Pioneers of Possible: Building a network for the cloud with Archana Vemulapalli

By | 2 minute read | March 23, 2019

What do smart trash cans, schools and multicloud infrastructures have in common?

They all need networks to function. In this episode of the Pioneers of Possible podcast series, General Manager of IBM Network Services Archana Vemulapalli  (former chief technology officer of Washington DC), talks about how network services are the backbone for many enterprise solutions.

What experiences have shaped your perspective on how clients pursue digital transformation?

The biggest one, having worked in many industries and across business sizes, was understanding the business drivers of an organization. It comes down to solving problems that are usually non-technical; when you figure out how to use technology right, you have the most impact on an organization. That’s what inspires me.

As a CTO in the public sector, what technology applications did you find impacted society?

We did an extensive amount of smart city work. DC is one of the leading cities in the world. We pulled in people with different functional expertise that were not technical and said, “Let’s make technology the common backbone and implement things.” An example is how we looked at improving city trash services. We deployed about 400 smart sensors across trash cans on different routes. We realized a few things: One, we can plan logistics; and two, we learned a lot about dumping patterns (reactive data) and proactively were able to change behaviors.

It’s not a technical problem at all — it’s a societal problem, but we used technology to facilitate the discussion and get network management data points.

What role did the network play in the smart trash can initiative?

The network is key. We’re applying sensors, and there is an inherent bandwidth expectation. You’re scaling end points that access the network and are configurable, reachable, programmable. The capacity you need has to be tremendous, so the first thing we did was invest in our infrastructure. We went from being a 100-gig capable core to a 100-gig core, which is huge for a city. Then we used that to scale investments.

Within 18 months, we started improving all of our school speeds as well. When I left my role, 80% of schools had gigabit speeds, and they’re on track to finish. The bandwidth for all the sensors deployed also helped schools, so I think if you’re strategic about how you invest there’s a lot you can get out of it.

IBM Network Services team talks about the network being essential. What does that mean in the context of business and technology transformation?

Well, it’s actually as simple as that. When we talk about any technology infrastructure, it’s compute, storage and network, and you can’t deliver network services without it. If you don’t have a network, you’re not getting anywhere. A well designed network will help you achieve all of those business outcomes you want. When we talk about transformation and a multicloud environment, your traditional network has to now be redesigned to manage a multicloud environment.

Listen to Archana’s full story here.


Pioneers of Possible is an IBM original podcast series dedicated to learning more about technologists, innovators and business leaders. Each episode highlights how leaders pioneer new technology solutions in their respective fields.




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