Interview: Hank Skorny Leads Intel Services Push - 'Don’t Skate Too Far Ahead Of The Puck'
Intel is building up its services operation with Hank Skorny, GM (above).
Hank Skorny, a 25-year veteran of the software and mobile services industry, knows well the challenge of escalating expectations. He joined Intel in 2011 and leads the company’s growing services business.
As an industry veteran, how have you seen software development change?
It used to be when you developed software, you developed one monolithic code base and you put it through a big compiler and came out with a piece of software you’d publish on a CD-ROM. That world no longer exists.
The way you develop software today is by developers and IT departments in effect creating software components they deploy throughout the cloud that are linked together by APIs. Each of these APIs/components does something for them. Some of these capabilities can even be open source combined with proprietary that allow you to deliver solutions much faster than you were able to in the past.
For example, today you may have a tablet, an MRI, a railroad car or shipping container, and software developers can use various software components to create solutions that solve problems across all these devices. The challenge today is that connecting all of these components requires unique APIs and SDKs across every platform and every service.
Given those changes, what are the opportunities for Intel services?
First, Intel as a longtime leader in cross-platform solutions is in a strong position to be a unifying force in the delivery of cloud services. Second, our platforms across data center, PC, embedded systems (Internet of Things), and security, along with a growing presence in mobile and tablet, enable us to deliver solutions that reach down into the hardware. Of course, we need to support all hardware and OS to address the needs of the entire market.
However, there is significant value we can deliver when our software and services ride on top of Intel architecture. In today’s world, only a small piece of code runs on your device. Most of it runs up in the cloud. So if you’re going to try to differentiate your hardware, you need to be able to get that differentiation from the PC up into the cloud.
Web services are what is going to allow Intel to move across all these different devices. If software developers are going to use these APIs and web services, they are not going to use ours if they can’t talk to other devices. The goal is for us to make a successful cloud platform that can talk to any device but is optimized as best we can when Intel is present.
How big is the services opportunity?
When you look across these cloud services, such as network and data center services, big data, location-based services, security, commerce, all the segments, it is certainly in the hundreds of billions.
How is Intel approaching network products and services?
Managing the language APIs that web services in the enterprise, ISVs and network providers use to build their applications is a key step to doing what we want to achieve. These APIs put us at the hub of the way that software, services and hardware speak to one another.
With our acquisitions of Mashery and Aepona, we really want to make a big play into API management and integration services, commerce services and location-based services, because we see that they, like security, can deliver some groundbreaking and life-changing computing capabilities.
When you can get to the point where an enterprise can track every one of its objects everywhere, develop software solutions and improve the delivery of goods and services based on these capabilities, the efficiency and solutions you can offer are just amazing.
What’s an example of how location-based services could be implemented?
Imagine if you are able to take a defibrillator off the wall and the second it activates, it automatically reports its location and is securely connected and identified on the network through APIs. It guides the emergency services straight to the hospital, monitors the patient, uploads the information to the hospital and ensures the hospital has the equipment it needs to treat the patient.
Being able to ensure from the point the defibrillator is pulled off the wall that the proper equipment is in the specialized stroke victim center, or allowing the ambulance driver to determine which hospital has an open room and which one does not — that’s pretty cool.
You are talking about situations for someone such as a stroke victim where minutes mean the difference between life and death, or the difference between a permanently impaired life and a normal, productive life.
You have had an interesting professional history at companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Adobe. What are the key things you have learned about leadership and innovation in those different environments?
The first thing I learned, back when I was a biochemist [Skorny studied at Drexel University], was don’t do what you are not passionate about doing. That was why I changed careers to software.
Second is this concept of “skate to where the puck is going;” but also, don’t skate too far ahead of the puck.
Look at how many startups fail. And it is funny how you will see two years later another startup that did the exact same thing but succeed in a big way.
And then you will also see big companies that continue to be behind the curve and skate to where the puck was. So I think it is really important for you to constantly track your customer data.
I just consume data to relentlessly understand the market and the customer — the other half of me is the mathematician.
You’re on the move a lot; what technology do you typically take with you?
Now that Ultrabooks are getting thin and light and the power is lasting long enough, I pretty much just carry that and my Android phone. I don’t believe in paper, so I carry no paper in my briefcase at all.