There's more than a little irony in the fact that Erich Clementi, the man charged with looking into the future and identifying strategic initiatives for IBM, made his considerable reputation largely by looking back and rebuilding a part of Big Blue that's truly old school: its mainframe business.
From 2003 through 2005, Clementi helped lead the resurgence of the revamped IBM mainframe as general manager of the System z division. When obituaries were being written about the demise of the mainframe in the early part of this decade, Clementi and his team went off to rethink and redesign the old-fashioned Big Hunk computer.
They were successful. Today, more than 40 percent of all data centers still have at least one mainframe, according to a recent survey by AFCOM, the data center industry group. Most of those are built by IBM.
His job completed there, Clementi has reversed directions and ventured out to the cutting edge by directing Big Blue's fast-growing cloud computing initiative. Again, Clementi is looking back at where IT has been in order to know where it's going in the future.
IBM's Blue Cloud and CloudBurst are huge projects that involve the whole company. How does one person with so many responsibilities, who coordinates so many moving parts of such a large multinational corporation, focus his energies most effectively and read the road signs correctly?
"How do you do this at IBM? Frankly, you do this by integrating IBM," Clementi told eWEEK. "This industry has a tendency to go through a wave of disintegration, where you compete around storage, you compete around software, you compete around 'gotchas.' From time to time, complexity comes back to be integrated, and integration gives you a simpler consumption model, which is what people like."
Ironically, Clementi does not like to use the term "cloud computing," preferring to describe the new wave of computing on demand via the Web as just that: a new wave of computing, via the Web.
"The fact that people cannot see how this [new computing model] comes about has made this metaphor of this thing being 'behind a cloud' so powerful," Clementi said.