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Executive Corner: Interview with Ric Telford, Vice President, IBM Cloud Services (Part 1 of 2)

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Vasfi Gucer interviewed Ric Telford, Vice President, IBM Cloud Services. Below is a transcript of their conversation. Be sure to look out for more Executive Corner posts from Ric here in the future.

Vasfi Gucer: To set the stage, can you talk about IBM’s journey into the cloud so far, and how does IBM see the cloud business right now?

Ric Telford: Sure. It’s been a great journey — we’ve worked with thousands of clients on a number of different types of engagements. We looked at cloud very holistically, so it’s both the cloud delivery model inside a company’s data center, which some people call private cloud, as well as launched our public cloud, IBM SmartCloud.

We have had SmartCloud in production for over a year now and are adding new customers everyday.

I think the way to sum up our journey is we’ve been very focused on what the cloud means to the enterprise and making cloud ready for the enterprise much like IBM has done in the past with Linux and Java.

We looked at the cloud delivery model as something that could be very valuable in helping an enterprise in its IT transformation process, and we treated it as such so we focus on the problems such as how do we get the high level of availability, security, performance, worldwide connectivity, worldwide access, multiple points of presence and integration of data between cloud services.

So, these are all the hard problems of cloud that we’ve been taking on, one by one, in IBM and making cloud ready for the enterprise.

Vasfi Gucer: Where do you envision IBM in five years in terms of cloud computing and what’s IBM’s position in competing with all the competitors in the market?

Ric Telford: Well there really isn’t anyone that does what we do; I mean some companies do a piece of what we do, but you know, we take the enterprise view first — we were the first company to stand up for example and say the private cloud is a legitimate definition of cloud computing. Early on, many companies were equating cloud computing only with putting cloud services on the Internet.

Don’t get me wrong, cloud services on the Internet are an important part of our strategy — we have that, and we’ve had that for years, with services like Lotus Live for example. We’ve also made a number of strategic acquisitions such as Sterling Commerce, Coremetrics, Cast Iron, all of which deliver software as a service over the Internet, so that’s an important part of our portfolio, but it’s just a part of the portfolio.

We believe that helping companies transform their IT infrastructure through the use of private cloud and private cloud technology combined with the ability to burst into our IBM SmartCloud sets us apart from the competition.

Vasfi Gucer: Some people say that the cloud computing basically means energy efficiency, cost cutting, and scalability, so what do you think? How can moving to cloud computing help the client’s business?

Ric Telford: Well Vasfi, that’s not really what cloud computing means; those are the results of a good cloud implementation. A good cloud infrastructure can reduce data center energy utilization considerably, since you are drastically reducing the amount of machines that are underutilized but pulling electricity.

As for cost cutting, we have done ROI (return on investment) studies where people have gotten their money back in the first year of their cloud investment. And cloud certainly increases the scalability because it allows you to pool underutilized resources and give you much better utilization and therefore much better scale, not to mention the ability to scale outside your data center into a public cloud like IBM SmartCloud.

So, those are the benefits of cloud computing. As for the definition of cloud computing, it is a delivery model that changes the way you deliver and consume IT services. It incorporates the properties of elasticity, the properties of self-service, the property of measured service or “pay as you go pricing” as some like to call it.

Along with ubiquitous access through Internet technology, it’s this combination of concepts that together form the model — the delivery model — the IT delivery model to be specific, that we call cloud computing.

Vasfi Gucer: This question is not asked very often, because people usually only talk about the benefits, but do you see any risks for companies moving their businesses into cloud. If you do, what is IBM doing to help customers avoid or mitigate these risks?

Ric Telford: Good question, as this also touches on a key part of our strategy. IBM has been focused on understanding the inhibitors that are preventing clients from moving to cloud.

Some of these inhibitors are security and data privacy, availability, and performance. Service level agreements (SLAs) are part of that, and integration of data between the data center and public cloud services.

So, what we have done at IBM is to focus on those inhibitors and then build solutions that overcome them. If you look at a number of our cloud announcements recently, you know we highlight what we’re doing about securing the cloud and what we’re doing about providing higher SLAs than most companies.

We acquired a company, Cast Iron, specifically to address the inhibitor of the data integration. And certain process integration issues exist that people face when they move to cloud services. So, addressing those inhibitors, and those potential risks, has been core to our strategy.

Vasfi Gucer: How do you see the cloud marketplace — what is the more preferred cloud model for customers — private, public, or hybrid?

Ric Telford: Today, if you look at current studies for the enterprise, it is private cloud moving to a hybrid model. I haven’t talked to anybody — anybody of any size, large enterprises — who wants to simply move everything out to the public cloud; it’s either going to be a private cloud in the near future or private with some hybrid capabilities.

And, by hybrid, we mean being able to burst out (based on policy or on demand) workloads from inside your firewall to outside to a public cloud service provider like IBM SmartCloud. So, on the enterprise side, it’s private with private going to hybrid; on the small and medium business side, there’s much more interest in public cloud because to have a private cloud you generally are talking about something of scale to get the efficiencies.

And the enterprises want to optimize their IT; the small and medium business would love to get out of the IT business altogether. You know, if you only have 20 employees in your doctor’s office, you’d like to have them all be doctors and nurses and maybe an administrator, but not a full-time IT person.

If you can get your IT service out of the public cloud, that’s much better than tying up your labor force with an IT staff.

About Ric Telford
Ric Telford is Vice President, IBM Cloud Services. Since joining IBM in 1983, he has led several key initiatives at the forefront of new technologies. He served as Director of Technology for the IBM CIO, responsible for the development, implementation and adoption of e-business technologies in IBM. His previous position was VP of Autonomic Computing; he was responsible for defining and driving the Autonomic Computing initiative for IBM.

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