IBM's Steve Mills Goes Deep on the Cloud, Watson, POWER8

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-05-21 Print this article Print
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Adobe and Microsoft have both tried to do something like that. Do you see IBM having the capability to help bring developers and designers together like you’ve done with developers and operations pros with your DevOps solutions?

Well, I think the BlueMix project has been very design driven. We were never much concerned about the model itself and the functionality. We were concerned about how people were going to navigate through this.

When we came up with BlueMix I wasn't staring at AWS. I was staring at Azure. Give Microsoft credit, they are very good at personal computing. They think a lot about the fidelity of the environment. Can you find your way to the things that you want? They’re very user sensitive in the way they come at these problems. They’re not all encompassing in the way they think of what people will do and will sacrifice some of the variety and openness and so on in favor of the fidelity of the environment. I don’t think you have to sacrifice the fidelity of the environment for the extensiveness of the environment. We think both can be managed. So I’m paying much more attention to Azure. I know what’s going on with AWS.

Well, if history is an indicator, Microsoft will continue to chip away at that and alternately lead and follow in that space.

Well, we’ll see where Satya [Nadella, CEO of Microsoft] goes here. They’ve kind of isolated their open-related activities off to the side. He may bring that into the mainstream, which is a fundamental change. They have been so Windows-centric; it’s been so much about Windows. There’s then this big internal catharsis in terms of 'how do you develop and deliver that function in a multi-platform environment? How do you bring in all these various pieces of code from the open-source world, which is somewhat chaotic?' It’s not necessarily as orderly and managed as they are used to. So there’s a lot of learning to be done there. To play effectively in open source you have to be willing to play in a lot of chaos.

Are we at the point where we can actually say that there is such a thing as IBM as a Service?

I really think more in terms of business capability being delivered as a service. I don’t think anybody necessarily sees that as 'IBM as a Service.' I think it’s more capability as a service, outcome as a service. It’s just defined in business terms by the business buyers that want an outcome. Can they get at the capability, the componentry, how much work do they have to do, how easy is it for me to get the outcome or result I’m looking for? If that gives me access to a whole set of IBM products and services in some kind of structured way, that’s good – that’s good for us and good for them. So, clearly, we have to deliver more of the IBM company to customers. I’m not quite ready to call that IBM as a Service, but I think we have to deliver more of our capability in an 'as-a-Service' mode.

What are your expectations for your POWER8 strategy and the role and potential for the OpenPOWER Foundation?

Unlimited. Inside this device (points to a tablet) is an ARM chip. Inside of your device is an ARM chip. Why is ARM popular? Because it’s an open licensing model. You have full access to the IP, you see the instruction set, and you know exactly how the instruction set comes together. You have access to design documents so you actually know how to make one of these things. And you can extend it and do it your way. So every ARM-based system is in many ways an ARM derivative. Then the next question is why aren’t there an equal number of Atom-based devices out there? Why does everybody keep doing ARM and not Atom? It’s pretty obvious why they’re doing ARM and not Atom. They love the licensing model on ARM and they love the independence that ARM gives them. And they’re fearful of the Intel model, which is proprietary and puts them in a position of being subservient to Intel.

The OpenPOWER licensing model is the ARM model. And we think there’s a big market out there for those that want an alternative to Intel at the server. There’s a reason why POWER8 has been flipped to little endian, there’s a reason why there’s an open licensing model now. And the energy and enthusiasm around this is building at a pretty rapid pace.

There have been some prominent names retiring from IBM recently, will you be sticking around for awhile?

Yeah. I mean people leave IBM all the time, you can’t stay around forever. But I’m not currently working on a retirement home or anything. I’m busy working every day. There’s still so much work to be done here. I’ll go to the bitter end. I hope it’s not in a body bag, but at some point they may have to throw me out. (Laughter)


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