In this ESG On Location Video, ESG's Mark Peters and interviews Ed Walsh of IBM at the IBM Think 2018 event, held in Las Vegas
Read the related ESG Blog: In Conversation with IBM's Ed Walsh at Think 2018 (Video)
Announcer: The following is an ESG on-location video.
Mark: I'm with Ed Walsh now. Ed runs the storage group and software defined infrastructure, I believe...
Mark: ...for IBM. So the conference is called Think, and I want to think about things a little differently and see if you could do the same.
Mark: So I wanted to start by saying to you, from your perspective, since you came in, what has changed, what is changing, what will change?
Ed: Yeah, so listen, I think if you look at the numbers, we were able to take if from 21 consecutive quarters of decline, not keep up with market, and realign it. I look at it more realignment, and by working with the right team, you gotta get the right team involved, and then the right team allows you to put the right offerings, products. And we had to do a lot of offering work, but it's offering by offering, make sure it's getting competitive, outside-in looking at it, and then really the go-to-market. And those kind of, they work together, how you take the right offerings to market. And the biggest thing is changing our overall go-to-market. Instead of being about products, you know, we have a very broad portfolio, it's really about having conversations with clients and helping them to be more data-driven, and really modernize and transform their environments, which is a more relevant way. And also it brings out the strength of our portfolio, but also the bigger IBM come-into effect that, you know, customers sell.
Mark: Well, I'm going to come back to the bigger picture in just a second, but let me come back on one thing. How far would you say...? I know you're not gonna tell me or anyone else what your exact plans are, but how far would you say you are through that overall process of, if you like, again, a turn-around for IBM Storage?
Ed: Oh, phase one. I mean, it's really... So we talk more about it being a renaissance, right? It's a great age of recovery and revival, right? So you can't believe the power of the IBM culture, it's an embarrassment of riches of all the things we do have, last company to have true primary research. We see not what's coming this year, next year, but even further than that. Look at what we're doing on, yes, on storage, flash, and what we're doing on software defined and backdoor recovery, but look at what we're doing on quantum and others. And also...
Mark: Oh, I went to the session and my brain has not recovered, so.
Ed: Right, right. So we are truly, you know, innovative technology. We have an industry context how we go, and we also have a trust. I'll tell you, our clients trust us and what we do on data, but more, they trust us to get them to the next era of compute.
Mark. Okay. I said I'd come back to something. You mentioned just now that it's not just about storage anymore, I mean, clearly there's a...the portfolio is not just about storage, and you and I would meet at an EDGE Conference. I mean, it used...everything was interconnected. There were all these separate pieces and now we're together. Is it just a conference? I mean, is it just, you know, is there more to this cohesive story that we hear from Ginni and at the conference than just having a conference and having Ginni speaking?
Ed: Everyone wants to be data-driven in their business, and it doesn't matter if you're doing a public cloud, or you're doing on-prem, or you're doing physical, virtual, or you wanna do Docker containers, doesn't matter what, you're all looking to be more data-driven. So that brings the whole IBM portfolio to bear to help our clients get to this next era, so I think what you're seeing on stage is really IBM in a fully-integrated vision, but you're seeing more and more. I've even seen the difference in the last 18 months, really executing as a team. Even the way we're going to market, you know, you said, well, you kinda teed it up, "Is it just storage?" I wouldn't want to be a CEO of just a storage product company, because to be honest, it doesn't solve the real needs. We need to start bringing analytics and what we're doing around bringing machine and deep learning together, and make it much easier for people to consume. Things we're doing like IBM Cloud Private, it's taking the power of open-source and allowing you take all the difficulties of getting it up and running, and getting all the different pieces together, we make it simple distro almost, and allow you to focus on getting a value.
Those are not storage things, but it really affects how people engage us and how we engage our client to actually help them go forward. But if you can help them figure out where they wanna get to in some level of detail, we can have them, because of the portfolio, get there over time, make the right short-term decisions. And you start to bring the power of IBM, it's not just storage. It's not just storage on servers. It's not just storage servers and analytics. It's not the cloud. It really adds to a broader conversation, and that's what's required to actually help people. We talked about the rise of the incumbent. These companies really want to be data-driven. It's not a product. It's actually the company has to come and actually help clients get there.
Mark: It's interesting to me from the outside, I mean, I know how sometimes IBM can be very rigid, but I'm gonna actually turn that to your advantage in some ways, because you talked about being stage one on the storage side. I'm assuming in terms of this cohesive thing, it's stage one, but we also know that, you know, dear old IBM and its legal department, if you say you're gonna do things, and you are already doing some of them. So there's a credibility there to what you're saying. This doesn't sound to me like a vague marketing promise.
Mark: It's beginning to happen. Okay. We started with you as storage. We talked a bit about IBM. I would just like to close by talking about the market more generally.
Mark: We always like to think and talk about being in a state of change, and it's the next great revelation. Are things changing? Is cloud it? Quantum is a way off. Where do you think we are and what has changed over the last few years, and where are we going?
Ed: I think it's a great time to be in storage. I think it's a wonderful time to be in IT. Our clients are challenged with more complexity because it's moving so much faster. I think we are hitting an inflection point. It's really starting to go fast. We help people modernize and transform their environments, which is a lot of things we've always done, drive efficiency, drive automation. But now, people are really looking for how to be data-driven, and the first age of this, you know, the age of data was really the non-incumbents, the challengers coming and using data and disrupting markets. We actually see the age of the incumbent, because they have the data that the other people don't, 80% of the data is not, you know, searchable by the public. And you're able to leverage that, but that takes technology, but also human capital. We see three very specific patterns how people are deploying it on-prem, and how they're using multi-cloud. It's not just about storage, or server, or network.
It's how you bring in machine learning, deep learning. It's how you bring in cloud. It's how you bring in analytics. It's a challenge around security. And also they're looking for what's next, and quantum is what's next. That's short time horizons, but you know, we have a 50 cubit system up and running. That's really where you see quantum supremacy, so it's really gonna change. I think it's fascinating. Our clients find it fascinating, but also terrifying. We see the leaders and the laggards, and we deal with both. But I think it's a great time to be in storage, but also a great time to be at IBM. Because I think we have the right components.
Mark: I'm gonna...because there aren't many companies that can really have a crack at doing this. I think one of the thing that always intrigues me is the IT industry as a whole is really only decades old. I think I might need two hands now. It's probably 60 years old. That's not very long in the big scheme of things. And so I know we're always worried about what we're doing next, and next quarter, and next product release, and so on, but if we look back in another five or six decades from now, what we're doing today is going to look archaic.
Ed: I think it's amazing.
Mark: And so we're finally getting back to that information side of information technology, rather than just the infrastructure.
Ed: Right, and leveraging data for really competitive insight. Right, so it is a competitive advantage. You see that over and over, and that's not as easy. It's not a product. It is a lot of technology, which we can help, but it's really the human capital. And that's where I think we're in better position. I think it's reflected in our momentum in the market. It's because that's how we're engaging. That's how we're able to distance ourselves from the competition in a lot of different regards, but I also think it's a great time to be in the industry.
Mark: All right. Well, thank you very much for talking. Thank you for doing it...ooh, what are we now? We're ten to eight in the evening. Thank you for being a good sport.
Ed: Thank you.
Mark: Good to talk to you.
Ed: Thank you very much.