Q&A: Rod Adkins, senior vice president of IBM's Systems and Technology Group, talks with eWEEK about the importance of IT systems at Big Blue.
Rod Adkins is
senior vice president in charge of IBM's
Systems and Technology Group, the
company's $19 billion semiconductor, server, storage and systems software
business. He was named to the job in October 2009. Adkins has held a number of
product development, business operations and general management positions since
joining IBM in 1981, including stints as general manager for desktop systems in
IBM's Personal Systems Group, for UNIX systems in Server Group and for
Pervasive Computing in Software Group. In 2002, Fortune magazine named Adkins
one of the 50 most powerful black executives in America.
For this interview, Adkins spoke with
eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft on a variety of subjects, including
competition with Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, how systems play into the overall IBM strategy and topics such as the IBM Smarter Planet initiative.
IBM has been experiencing share gains across
the systems and storage markets, according to the major analyst tracking
reports. What do you think is going on in the market?
I think the market is responding to the business value it sees in our
capabilities for addressing their data center requirements. IBM
was the world's No. 1 overall server vendor in 2009, according to Gartner and IDC,
and we gained share points in both their tracking reports. In Unix, as the
leader in the market, we added about 4.5 points of revenue share while HP and
Sun [Microsystems] lost share. In x86, IBM
experienced the largest revenue growth of any vendor in the fourth quarter-3.5
percent. It was IBM's fourth consecutive
quarter of revenue share gains in x86. In storage, we outgrew the overall
external disk segment in Q4 and passed HP to take the No. 2 position in the
market. That's all according to IDC.
Why do you think IBM is taking share from the competition?
The world is changing. As the planet becomes more instrumented and
interconnected, the amount of data and the number of transactions will continue
to increase-driving the need for more real-time analytics and prediction
capabilities. Every piece of data generated is a building block of insight that
can predict what happens next. This is impacting virtually every system inside
a company, a city, the world. This applies to health care systems, retail
systems, financial systems, energy grids, supply chains-and to the world's data
centers. Opportunities are unlimited, but resources are not. As a result, IT
departments will process more transactions and manage exponentially more data.
Yet they will need to do it more efficiently than ever, consume less energy and
make the most of the existing floor space.
The need for a new definition of performance is becoming increasingly clear.
And that's what I think is behind the momentum we're seeing in our systems
business. We're not pursuing a strategy to drive more common PC parts into
enterprise servers to gain our own operational advantages, like some vendors.
We take a very client-centric approach. We believe it's the innovation you wrap
around those parts and the deep integration and optimization between the
hardware and software that can attack the pain points enterprises are seeing
and their need for lower costs and better management. It boils down to three
distinct advantages we have in our systems business: the combination of our
deep understanding of client needs, a comprehensive systems portfolio and
Take our recently announced eX5 systems on the x86 platform. We had
engineers at work for years to come up with an industry first-decoupling memory
from its usual, tightly bound place alongside the server's processor so you can
dramatically scale memory in new ways and get much more out of the individual
system. That is changing the economics of x86-based computing as we lead the
way in re-engineering the 30-year-old PC server architecture. In addition to
more cost-efficient use of memory, we've achieved technology breakthroughs in
virtualization and energy savings. You heard these themes not just in the eX5
announcement, but also in February when we introduced new Power7 systems. Our
Power7 systems ushered in a new category of performance for our clients. We
call it "intelligent performance," rather than just raw speed, to
manage billions of transactions in real time and analyze the data on the fly.
This is key for emerging workloads like smart utility grids.
All this makes us unique in the marketplace. IBM's
long-term strategy has been driven by our investments focused on innovation and
integration. This is much more than being a vendor declaring a strategy based
on a recent acquisition or declaring a strategy based on delivering commodity
hardware through supply chain management. We've been at this for decades, and
we're designing new integrated systems-from chip to end product to everything
in between-optimized for a new generation of demanding workloads and to help
our clients reduce their IT costs for existing workloads.