As a global company with Swiss roots, we ensure cyber security in over 180 countries. Martin Bosshardt, president of Open Systems AG, winner of a Prix SVC Zurich Economic Area award
Open Systems AG: Mission Control and Space for Ideas
To outsiders, the offices of IT companies are pretty boring. While amazing things may be going on inside, as a visitor all you typically see is a mass of computer screens. But things are very different at Open Systems: From the moment you step inside the building of this network specialist – which counts large corporates, governments and NGOs among its clients – the futuristic workspace can't fail to spark your curiosity. In fact, it wouldn't come as a great surprise if Mr. Spock turned around the corner.
From the outside, the nondescript office building on Zurich's Räffelstrasse is much like any other; but walk through the main door, before you even pass through the iris scanner in the stairwell that allows you access to the offices of Open Systems AG, the 20th century seems a world away. Once inside, this futuristic impression is reinforced, like a Dan Flavin art installation combined with NASA headquarters: across two floors, row upon row of glass cubes as far as the eye can see, illuminated from the floor with blue neon tubes. Each glass cube contains an individual workstation equipped with two screens. At the front of the room, the ceiling is cut away in a trapeze shape, where a giant glass cube towers over both floors. This is the Mission Control Center: futuristic workspaces and a sea of computer screens, with a huge blue-lit globe projected onto one of the walls.
Mission Control Center
This is where the Mission Control Security Services engineers monitor the computer systems of their 1.2 million end users in more than 180 countries in real time. If there is a problem anywhere in the world, a small light flashes on the world map. "Though ideally the light will never flash", says Martin Bosshardt, President of Open Systems AG.
The Mission Control Center is basically a help desk. But here, unlike most help desks, those contacting the service get straight through to highly qualified experts – without the usual triage process of first-level and second-level support.
Special Data Transport
Open Systems AG offers its customers managed services for secure SD-WAN deployments and performance management. Martin Bosshardt explains: "These days, we all send and receive data. It might be video, email or ERP data. These data packets take millions of different routes to get from the sender to the recipient. Each is unique. Basically not any one is the same as any other. The key factors to consider are speed, for example, a video conference that lags is extremely tedious to sit through; the second is cost, which is particularly significant over long distances; and thirdly, and extremely important, is security."
Bosshardt pauses for a moment to think, before continuing: "In the past, the routes within the network were relatively clearly defined by physics. Today, we can determine them dynamically using software. Data should also be encrypted prior to transmission, so that it can't be misused if it inadvertently falls into the wrong hands."
Security Orchestration and Machine Learning
In what form, then, does Open Systems offer this service to its customers, and what makes it different from other security providers? "Open Systems is the only SD-WAN provider with its own, fully integrated enterprise security stack", Martin Bosshardt explains. "This means that our customers get exactly what they need from us as a service. We orchestrate, integrate and operate more than 30 leading security products for our customers in a single service. This makes a very complex topic extremely easy for our customers. Secure, global network connectivity – one service."
Open Systems currently provides protection for around 1.2 million end users. The platform is implemented in exactly the same way for each of user. According to Martin Bosshardt, this gives the company the biggest standardized SD-WAN platform in the world. "This means that we have access to huge quantities of data, from which our systems can become ever smarter in search of correlations. 80 percent of all our customer issues are identified by robots and resolved automatically", Bosshardt tells us.
Open Systems was founded by Florian Gutzwiller in 1990. The launch of the pivotal Mission Control Service followed in 1998, setting the company on its current path. "An unforgettable moment in our corporate history was winning the Prix SVC in 2011", Martin Bosshardt recalls with pride. "This award represents an important endorsement for our employees and customers."
Credit Suisse Helps to Open Doors
Last year marked another major milestone in the history of Open Systems AG, when the Swedish investment capital group EQT acquired a stake in the business. The Executive Board had been looking for an investor that would facilitate the Swiss company's further expansion into the global market. With the geographical expansion of the business in mind, Open Systems was on the lookout for an investor with a strong global presence, and found the perfect partner in EQT. As a major private equity firm, EQT has brought to the business a wealth of experience, along with access to people, markets and vital capital. As the company's house bank of many years, Credit Suisse played a central role in securing this new capital. "Our bank did a fantastic job", Martin Bosshardt praises. "The international market for investors is huge, and it's difficult to keep an eye on the bigger picture whilst at the same time getting quick access to potential investors. With its M&A team, Credit Suisse was able to approach prospective investors for us and guide us through the entire process, so that we were absolutely safe in the knowledge that we had found the right partner to lead us into the next evolution of the company. EQT shares our cultural and core values, which is very important for Open Systems ", the President reflects.
The Next Step to Becoming a Global Business
With an expanded corporate vision, Martin Bosshardt recently handed over the reins to new CEO Amit Chatterjee, so that Bosshardt himself could take up the post of President. "We have used the past 12 months to painstakingly prepare the company for this step. Our customers work globally. The threats are global. And digitalization is revolutionizing the value chains of our customers at a breathtaking pace. Just like our customers, we have to adopt a global approach and support them globally. We now operate in more than 180 countries, combining the DNA of Swiss engineering excellence with the DNA of Silicon Valley. Innovation and speed are important. I have had the privilege of working closely with Amit over the last year. It has been a great experience. I am thrilled that we have now been able to commit Amit 100% for Open Systems as CEO, located in our new office in Silicon Valley. Today, we work around the globe, and have access to the best engineers in the world and a highly experienced team. This is important for the career prospects of our employees, and the value that it brings to our customers. Because, of course, it is all about outstanding technology. And it is the outstanding engineers, who develop that outstanding technology", according to a clearly delighted Martin Bosshardt.
Swiss Roots in a Global Market
Even before these changes, the numbers spoke for themselves: With EQT by its side, Open Systems saw its business grow at a fast clip in the past twelve months, up 140 percent. "When I started here 20 years ago", Bosshardt recalls, "there were just 18 of us; now the team has grown to nearly 160. Yet the company's Swiss roots are crucial to the new, globally-oriented Open Systems. An understanding of our origins and our particular strengths is important for the success of our journey going forward", Bosshardt emphasizes, as he looks up at the blue-lit globe in the Mission Control Center.
Big Spaces for Big Thinking
Asked if the futuristic working environment has an impact on the performance of the employees, Martin Bosshardt is in no doubt: "Absolutely! You need big spaces to think big. The working environment is vital for inspiration and new good ideas."
Several years ago, in fact, Open Systems was one of the worthy winners of the "World’s Coolest Offices" awards. Is it down to the futuristic architecture, the modern art on the walls, the congenial café or the cozy roof garden? Some 28 years may have passed since the company was first founded, but the indomitable pioneering spirit still blows through the corridors of Open Systems, challenging and inspiring everyone who touches it.
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