In the Spring of 2021, my manager at the time, Jerry Cuomo, suggested that I start my own podcast. He had—and still has—a podcast called “The Art of Automation,” and he suggested that it was a great experience I should have, too.
The topic? “How about hybrid cloud?” he suggested. And that is how the idea and the name were born. Up to that point, I had spent my life trying to express and articulate designs, solutions and experiences in pictures, slide decks, text or, well, code. But a format that is strictly limited to audio was a new and intriguing challenge, and I have enjoyed tackling it from the start.
A rotating cast of IBM Fellows
Initially, I thought of putting together a list of relevant topics and then find guests who could join me on episodes to dive deeper into each one. However, I quickly found that it was much easier to make a list of guests to invite and let each of them bring their own perspective on the topic. And I decided to exclusively invite IBM Fellows to be my guests.
IBM Fellow is the highest accolade given for the technical population at IBM, and there are very few of them. To be exact, there are 89 Fellows at IBM right now. As of this writing, I have had nearly half of them on my podcast, and they have shared an amazing blend of stories, experiences and deep insights with me. Many of the guests touched on various aspects of hybrid cloud—that is the title of the podcast, after all—but quite a few of the episodes are also about the person, their careers and their perspectives on technology, overall.
Three themes of the podcast
This journey has brought me to write a brief series of blog posts about these conversations, summarizing what I have learned from this illustrious group. I grouped the episodes into three groups/themes:
Research: What does a researcher do at IBM? What are their characteristics? What are areas of interest being pursued in research for hybrid cloud?
The journey to cloud: These episodes basically adhere to the title of the podcast by looking at aspects of cloud computing from an application-developer perspective, from a CIO’s perspective or from a hardware perspective.
Life journeys: It goes without saying that every one of my podcast guests has a unique story to tell about their careers (and often their life), and some of them are worth sharing again.
I’ll start with the Research theme here and will create two more posts for the other two.
Quite a few of my episodes are with a researcher. Maybe that’s because IBM Research has a significant number of IBM Fellows, or maybe it is because they all work on very interesting things. Regardless, it’s very interesting for me (and hopefully for the podcast listeners) to learn about the various areas of research these people are involved in.
One question I often ask them is the balancing act between wanting to explore and investigate the world—which ultimately drives every researcher I have ever met—with the need to commercialize and monetize the outcomes.
Moreover, I heard some insights about how you prioritize your areas of interest and expertise, when you give up on what looks like a lost cause, and what characteristics they are looking for in young and aspiring researchers to follow in their footsteps.
As far as the topics of research go, it showed me the broad spectrum of technologies in which IBM is engaged. It covers hardware and software, of course, but a significant part is research into topics related to artificial intelligence (AI). Specifically, generative AI (that is, AI using large language models or foundation models) has been a center of attention in IBM Research, lately. That also includes related work on AI governance. Besides that, there are many other forward-looking efforts, and I’ll mention climate change as one example.
Let me also add some personal highlights among all the interesting topics we talked about:
How Tamar Eilam arrived at the realization that climate change was a problem she wanted to tackle after having spent years in research related to cloud. Still one of my favorite episodes; we also chatted about what it takes to be a researcher.
Francesca Rossi shared some insights on AI ethics. While she is organizationally affiliated with our Research division, her work goes way beyond that. AI is not new at all—the related technologies have been used by IBM (and many others) in product for a long time, and doing so in a socially and ethically responsible way is key to what Francesca and her team are doing every day. I cannot stress enough how important this is.
Gosia Steinder has worked on cloud computing since before it was even called cloud computing. The conversation basically took us from the beginnings of cloud to today, where it is about creating a computing platform that seamlessly spans location and type of cloud provider.
A real highlight was the episode with Alessandro Curioni. He heads the IBM Research lab in Zurich, which is proud to be home of two teams winning the Nobel Prize for Physics. But that was some time ago; today the focus is on using IT, quantum computing and AI to make “discoveries that matter” to address things like climate change, energy storage or personalized medicine.
You may ask where quantum computing is in all this. Adding at least one episode about quantum has been on my list for a long time. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet. But it’s not for the lack of trying, and I’ll stay on it. Who knows, by the time you read this there may be an episode about it out there.
Check out the Hybrid Cloud Forecast
Please see the Hybrid Cloud Forecast landing page to check out all the episodes we have to offer, and keep an eye out for the next two blog posts in this three-part series.