Certain industry executives who have been around a while never seem to get ruffled by the highs and lows of the industry. Economic downturn? Seen it before. Hot technology trend? Well, there's really not that much new here. Steve Mills, head of IBM's Systems and Software Group, is that kind of no-nonsense guy -- one who is seldom shy about giving his unvarnished opinion.
In this interview, conducted at last week's IBM Impact 2011 show in Las Vegas, Mills offered a candid assessment of HP's purported move to the cloud. Along the way, he resisted my attempts to suggest that cloud, mobile, and big data were conspiring to drive unprecedented change -- and offered one of the more down-to-earth explanations of cloud computing I've heard.
Last summer, IBM merged its Software Group -- which Mills already led -- with its Systems and Technology Group. As senior vice president and group executive of Systems and Software, Mills now has responsibility for all IBM products, making him one of the most powerful people at the company. We began the interview by talking about his new position.
Eric Knorr: You now have essentially double the responsibility you did before.
Steve Mills: I was spending a lot of time on hardware and hardware-related issues before, so it's not a new thing. The software team has had to spend a lot of time with hardware guys on hardware design -- and I'm spending more time on more aspects of the hardware design and pushing the hardware teams to pay more attention to workload-based characteristics.
Knorr: So that means you're involved in product development on both sides?
Mills: Right. All of product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales; it's over 100,000 people in lots of locations all over the world.
Knorr: Well, you're in a good position to answer this question. Recently, I've been hearing statements from executives around the industry that over next 5 years we're going to see more change than we saw during the last 25. Or words to that effect. Would you take it that far?
Mills: Well, there's no scorekeeper, you know? Change is always a matter of your own perspective in terms of where you are. Clearly, technology builds on technology, so there is an expansion phenomenon that occurs around technology. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.