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2015 IBM Fellows

Michael Factor

Michael Factor

IBM Research
CTO, Cloud Storage Services

At seven years old, Michael Factor was already thinking like an entrepreneur and coming up with ideas on how to make things work more smoothly. He used the summers spent with his family on Fire Island in the US – a resort with no cars allowed – to meet the ferry boat with his small blue wagon. Armed with an alert attitude and loads of determination, Michael would help vacationers by toting their luggage from the ferry to their cottage, for 25 cents a bag.

“Be passionate, be energetic, and always ask how can we make it better?” This is the advice that Michael, a newly named IBM Fellow, lives by.

A native of New York City, Michael studied at Union College and then got his masters and PhD at Yale. He moved to Israel in 1991 to work at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa, Israel. It’s been a while since his days on Fire Island, but Michael is still hard at work helping ease the load when it comes to stored objects.

Michael is IBM’s foremost expert in cloud storage and has been shaping the company’s vision, strategy, architecture, and storage support for emerging cloud solutions. He pioneered and led IBM's OpenStack storage efforts, guided its roadmap for object storage, and is steering advanced technology work such as a software-defined smart storage platform called storlets.

With his tenure at IBM coming up on a quarter century, Michael feels lucky to enjoy the distinctive aspects of his work, “especially working with remarkable people who have fresh ideas and get you thinking about things in different ways.”

For him, being part of IBM Research means the ability to look across IBM holistically at technical challenges and problems, and acquire a unique perspective on how to address them. That was how he and his colleagues came up with the idea for storlets, in an effort to uncover new ways of improving object storage, and making the cloud more accessible for businesses.

Be passionate, be energetic, and always ask: how can we make something better?

Michael is intrigued by the ongoing trend to deliver more and more solutions via shared cloud infrastructures.

“It’s changing economies of scale, and changing the way developers interact with the infrastructure and build applications. It’s also transforming the consumption model and many aspects of IT. This has implications on the lower level of storage and systems where I personally work. I hope to see us get to the point where we help businesses meet their needs by delivering almost everything via the cloud.”

Beyond serving as IBM’s leading expert on cloud storage, Michael has driven IBM to fully recognize the importance of cloud storage as the foundation for its Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social, and Security strategy.

He knew that integrated clouds – done at a massive scale – could support these growing "CAMSS" technologies and provide new opportunities for IBM. To address these opportunities, Michael sought out colleagues across IBM and established an immediate and long term vision for the company for storing data in the cloud.

“We’re in an era where technology is evolving so fast, that even looking a year into the future sometimes seems impractical. I see my role as helping drive IBM to realize its full potential as a leader in cloud technology, merging between traditional enterprises with more cloud enablement and the new engines of growth. It’s all about bridging new innovations with new cloud workloads.”

Michael Factor in his own words...

What was the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t try to do everything – try to focus. This advice was from Julian Satran, my first manager at IBM and long-time colleague.

What was the last book you read?

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage. The book explains how food impacted world history, and does a great job of combining topics I find fascinating: history, food, and people. For example, it explains what drove the search for spices, and even how spices brought the Black Plague to Europe.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My best ideas come from interactions with colleagues – when we're playing off one another's strengths.

What do you like to do away from work?

I always look for more time to spend with my children and perhaps do some cooking.

What does it mean to be named an IBM Fellow?

For me, it’s a great sense of pride and the realization that the only way this happens is because of the great team I work with.


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