Tom Rosamilia has had a remarkable career by most any measure, but it is particularly notable in the tech industry, where employment tends to be highly peripatetic. After graduating from Cornell University in 1983 with degrees in computer science and economics, Rosamilia joined IBM where he worked in programming, software and product development, and management roles. In 1998, he was named VP of IBM’s z Series S/390 (mainframe) software development.
During the following years, Rosamilia served as vice president or general manager in several IBM software and hardware organizations, until 2013 when he became SVP of IBM Systems & Technology Group and IBM Integrated Supply Chain. In 2015, he was named SVP of IBM Systems and had global responsibility for all aspects of IBM’s servers and storage as well as the Company’s Global Business Partners organization.
In July of this year, Rosamilia became SVP of IBM Software where he directs product design and investment strategy, expert labs, global software product development, marketing and field operations across the company’s vast software portfolio, including major product brands such as Watson, Db2, Cognos, QRadar, and Cloud Paks. He also leads the company’s cybersecurity mission.
I recently interviewed Tom Rosamilia about his latest senior leadership role, and discussed how IBM’s efforts in hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence, security and other areas benefit customers and partners, and differentiate the company in highly competitive global markets
Pund-IT: Let’s begin with your recent move to a new role: SVP of IBM Software. Can you describe your job, your general responsibilities and focus areas?
Rosamilia: My role is running IBM’s software business, which includes overseeing our product design and investment strategy, global software product development, our Expert Labs team of software consultants, and marketing and field operations. I am also responsible for cybersecurity across IBM.
Our product portfolio includes AI-powered software that can help clients predict, automate, modernize and secure their operations, and it’s delivered via IBM Cloud Paks, “containerized” software that accelerates application modernization with pre-integrated data, automation and security capabilities. Our Cloud Paks run on Red Hat OpenShift, which enables them to be deployed across hybrid cloud environments.
Pund-IT: What does that mean in practical terms? What benefits can organizations realize by working with IBM?
Rosamilia: Our software is designed to help our clients modernize and digitize their businesses. The global pandemic has led to an increased urgency for clients to transform how they conduct business – with many trying to do the equivalent of 10 years of digitization in less than a year. This includes rapid adoption of new business models, infused with analytics and AI to automate redundant tasks, apply real-time insights, and drive efficiencies that allow for higher-value work. In addition, clients are now managing applications and data across multiple clouds with multiple vendors.
Pund-IT: Cloud is supposed to make life easier for businesses. Instead, it seems to have led to a host of new challenges.
Rosamilia: In this hybrid, multicloud world, clients need consistency across their platforms. With IBM software, we can help them manage their data no matter where it is (with Cloud Pak for Data and data fabric); we can help them operate efficiently and manage networks (with Automation and AIOps capabilities); and we can secure all of it (with Cloud Pak for Security and its “Zero Trust” architecture).
Pund-IT: During IBM’s recent earnings call, CEO Arvind Krishna focused on the vital roles that hybrid cloud and AI play in the company’s vision. Why are hybrid cloud and AI important to IBM, and how do those technologies complement and reinforce one another?
Rosamilia: Across every industry, enterprises are using technology to redesign business processes. These digital transformation projects are enabled by AI and a hybrid cloud environment. Hybrid cloud is the reality for businesses today; in fact, based on our latest IBV study, nearly 98% of respondents are using hybrid or multicloud architectures from multiple cloud providers. In addition, according to our Global AI Adoption Index 2021, almost 90 percent of IT pros say being able to run their AI projects wherever the data resides is key to the technology’s adoption, meaning they have data and workloads running on multiple public clouds, private clouds, and on premises. On top of that, they are dealing with stringent regulatory and security requirements.
To stay competitive, businesses need to be able to use AI to unlock real-time value from their data wherever it resides. That’s why hybrid cloud and AI are central to our strategy, and why we’ve invested in software like our IBM Cloud Paks — which are all built on Red Hat OpenShift – so that clients can write once and run anywhere.
Pund-IT: I believe hybrid cloud is a great example of how IBM reinforces organic R&D with creative acquisitions, like the 2019 purchase of Red Hat. Could you talk a bit about the benefits the company and its customers have gained from dynamic development and acquisitions?
Rosamilia: The innovation you see in our software portfolio is fueled by a combination of the strong pipeline of organic R&D coming into products from IBM Research as well as strategic acquisitions.
Our recent work in automation is a great example. We’ve made a series of bold moves to position IBM as a one-stop shop for end-to-end AI-powered automation capabilities. These include everything from robotic process automation (RPA) to AIOps to software networking — for business and IT, all built on Red Hat OpenShift. In the RPA market, we’ve acquired WDG Automation and MyInvenio, and continued to make investments in the Cloud Pak for Business Automation. In AIOps, we launched the IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps in 2020, which is built on underlying innovations from IBM Research; to complement that, we acquired Turbonomic and Instana, giving us an edge in application, infrastructure and network observability.
Pund-IT: While vendors often talk about the monetary value of strategic acquisitions, it is less common for them to discuss the synergies between those deals and existing R&D.
Rosamilia: This combination of R&D and acquisitions is helping our clients use AI-powered automation to drive business value and new efficiencies. We’re giving our clients full-stack observability of their entire enterprise across any hybrid cloud infrastructure. In doing so, we’re helping them save money by optimizing cloud resources and giving them the ability to apply AI to their IT environments to easily identify and remediate problems.
Pund-IT: Do customers understand IBM’s hybrid cloud & AI value proposition up front? Do they see it as a natural extension or evolutionary step from the company’s past offerings and services?
Rosamilia: IBM has a century-long history of helping companies modernize and harness data to help them make better business decisions. Clients are in the early stages of their AI journeys, and as they progress, they’re turning to IBM as a partner with experience, industry expertise, and decades of trust in handling their data.
Our strategy around hybrid cloud and AI is resonating with clients. If you ask an IT professional today about their biggest concern when assessing AI vendors, they cite the ability to run their AI wherever they need to as more important than any other factor besides trust. We made the strategic decision several years ago to enable IBM Watson to run anywhere – on any public cloud, private cloud or on premises with IBM Cloud Pak for Data and Red Hat OpenShift. This enables clients to bring AI to wherever their data resides – across any cloud – helping them unearth hidden insights, automate processes, and ultimately drive business performance. This approach sets IBM apart in the market.
Pund-IT: What is IBM’s strategy for Hybrid Cloud Software? What are the major components (e.g. Cloud Paks, Data & AI, Automation, etc.) and how do these align with your and IBM’s vision of what customers need?
Rosamilia: In this hybrid multicloud world, our clients need consistency across all of their platforms – whether they are public, private or on premises, and whether they’re working with vendors like IBM, AWS, Microsoft or others. With IBM software, we can help clients achieve that consistency and the benefits that come along with it.
Pund-IT: What are the steps in that process?
Rosamilia: First, we help clients access and manage their data where it lives – to get more value out of their data and predict outcomes. We have Cloud Pak for Data, which includes Data Fabric, to help clients manage their data across hybrid multicloud environments and make sense of it – regardless of where the data resides. As a result, clients can take latency and cost out of the equation.
With IBM Maximo Application Suite, clients can perform predictive maintenance, reducing downtime, waste and consumption. We also recently introduced the IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite, making it easier for clients to predict and respond to weather and climate risks and assess their carbon footprint.
Second, we help clients operate efficiently and manage networks with our Automation and AIOps capabilities. There are a few key products here: IBM Cloud Pak for Business Automation, which embodies robotic process automation and business automation; IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps, which automates IT functions; and IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, introduced earlier this year to help simplify adoption of 5G, which is being deployed by clients such as DISH Network and Telefonica. This also encompasses products like Watson Assistant and Watson Discovery, which are helping businesses like CVS Health use AI and automation to create powerful customer care solutions. We’ve also expanded our portfolio in this arena with key acquisitions like Instana and Turbonomic.
Third, we secure all of it. We are working on moving clients from detecting threats at the edge to being able to operate on a zero-trust basis. With our Security services and software, we can provide a Zero Trust architecture that gives our clients confidence in the protection and privacy of their data across their landscape. With scaling capabilities like Cloud Pak for Security, and other high-value products like QRadar, Guardium and Verify, clients can manage their security applications and data across hybrid cloud environments.
Pund-IT: Are there any other broader goals or focus areas within IBM’s strategy?
Rosamilia: We’re also helping clients modernize their systems and applications for greater business agility. Information architectures and applications need to be decentralized, open, and adaptive. All of our Cloud Paks, which are built on Red Hat Open Shift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, deliver modern, cloud-native applications for clients that can run on any cloud or on premises.
We bring it all together by helping architect and design software solutions for our clients via IBM Garage (co-creating with clients), our Expert Labs (IBM product experts integrated with IBM’s engineering labs), and IBM Consulting.
Pund-IT: AI is an area where IBM made a formidable entry (via the public appearances of Watson on Jeopardy! in 2011) but since then AI projects from companies, like Google, Amazon and Apple have achieved a higher public profile. How do IBM’s AI efforts and its go to market strategy differ from other vendors’ offerings?
Rosamilia: We developed a thesis several years ago about how the needs of AI for business would differ from consumer AI. AI for business is all about enabling organizations to modernize with ease, better predict outcomes, automate at scale, and secure their organizations. We’re focused on innovating across the four key capabilities that are critical for businesses looking to scale AI: natural language processing, trust, automation, and the ability to run anywhere.
Pund-IT: How has implementing that thesis impacted IBM and its customers?
Rosamilia: Our laser focus on these core areas is working. Over the past decade, IBM’s AI has been infused everywhere – grown from research, to experimentation, to a scaled capability that is optimized for a hybrid cloud environment so it runs anywhere on Red Hat OpenShift. We’ve had more than 40,000 client engagements with Watson – leveraging products like Watson Assistant, Watson Discovery, and others – across 20 different industries; and clients like Anthem, Credit Mutuel, CVS Health, Kroger, GM Financial, HSBC, Vodafone, DISH Network, Telefonica, and more are turning to IBM software and services as they transform core processes.
Pund-IT Many people know about IBM software brands, like Db2 and Watson but some are probably less familiar with Cloud Paks. How would you describe those solutions and how they fit into the company’s strategy and market plans?
Rosamilia: IBM Cloud Paks are an important part of the IBM Software portfolio. They are AI-powered software for hybrid cloud that are designed to help our clients accelerate application modernization with pre-integrated data, automation and security capabilities. Cloud Paks are built on top of Red Hat OpenShift so clients can deploy them on whatever cloud or on-premises environment that they want.
We have six IBM Cloud Paks for clients today that target specific use cases: data, business automation, network automation, security, integration and AIOps. And the Cloud Paks include and integrate with some of our most popular software brands – Db2, Watson, Cognos, QRadar, Verify, and more. The Cloud Paks are also backed by a broad ecosystem of open source and third-party technologies from partners like Palantir and Cloudera, giving clients the true flexibility and interoperability they need.
Pund-IT: How does AI fit into the Cloud Paks portfolio and narrative?
Rosamilia: The Cloud Paks are infused with Watson AI as part of the foundation and they take advantage of the latest innovations from IBM Research. Take IBM Cloud Pak for Data for example. Earlier this year, we launched a new data fabric in Cloud Pak for Data that uses AI to discover, understand, access and protect distributed data across multiple environments and helps unify disparate data sources across a common data foundation. With the data fabric, clients can virtualize and tap into their data without moving it, so the time to integrate can drop 30 percent, time to deploy can drop 30 percent, and ongoing maintenance can drop 70 percent.
Pund-IT: You’re also responsible for cybersecurity across IBM. The steady rise in high profile cybercrimes, including attacks on businesses and government agencies has highlighted the importance of strengthening security for organizations. How is IBM working with customers to accomplish that?
Rosamilia: Now is a critical time for those of us in the security business. IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach study found that data breaches now cost surveyed companies $4.24 million per incident on average – the highest cost in the 17-year history of the report. In this space, we’re looking at moving from monitoring threats at the perimeter to really getting companies to where they feel they are operating in a zero-trust environment. That’s where the IBM Cloud Pak for Security comes in.
A key differentiator for us here is not just the capabilities of the portfolio but the capabilities of our people. IBM has 8,000 people working in security, 19,000 clients that we serve, and 10,000 patents out there.
Pund-IT: IBM has an extensive history of working with global developer communities. How is the company sharing its vision of hybrid cloud and AI with those communities and organizations?
Rosamilia: Building robust ecosystems ultimately helps organizations innovate better and with greater efficiency for the benefit of clients. At IBM, we’re dedicated to being ecosystem innovators and fostering a culture of openness and collaboration – not only among our employees, but also with our partners and developers.
A key tenet of that is our commitment to open source, which IBM has supported for decades through opportunities like playing a leading role in the Linux Foundation that maintains and improves open-source Linux software. We also have a strong focus on building trust into AI systems, which we think is best done in an open source context. That’s why we joined LF AI in 2019 and have open sourced some key technologies for AI like our AI Fairness 360 toolkit.
Pund-IT: In addition, many or most IBM customers employ teams of developers, some of them quite sizable. How is IBM working with those developers and teams regarding hybrid cloud and other new technologies, and helping them stay relevant and effective?
Rosamilia: We believe that an important part of helping developers continue to improve and be effective is the ability to hone new skills, and to help them find opportunities to use their skills on projects that are personally meaningful. That’s why my colleague Bob Lord launched Call for Code, which to date has partnered with 400,000 developers and data scientists in 179 countries to create tech for good. They are building solutions to help small farmers manage water use and crop yields and help first responders locate victims of natural disasters. Developers are problem solvers and at IBM we give them opportunities to help solve the world’s biggest and most complex problems.
Pund-IT: During an earlier discussion, you mentioned that IBM looks for “an innovator’s margin” as a way of “providing differentiated, appreciable value.” Is that still true today? If so, can you offer some examples?
Rosamilia: At IBM, a core value is being able to help our clients prepare their business for what’s next, and our innovation margin is an important part of that. We maintain a strong pipeline of innovations from IBM Research that we are commercializing in our software products.
For example, Watson Assistant was borne out of the natural language processing (NLP) advancements that started at IBM Research. We’re now continuing to refine our NLP offerings using further insights from our researchers’ academic work and breakthroughs like Project Debater.
Another example is Watson Orchestrate, which we announced this year. Watson Orchestrate is a new advanced AI offering that uses automation and NLP to help employees with tasks through their other business tools like Slack and Salesforce. In the field of computer vision, our researchers are developing new AI capable of detecting cracks in roads and bridges.
Pund-IT: IBM has been highly visible in its support for diversity in both the company and the larger tech industry. How did you become the senior executive sponsor for the IBM Hispanic community? What sorts of activities are involved? How do you view IBM’s diversity efforts and why are they so important?
Rosamilia: As a senior leader of the IBM Company, I have the opportunity to become an influential ally to diverse communities across IBM. About 10 years ago, I was invited to become the senior executive sponsor for the Hispanic Community, and it’s been an incredible journey so far. My role as the senior executive sponsor is to provide support and alliance for the community as a whole, but also for the individuals who make up the community and are future leaders of IBM.
Pund-IT: How is this effort progressing?
Rosamilia: The Hispanic / Latino community within IBM continues to drive progress for both IBMers and the communities where they live. Through a range of education, mentorship, sponsorship and career development opportunities led by the Hispanic Council, Hispanic / LatinX talent have access to experts, expertise and resources that can help them pursue and realize their full potential in STEM and have an impact on the world. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, which we’ve published in IBM’s 2020 Diversity & Inclusion report, but there’s more to do.
Pund-IT: You’re also chair for IBM’s COVID-19 Response Team. Given the massive impact the pandemic has had on people, organizations and industries worldwide, can you discuss some of the efforts the Response Team has undertaken?
Rosamilia: At IBM, we manage a global workforce with more than 250,000 employees, so there was a critical imperative to get this right. Early in the pandemic, a key priority was making sure as many employees as possible were able to work from home, creating the infrastructure and new best practices for them to do that, while also making sure that they were supported.
Thanks to our hybrid cloud-enabled digital workplace, IBM adapted nearly overnight to 95 percent remote work in 2020. We provided extensive employee education and access to collaboration tools like Trello, Mural, Slack and Webex. And, with a keen focus on employee health and well-being, we offered new benefits and training to 30,000 managers in empathetic leadership and established a 24×7 “Ask Health & Safety” team to address questions and concerns.
Pund-IT: Has IBM’s Covid-19 response impacted customers in any way?
Rosamilia: We also worked to adapt the learnings from this experience into resources for customers, from our return-to-work playbook and new offerings to help customers manage things like space, vaccine and mask compliance, and social distancing.
Pund-IT: Finally, IBM’s vision for hybrid cloud and AI-enabled (or analytically-driven) automated services brings to mind the On Demand initiative that IBM and its strategic partners launched some two decades ago. Has the industry finally achieved On Demand and the full value of compute delivered and consumed as a utility-like service? If not, what still needs to be done?
Rosamilia: One of the real challenges we have had to navigate is how to move organizations forward when they can’t get all the supplies they need and/or can’t get all the right employees with the right skills they need. Software is continuing to help us solve these problems, from AI that can help less experienced employees learn from more experienced ones to AI that’s helping manage call centers during public health crises.
There is more work to be done to making the benefits of AI more ubiquitous, more impactful and more understood, but we’re making great progress. For example, our work in the area of trust, in making sure that AI is trustworthy and explainable, and that it’s deployed in a way that ensures the benefits reach everyone, not just a handful of industries, companies, or individuals.
Pund-IT: Thanks, Tom. I appreciate you sharing your time and insights.
Rosamilia: You’re welcome, Charles. It was good to talk with you.