For many of us who’ve been at IBM a while, the culture goes deep. It’s a culture of intelligence, respect, professionalism, and inclusion. And as an outgrowth of those things, it’s also a culture of generosity and altruism. Srini Bhagavan has spent over 20 years at IBM, absorbing that culture. I like to think it’s part of why he’s now pursuing a PhD in computer science and bioinformatics, with the deliberate aim of saving lives.
We sat down to talk at our lab in Leawood, Kansas where Srini is a Senior Technical Staff Member (STSM) overseeing Cloud Data Services.
You’ve had a fascinating journey. Can you give me a summary of your history and career?
After my master's degree, I started at IBM on Informix, doing platform engineering for about five years. Then I went to Sprint for five years as the Chief Architect on Sprint PCS where we built cool stuff with Enterprise Java Technology and turned the whole web platform into a channel. I came back to IBM in 2003 and I’ve worked all over. I was an engine architect for Informix, worked on open source drivers and frameworks, Data Studio, Eclipse development, appliances, and for the last several years on cloud.
What’s your specific work on cloud?
Day 1 of Bluemix release, we rolled out SQLDB (Db2 SaaS offering) and we had tens of thousands of subscriptions, which taught us fast how to build a SaaS architecture from start to finish and operate it efficiently. With Watson Data Platform, we created an entire ecosystem around devops automation that eventually morphed into adopting the next generation technology when microservices and containers came into existence with Kubernetes. I lead a team that builds the kubernetes infrastructure layer addressing the needs of data services to integrate with Armada, IBM public cloud container platform. We also deploy these clusters and manage the data plane.
I'm also working on HDMP, which is the Hybrid Data Management Platform. It’s about the ability for customers to move their entitlement from one product to another so they don’t risk paying for shelfware that doesn't really fit their needs or maybe they’ve grown into something else. So, they purchase in Flex Points currency to apply to any of the offerings. Right now, we have four cloud offerings and three on-prem, but we want to extend that to all of Analytics and then grow the digital side of the business. It has tremendous potential to leverage across all Analytics offerings and any offering in IBM really.
And of course it brings a critical skill set in the picture. You and your team can help on the ICP for Data platform since you’re essentially filling the gaps between DashDB and the public cloud.
Absolutely. The skill set we have right now with Kubernetes and with working with all the different SaaS offerings is really the critical mass that we need for ICP for Data. Kubernetes has become an operating system of sorts.
Where you think the platform is going next?
The next set of challenges are about availability across multi-zoneand multi-region. I also see us playing a role in other cloud providers’ infrastructure because we absolutely want to be able to make sure our services are available wherever our clients want their data to be. For that, our foundation on Kubernetes is key. It gives us a common language.
Let me switch gears. Other than work, what do you do?
I run long distances, a lot of half marathons. My goal is to run a half in every state. I’ve done about seven or eight states now. Eventually, I want to a full marathon, but we'll see.
I am also enrolled in school. Last year, I started working on an interdisciplinary PhD in Computer Science and Medical Bioinformatics. I lost my dad to Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) , similar to what Senator John McCain had, and my mom, the strongest person I know is also a long-time cancer survivor, so it’s a very personal journey for me.
What’s the specific focus?
Computer science is my primary and at the moment I’m working on using big data and blockchain to power intrusion detection mechanisms. My advisor is part of an Air Force research lab and we’re asking how you can prove the accuracy of certain intelligence data and intrusion detection, for example. With big data and multi-tenanted systems, it’s not easy to establish the pedigree for data so we’re looking for ways to do that to make accurate decisions in potentially tense situations.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Cancer Moonshotinitiative that our former V.P. Joe Biden kicked off in 2016. In particular, I’m curious about patients who need to travel long distances for clinical trials and have to be away from home for weeks on end. The question becomes: Can you bring the treatment to the patient? — but for that to be worthwhile, you need better data about what works and what doesn’t. Well, it turns out that there’s already a whole bunch of data, including genomics data, treatment data, data owned by hospitals, data at the National Cancer Institute, and so on. The problem is they don’t share it in a manner for it to be effective, partly because we don’t have good ways to track who contributed which data, and people need to be able to take some kind of credit if their work pays off. So, problems such as this inspire me to look at algorithms that could be potentially be built to not only share that information, but also to know exactly where it came from. If we solve even a part of that problem, it could potentially mean billions of dollars of aggregated research data that can target and expedite specific treatments and eventual cures. How cool is that!
I love your passion and your drive on this, and I’m inspired to see you giving back to society. I see this over and over at IBM, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I really do think there’s something about IBM that inspires big ideas and working for the good. Thanks for taking the time.
It was a pleasure.
Home Town: Bangalore, India
Currently Working on These Projects: SaaS offerings in IBM public cloud and container-based infrastructure for Cloud Services.
Most Favorite Eating Joint: Brahmin’s Coffee Bar, Bangalore
I am One with Nature Trekking at: Muir woods, Mount Tamalpais
Currently Reading: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Malgudi Days by R.K Narayan
Five Favorite Half-Marathons:
Hospital Hill, MO
Shamrock Virginia Beach, VA
Rock the Parkway, MO
Kansas City Marathon
Lincoln Marathon, NE
Dinesh Nirmal – Vice President, IBM Analytics Development
Follow me on Twitter: @dineshknirmal