language could even tell you personally what you were doing right or wrong," Zymaris says.

There was also a general consensus amongst early adopters that what they were working on was going to be big, not only from a technical perspective but from a cultural and business one as well. It was for this reason, that, in early 1991, Zymaris got together with three long-time friends, all of whom had a background in systems development and one who would later become his wife, to form Cybersource, to work on internet-related technologies. The name, he says, was meant to be a cool play on the source for technology needs, long before the term cyberspace had become mainstream.

Finding a niche

The company focused primarily in the early days on services, using platforms such as minix and other Unix prototypes such as comp.os.linux, which was another improvement on Unix architecture, prior to moving to Linux and open source BSD Unix, which would later become known as Linux.

At the time of its launch in the early 1990s, not many businesses were using network platforms that underpinned the internet, Zymaris says.

Right from the outset, Zymaris says he had made it his aim to take open source software technology to the business world. The company, which started with the four like-minded friends getting together, now employs around 20 people and had enjoyed ‘considerable success’ in its 14 or so years because of the expertise and passion shown by its staff, he says.

Zymaris also says the company had shifted focus somewhat in recent times to the appliance and solutions side and away from services, in which "your whole stock is built around people".

He says Cybersource had achieved revenue growth of around 40 percent over the past few years. "We are not one of the big players, but because of our age and specialty in an area which is rapidly becoming a mainstream part of IT, it has propelled us along further than many other smaller companies," he says.

All of the company’s products are built with open source technologies and its own developments are also released as open source technologies.

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