Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Information Utilitarian

Age: 57

Claim to fame: He began his career at IBM in 1970 at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he started technology transfer programs aimed at moving research developments within IBM's labs into its product divisions.

What he's doing now: Responsible for IBM's next-generation Internet and grid computing strategies, IBM Server Group's advanced architectures and technologies, and the strategy and development of the company's Linux initiative.

It may sound a bit self-serving, given IBM's leadership role in utility-based computing, but Irving Wladawsky-Berger says he believes strongly that the hands-off model for allowing companies to pay third-party services firms to host and run high-capacity, ultrasophisticated business and research applications is the wave of the future.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM
Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM
Utility computing "makes available the promise of serious computing capacity and sophisticated computer applications on demand -- just plug into it," says Wladawsky-Berger. The information utility approach "could give [businesses] access to information and applications that they have difficulty reaching today," such as making available to smaller engineering firms complex computer engineering analysis systems used by manufacturing giants such as General Motors Corp. and The Boeing Co., he adds.

Still, Wladawsky-Berger acknowledges that there are several hurdles to overcome before utility-based computing becomes mainstream, including developing the needed infrastructure with "giant server farms" and more reliable bandwidth backbone. Not to mention the cultural changes needed for utility computing to succeed.

"For businesses to feel comfortable doing this, many of them will have to let go," he says. "If you hire a service, you can get access to a lot more skills than you can get yourself at a much lower cost."

Beyond utility computing, Wladawsky-Berger also expects that wireless technology will become more reliable, services will become more ubiquitous, and bandwidth capabilities will increase. These higher-bandwidth capabilities, such as Wi-Fi, will make it possible for companies to roll out new entertainment, educational and health care services to consumers -- "health care that will be far more sophisticated than anything we can conceive of today," he says.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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