Big Blue is looking more purple, as Arvind Krishna takes over as CEO, replacing Ginni Rometty. Krishna headed up IBM's $34 billion Red Hat acquisition last year and is currently senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software.
Krishna takes over the CEO job April 6. Rometty, who took over as CEO in 2012, will continue as executive chairman of the board and serve through the end of the year, after almost 40 years with IBM.
Jim Whitehurst, formerly CEO of the independent Red Hat, will serve as president of IBM, also effective April 6. He is now senior vice president and CEO of Red Hat, now a business unit of IBM.
"[Krishna] is a brilliant technologist who has played a significant role in developing our key technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, quantum computing and blockchain," Rometty said in a statement. She also praised his operational skills.
The transition means that IBM leadership will be shared by Krishna, an insider, and Whitehurst, who brings outside perspective, having come to the company recently.
Rometty tried, only partly successfully, to transition IBM from on-premises computing -- epitomized by IBM's mainframes -- to the cloud, cognitive computing and other emerging technologies. With the Red Hat acquisition, the largest in the company's history, IBM is positioned as a multi-cloud provider, helping enterprises build infrastructures spanning the public cloud platforms, IBM's own cloud, and private cloud, including IBM's own hardware and software. Red Hat also boosted IBM's open source contributions and culture.
IBM's revenue has been faltering in recent years, but it did report a modest increase at $21.78 billion earlier this month, largely due to Red Hat revenue which exceeded $1 billion in the fourth quarter, up 24% year-over-year.
IBM watchers responded quickly to the news on Twitter:
Why not Watson? Thought he could do everything. https://t.co/b2teJ7mJAl— Barbarian Capital (@BarbarianCap) January 30, 2020
IBM press releases plays up Arvind Krishna's background as a technologist. One of the rank-and-file grumbles about Rometty was that she came from the consulting side of the business— Gerrit De Vynck (@GerritD) January 30, 2020
Jim Whitehurst (former Red Hat CEO which IBM bought in 2018) will be president. There was speculation that he could get the CEO job if Rometty were to finally leave— Gerrit De Vynck (@GerritD) January 30, 2020
Arvind Krishna is an IBM vet, and currently runs the company’s cloud business. He’s a techie. This mirrors Satya Nadella’s rise to CEO at Microsoft https://t.co/DdAUtSNEOc— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) January 30, 2020
IBM hasn't been big in the telco and service provider business, but it's had a couple of significant deals relatively recently.
IBM announced a deal in July with AT&T Business, the arm of AT&T Communications that provides services to enterprises and small and midsized businesses. In the deal, AT&T will use Red Hat Enterprise Linux and OpenShift to manage Kubernetes containerized workloads for applications serving enterprise customers. Later that week, AT&T Communications as a whole announced a cloud deal with Microsoft.
And IBM and Vodafone struck a $550 million cloud deal, announced in January 2019, to provide European enterprises with cloud and networking services.
IBM also did a multi-million dollar deal last year with Vodafone Idea in India to improve customer experience for that telco's retail and business customers. Additionally, Vodafone Idea is using Red Hat technology to link more than 100 data centers in a sweeping "universal cloud" based on OpenStack.
For more background on IBM's recent service provider history, see these articles:
- IBM CEO Rometty Steps Down, Cloud Boss Arvind Krishna Named New Chief
- Vodafone Idea Hires Red Hat for 5G 'Universal Cloud'
- Avaya Goes Global With IBM Cloud
- It's Groundhog Day! Explaining AT&T's Microsoft & IBM Deals
- AT&T & IBM Strike Major Cloud, Networking Alliance
- IBM: We Won't 'Bluewash' Red Hat
- IBM Builds Telco Muscle With $34B Red Hat Acquisition
- Why Vodafone Idea Sought IBM's Help
- India's Vodafone Idea Taps IBM & Ericsson for Cloud
- Vodafone & IBM Spurn 'Clunky Handoffs' for Enterprise Partnership
- IBM, Vodafone Strike $550M Cloud Deal