Channel 4 CTO Bob Harris leaves to set up consultancy firm

Channel 4 chief technology officer Bob Harris is leaving the broadcaster at the end of March to set up his own consultancy business

Channel 4 chief technology officer Bob Harris is leaving the broadcaster at the end of March to set up his own consultancy business.

Harris has been recognised as a pioneer in the use of big data technologies such as Hadoop, Hive and Pig, as well as an enthusiastic proponent of cloud computing as an early adopter of Amazon Web Services (AWS).

He was voted onto Computer Weekly’s UKtech50 list of the most influential people in UK IT last year.

His new business, Ethereality Associates, is a specialist technical consultancy focused on assisting companies with the introduction of disruptive technologies.

“After over 14 years it was time for a change, having joined Channel 4 in 1999 with a plan to stay for five years,” Harris told Computer Weekly.

“In reality, it's been a blast. In the early days we launched Big Brother with what were, at the time, unprecedented levels of web traffic and live video streaming. Then in 2006 we launched 4oD, originally only on PC as we required DRM [digital rights management], but now available across a host of platforms and devices. And then came cloud.”

Under Harris, Channel 4 ran its first live, web-facing applications on the AWS public cloud in 2008.

“Since then we haven't looked back. Today, AWS is our default platform of choice for all new web-facing applications and products, and underpins much of the back end of 4oD,” he said.

“AWS has also underpinned our foray into big data, which began in 2011 when our CEO David Abraham announced his intention of making Channel 4 a data-driven company. Today, our data analytics team relies on Amazon's EMR [Elastic Map Reduce] implementation of Hadoop, and associated open source products such as Hive and Pig, to underpin their activities.”

Harris said that, since 1 January, his technical responsibilities have been taken over by Orpheus Warr, Channel 4’s chief architect and head of technical strategy.

He now hopes to bring his 35 years of experience to bear in his new consultancy role.

“Ethereality Associates is a vehicle by which I plan to refocus on the technical aspects of my role. I've built up a very long list of talented individuals and I'm looking forward to drawing on that talent pool as and when opportunities arise,” he said.

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