So Irving Wladawsky-Berger has decided to ease off on his IBM workload a bit.
His career the last 12 years really mapped to my own.
My first ever foreign press trip as a cub reporter in 1995 was to Austin, Texas to hear about this weird thing called a crossbar switch on the RS/6000 SP2. Basically you could connect up two Unix servers and make them scream through parallel database workloads. Very useful in scientific and compute intensive jobs. At the time this was a state of the art scale out architecture. Who gave the briefing? A short intense guy with the weirdest accent (and I talk as someone with a pretty odd accent myself). That was my first experience of Irving WB.
He cropped up repeatedly from then on. It was always hard to work out if he actually made things happen, or whether he was just incredible at being in the right place at the right time to take some credit for driving a change at IBM. Of course the two things are not mutually exclusive.
Irving has an amazing nose for the next big thing and IBM has repeatedly put its money where his mouth is. So what has he talked about?
- Open Source
- Grid – (well of course… he already pulled this trick off once with the SP2…)
- On Demand
- Reinventing the Games console industry with Power everywhere
- Collaborative Innovation
Irving is the Zelig of IBM (reusing my own joke). Well its more polite than calling him Forrest
In helping to define IBM 2.0 Irving by extension also laid out a course for me.
In 1995 I was the junior, given what used to be the senior reporters job, covering IBM, because “IBM isn’t so relevant any more”. Throughout the late 90s I earned the soubriquet “legacy boy” because of this specialism. By the time I was news editor at InformationWeek UK in 1999 I was still essentially the lead IBM reporter (not dead yet).
At illuminata, when I joined in 1999, quite naturally I did a lot of work around IBM technology, covering its burgeoning software business, helping Illuminata deepen its already solid IBM Systems and Storage coverage. I remember in high definition driving back from a meeting in White Plains, NY with Jonathan Eunice both of us agreeing it was clear IBM was going to be a major major force in software. Going forward where was the interesting stuff happening? Near Irving, obviously.
RedMonk was formed in 2002. Yet more change at IBM – yet more opportunity for me.
Irving finally lost me though when he started talking to Second Life. OK Irving you win. But just as he finally did so, showing me I just couldn’t keep up with the Everything of Big Blue anymore, he gracefully announced he will step to one side. I will keep reading his blog though because that is where he is going to outline the next big things. Coming so soon after the news Don Ferguson left, its clear some major opportunities are emerging at the firm. But you know he still has Sam’s ear.