Mon, Oct 20, 2008 - Page 11 News List

INTERVIEW: IBM is seeking innovation in Taiwan

Mark Wiltse leads the engineering teams at IBM’s Taiwan System and Technology Laboratory and one in Shanghai responsible for delivering software and services to customers. He is also a director of IBM’s Greater China group System x development. ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Elizabeth Tchii talked with Wiltse last Monday

Mark Wiltse, director of IBM’s Greater China Group System x Development, talks during an interview with the Taipei Times last Monday.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times (TT): Explain what a server is to the non-tech savvy readers out there.

Mark Wiltse: Servers help information to flow around the world. As more people get on the Internet, and more people communicate through Google and Yahoo, [these companies] need a lot of computer power. [These companies] have server farms, rolls and rolls of computers, multiples of them. As you surf on the Internet you want it to be pretty quick.

TT: What are your goals and responsibilities as the director of Taiwan System and Technology Laboratory (TSTL)?

Wiltse: As director of the lab, and as the very visible face of IBM here in Taiwan from a development perspective, my job function mirrors more of a general manager’s role than a development director’s role.

[I am] general manager in the sense [that] I do have product delivery responsibility [and] external visibility responsibility. As a senior leader here interfacing to some of the other functions, I communicate regularly with other labs.

[For instance, there are many common building blocks among the labs]. If there’s a certain mechanical chassis between two or three product lines, we communicate frequently to make sure we’re all designing to the same mechanical chassis.

TT: What are your views on the research and development (R&D) environment in Taiwan? Can you contrast that to the environment in the US or in China?

Wiltse: There’s more similarity than differences from a worldwide perspective. Differences [lie only in] what technologies people have started to work on. Worldwide there are more similarities. Math is math. If you take that to an extreme, it’s engineering, it’s all the same. The logical thinking and the rigor is [all] the same.

TT: You mentioned previously that TSTL is “not merely a remake of the US experience.” Can you elaborate on that?

Wiltse: TSTL is not merely a remake of the US experience. We’re new; people have only been here [for] four years. Most of the labs in the US have been around for 30 to 35 years. They take on a certain mature personality; they have a lot of experts because we have been innovating for that long in those places.

First, TSTL is more of a partnership environment that our US colleagues, so that has generated an interesting development model. Secondly, being younger in general [makes a difference]— our average age [here] is a little bit younger. Thirdly, from a responsibility perspective, we are able to provide opportunities to people earlier in their careers. And, lastly, there’s a certain eagerness [at TSTL for engineers] to try things when you have fresh energy and fresh people.

TT: TSTL can be very discrete sometimes. Why is that?

Wiltse: We are secretive not to be evil, but because we are working on unannounced products. Many of those programs we are designing, we are trying to make better than our competitors. The more that I can keep hidden until I announce it, [the more] I can be in a better position.

TT: Who are your competitors? Do you look at each other’s products when designing your own?

Wiltse: Dell and HP are the big two for us. We watch them on multiple elements: cost, performance, design and ease of use. We do not copy them and they don’t copy us because each of these companies has a different focus from a customer perspective. We all have different personalities.

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