Friday, May 28, 2021
Byte5 was founded by Christian Wendler in 2004 to reliably lead the development of mission-critical Internet solutions of two well-known companies to success. In May 2021, byte5 will now be 17 years old and founder Christian will celebrate 25 years as an entrepreneur - the perfect opportunity to look back together and dare a look into the future. In the interview, the byte5 founder talks about the best-of-breed approach that byte5 has always followed, the fascination with open source technologies and IOTA, as the ideal mix of these two philosophies.
With the spring of the year 2020, everything was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact on day-to-day work - also at byte5 - was enormous. You've seen a lot in 25 years as a founder, what was different from previous crises?
Well, first of all the obvious: Corona is not a crisis caused by a specific economic sector, like the dot-com crash back then or the banking crisis later on. I would rather compare the situation with the consequences of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, since these also caused a global shock across all areas of life that continues to have an impact today.
As far as byte5 is concerned, at no point were we directly affected by the pandemic or the countermeasures, because our entire organization and our technical infrastructure have been decentralized for many years. Everyone in the team decides autonomously - in accordance with our no-pain policy within the bounds of what is practicable - about where and when to work. This has really paid off.
At the end of the day, however, digitization projects are now getting even more boost than before, and we have already been dealing with growth issues internally again since fall 2020 and expanding our team at full speed.
Christian Wendler - © Douglas Robar
The customers of byte5 were also affected by the changes. During the pandemic, digitization was - inevitably - driven very quickly in companies across Germany. What new needs do companies have now?
I wouldn't speak of completely new needs, but in some cases it has perhaps become more obvious what priority the digital transformation actually has, even for their own industry. Many companies have probably realized that it is risky to put the issue on the back burner or to tackle it only half-heartedly. Changes often start slowly and, after an external impulse, suddenly display a high level of dynamism that begins to turn the market upside down.
Has the range of services offered by byte5 changed in any way as a result?
You have to understand that byte5 is not an agency with a focus on marketing or a classic system house with technical tunnel vision, but an IT service provider dedicated to the success of its customers in a massively digitized world. For this goal, we provide in-depth technical expertise in all adequate forms. In any case, we feel absolutely vindicated with our existing range of services around mission-critical web projects and digital transformation, and we are continuously expanding our resources to further increase our performance and to be able to handle more projects in parallel.
For 17 years now, byte5 has relied on open source technologies such as Umbraco or Laravel to solve mission-critical customer projects. How did this decision come about?
Our enthusiasm for open source is actually very old. The reasons for this were and are actually quite pragmatic: On the one hand, our projects require that the software used can be extensively adapted to customer needs - not the other way around. Only in this way can we fulfill our mission and develop a solution for our customers with which they will continue to be successful on the market in the future and, in the best case, be pioneers in terms of digitization. The open source projects we carefully handpick give us this freedom.
On the other hand, we have had good experience with keeping the number and intensity of dependencies on software and system providers as limited as possible. If, for example, the change in strategy of a CMS manufacturer or the economic basis of an e-commerce developer should give cause for dissatisfaction, the source code is still available in any case and allows maintenance and ongoing adaptation independent of the manufacturer. There is also usually a large community whose support and updates can be accessed.
At the same time, the open source technologies we select still offer all the services I expect from traditional software providers: professional support and maintenance agreements as well as training and licensing options.
What new areas of application do you see for open source in the future - perhaps also driven by the pandemic?
The open source idea is more alive than ever before. While we have mainly talked about open source operating systems and applications so far, new fundamental technologies and platforms are currently emerging around blockchain. They are not only characterized by open source code, but also establish open, decentralized networks that can be reliably used nevertheless for value transactions, smart contracts or digital identities. This is an exciting field with a lot of potential.
© Vincenzo Mancuso, Bild-Zeitung
Recently, IOTA has also become one of byte5's core technologies. How did this expansion come about?
byte5 follows a so-called best-of-breed approach. We don't implement every project in changing programming languages with all the software tools available on the market, but instead form clear and firmly defined technology stacks. A stack is a compilation of the best technologies and standards that cover all requirements for the development and operation of a web solution and are also ideally coordinated with each other. After all, what good is great software that doesn't fit together? This clarity is what enables our developers to build up extensive expertise, become leading specialists and find new smart solutions.
However, such an approach also implies that we regularly review our stacks to see if new, better offerings have come to market for a particular aspect that we should look into more closely. In the case of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT), on the other hand, there have been no offerings in our stacks so far. However, as we have been following this sector closely for many years, we added the DLT technology IOTA, which is backed by a Berlin-based foundation, to our portfolio on the occasion of the latest Chrysalis update. It currently best meets our aforementioned criteria and allows us to develop the next generation of Internet applications together with our customers.
A birthday is always a nice opportunity to look into the future. What do you wish for the "coming of age" of byte5 next year?
I have to confess that I don't think in such milestones, but I am continuously involved in shaping the ongoing development and derive my personal satisfaction from it. However, I would like us to talk less about Corona in the coming year and more about the lessons we can learn from it for our common future - also in digital terms - and, above all, to put them into practice. As a society, we have already identified enough topics.