Part 1: Mac Devine’s history with the cloud, and what drives him in the cloud
Jim: Thanks for your time and agreeing to meet with me, Mac. I saw that you got started with the System z cloud. Can you tell me more about that and how it led to you working with the cloud?
Mac: The job that I had was the Lead Architect on the Software Group side for System z. System z is very much a part of the STG focus. My job was to figure out how we could grow revenue for System z, in particular I saw the market moving more toward cloud delivery — being able to do things in a DevOps fashion, heavy use of virtualization. Our Linux on System z capabilities, back five years ago, were significantly advanced compared to other virtualization techniques, but were unreachable by a large number of the ISVs. I had done a great deal of work around a proposal (System z cloud) with the intent of activating things like KVM, hyperV — kind of an open hypervisor, if you will, then in unison with the zVM things, so it would not be completely foreign to all of these workloads. We actually progressed all the way to doing a demo to the board of directors where we showed what the capabilities were, but we did not gain traction at that time. After that, I talked with others about taking those concepts about the cloud, and took my team and moved over to the WebSphere team for cloud strategy.
Jim: So that led you to the role you have now?
Mac: That was the WebSphere CTO office, when I was in there and we were doing cloud innovation, working with a lot of the various groups in research, a lot of the early research compute cloud stuff, a lot of the work in the China lab regarding commerce as a service. That was actually before Mr. Palmisano [former IBM CEO] and executives created what is called the enterprise initiative. That was really kind of the cloud division inside corporate strategy. We were part of a core set that provided input into a technical team study, which lead to the formation of that enterprise iniative group. I moved from the WebSphere CTO office to corporate strategy. In that role, I was responsible for a lot of the strategy of what we needed to do cross-division for the cloud, and also to work with external vendors to try to grow our ecosystem around the cloud. Last year they asked me to move from corporate strategy to Global Technology Services (GTS) to start executing some of that strategy.
Jim: What gets you excited about the cloud?
Mac: The thing that excites me most about the cloud, is the level of innovation. It used to be that if you remember the dot com era, you had all these people with great ideas who went out and tried to create dot com companies that ended up dying. Why was that? It was because of the infrastructure cost, in terms of scaling that solution. What made them innovative, and what made them initially successful, also buried them. The cost of maintaining an infrastructure, and to deliver that —they couldn’t be profitable.
Well the cloud allowed for the rebirth of that dot com era. Now the burden of delivering the compute, storage, and networking elements associated with the delivery of that service, you are running this thing in someone else’s data center. So the venture capitalists (VCs), interestingly enough, are funding more vendors than they ever have before, with a lot lower cost, than they ever did before. Basically what the VCs say is “we want you to be cloud only.” That is, when you show success and get traction, and get the requirements to be on-premesis fine, but right now we want you to be cloud only. We don’t want you to have any data center, we want you to build your solution on the cloud. What that ends up doing is allowing the company to be very innovative at the solution level. They do not have to worry about all the underlying things.
So, what excites me most about the cloud is the massive innovation that’s happening; someone with an innovative idea can create the value at the innovation layer, and not have to worry about anything else, because someone else has taken care of it. I think that is what is the most exciting.