David Leip

David Leip

Webmaster, IBM.com

Age: 35

Education: Master’s in computer science, University of Guelph (Canada)

Favorite junk food: Potato chips

Favorite TV show: The Simpsons

Car: 2000 Toyota Camry

David Leip oversees one of the Web’s biggest operations. With some 4.5 million Web pages, IBM.com, along with an affiliated call center, generated $9.2 billion in revenue last year. If the IBM site were a stand-alone company, it would rank among the 200 largest corporations in America. Leip oversees the work of 20 other Webmasters, who coordinate content and availability on IBM’s portals in 63 countries and 31 languages. Plus, Leip sees to the distribution of data among eight data centers around the globe that handle the site’s traffic, which on some days exceeds 800,000 hits. Leip brags that, over the past year, IBM.com has had 99.998 percent availability. Leip talked with Senior Writer Robert Bryce.

What’s IBM’s strategy for its Web site?

A number of things. Overall, we are driving to be the premiere e-business site. As a corporation, e-business is a rallying point for our products and services. To achieve that, we need to be ourselves the top of the line in e-business. We can’t talk the talk if we don’t walk the walk. Plus, we want to make IBM.com one of our primary sales channels and a channel for interacting with business partners.

How often are you hit by hack attacks?

We get hack attempts every hour. We can see them. But we make sure we’re not vulnerable. We make sure the services running on every machine are only the ones we need and the processes are running with the least amount of privileges needed. Where possible, we use read-only file systems so they can’t be easily modified. Half of it is having the right business procedures in place.

How big will the site get?

We are not actively adding pages. Instead, we are adding new functionality. [For example,] we converted the bulk of the site to XHTML — a hybrid of XML and HTML. That allows us to be in a better position to support wireless devices and do the transcoding to render data into HDML [Handheld Device Markup Language], which is used by a lot of the cell phones in the U.S., or WML [Wireless Markup Language], which is more of a standard in Europe.

How do you measure success?

Our top-level executives set targets for us, like sales, percentage of overall business that we can move to the online channel. Part of it is revenue-related. Some of it is the number of enterprise customers supported. We also do a lot of user surveys. That user survey tends to a big part of how we measure success.

What’s the hardest part of being IBM.com’s Webmaster?

It’s difficult to coordinate across a number of different business units and geographies. There are a lot of logistical issues that are outside our purview, like language barriers and time zones. Plus, we have a lot of laws being enacted around Net use — privacy and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the Net is an international entity and we aren’t dealing with international law. So it’s getting more complex to meet all the requirements of each country and still do business.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in eWEEK.