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Intel's CTO: 'We're not going to fail'

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: Intel CTO Greg Lavender on regaining mojo and pushing software, a historic quarter for cloud infrastructure companies and a look at the week ahead in enterprise tech.

Spin up

Only 22% of Microsoft’s Active Directory customers are using two-factor authentication to secure their networks, according to the company. Given the spread of ransomware and the growing realization that two-factor login tools can prevent a lot of those problems, that’s not good.

Intel’s mojo … rising?

Roughly a year after Intel installed CEO Pat Gelsinger to lead the company’s turnaround, it still has a lot to prove.

Gelsinger has vowed to regain Intel’s manufacturing leadership, and part of the strategy involves massive capital investments in new factories in Ohio, Arizona and Europe that are taking a toll on profits. Another equally important task Gelsinger embarked on as part of his effort to reinvigorate the Silicon Valley giant was remaking the company’s executive leadership, bringing on former VMware executive Greg Lavender as CTO.

In a recent conversation with Protocol, Lavender talked about how he and Gelsinger are redefining the CTO role, the strategy behind Intel’s software efforts and how he approaches managing the thousands of technologists he is responsible for leading.

Can you tell us a bit about your role as the CTO of a semiconductor company?

Pat gave me two jobs. I’ve got Intel Labs and a bunch of advanced technology development going on. I created a security group pulling together 1,000 security architects, firmware engineers — systems people — to take a hard, hard run at confidential computing. And then I collected another 5,000 software engineers across the company into the Software [and] Advanced Technology Group, which is everything from BIOS to firmware to compilers, operating systems.

Why did Pat ask you to join Intel? And why did you take the job?

Pat just said, “You’re the right person, at the right time, for this job.” I had to let that sink in a bit. I have great respect for Pat; I’ve known him for 15 years, since I was at Sun and he was CTO of Intel. Think about it: The first CTO of Intel asked me to be his CTO. It’s a real privilege, I felt very flattered by the opportunity. He and I have not failed yet, and we’re not going to fail at Intel. We’re going to make it great.

What’s your plan to help with Intel’s turnaround? What can the CTO do?

Let me give you some context. The Intel Developer Forum was the premier technical geek-out event. It was the place that all of the coolest technology from Intel, and all of their customers, would end up. And it’s like, Intel somehow lost that mojo. So for me, when I came into the door, I wondered: How do we get that mojo back?

I’m trying to create a pull function for software. Right now we push a bunch of software: “Here it is, here it is, hope you use it.” But you’ve got to be in the ecosystems, because for low-code/no-code developers it’s about productivity. They assume the performance will be there by the cloud vendor, or whoever is writing the infrastructure.

As a relatively new person at Intel, where staffers can stick around for 10, 15, 20 years, how do you think about running the CTO’s office? Do you have a chief of staff, for example?

I’ve never liked the term chief of staff, because I don’t want some police officer guarding my door. I like to be accessible, and in fact, my staff thinks I’m a little bit too accessible. As a new leader, it’s important to me that people understand who I am, how I communicate.

I want to spend at least 65% of my day, if not more, with the technologists. And the other 25% to 30% of my day, I’m dealing with finance and lawyers. I mean, that’s just part of modern business, right? My philosophy is that if the “tax” on my time is more than 25%, then I’m going to put more structures in place in order to deal with it so it consumes less.

As a computer scientist and not a chip engineer by background, how do you tackle some of the decision-making around the technical complexities of semiconductors?

I’m not an engineer by background. I find it fascinating, the material science level. I studied physics in undergrad, so I sort of had to dust off my old textbooks, get the latest editions, to go read more on semiconductor physics. I ask all the right questions because I have a lot of experience. As a professor for 14 years at the University of Texas at Austin, I supervised lots of undergrads, master’s and Ph.D. students, so I’m big on educating people.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM DATAIKU

Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and doers, enabling anyone to transform data into real business results — from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so much, but there's no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it's just data.

Learn more

Looks like this cloud thing is going to be big

Now that the Big Three cloud companies have all reported earnings, Canalys released market share data Friday that shows cloud computing hit a milestone during the fourth quarter.

Companies around the world spent $53.5 billion on cloud infrastructure services in the fourth quarter of 2021, the first time that figure has come in above $50 billion. That’s a 34% increase compared to the same period in 2020, a point in time during which it became very clear the pandemic was going to stick around for a while.

AWS, Microsoft and Google accounted for 64% of global spending on cloud infrastructure and platform services, and pretty much held the same market-share positions they’ve had for the last several years. One interesting tidbit: Canalys estimated that the infrastructure division of Google Cloud, which includes its Workspace productivity software suite in its overall financial reporting, grew 63%, which was significantly faster than AWS and Microsoft Azure.

— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)

Coming next week

Don’t miss Protocol’s CIO event next Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT. Protocol’s Tom Krazit will discuss the changing role of the CIO with four amazing IT leaders: Rob Carter, CIO, FedEx; Chris Bedi, CIO, ServiceNow; Sheila Jordan, Chief Digital Technology Officer, Honeywell; and Vittorio Cretella, CIO Procter & Gamble. RSVP here.

More earnings calls are ahead next week, with Cloudflare, GlobalFoundries, Twilio and others sharing results from last quarter:

GlobalFoundries will share fourth-quarter results on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. PT.

Nuance will present financial results on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. PT.

Twilio will announce fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. PT.

Datadog will present earnings on Thursday at 5:00 a.m. PT.

Cloudflare will announce earnings on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. PT.

Around the enterprise

AWS will plow some of the proceeds from its big fourth-quarter revenue jump into more computing capacity, CFO Brian Olsavsky said on its earnings call, also noting that about 40% of the overall company’s capital expenditures go toward “feeding AWS.”

It's not clear whether Google Cloud will get back to in-person conferences this October after two years of holding virtual cloud conferences thanks to the pandemic.

A MESSAGE FROM DATAIKU

Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and doers, enabling anyone to transform data into real business results — from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so much, but there's no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it's just data.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Monday!

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