Currently, many organizations use AI systems to provide predictions and recommendations which are then synthesized and processed by humans; over time, AI systems will and should be given ever more direct control; it is this boundary that will need to be managed carefully.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Enzo Greco, Chief Strategy Officer for Nlyte Software. Enzo sets Nlyte’s strategy and direction based on market trends and dynamics, partnerships and adjacent markets. He has deep knowledge of software and the data center market; his current focus is applying analytics overall to critical infrastructure, data center and Hybrid Cloud implementations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been fortunate to have had a rich set of experiences in my career, from research to investment banking, all in the software arena. I started with software research in AT&T Bell Laboratories right out of Stanford University. As luck would have it, I had an opportunity to work on Wall Street right at the beginning of the .com boom, working with several high-tech startups. One of the companies I founded was sold to IBM, where I then worked in strategy for many years. IBM is a great teacher for enterprise software and data centers. I then joined Emerson Electric, a major provider to data centers, as their VP and GM of software; after my division was successfully sold to Private Equity, I had the opportunity to stay in the software and data center market with Nlyte, taking on my current role. As I said, a most interesting career trajectory, and all focused around software and computing environments like data centers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
While at IBM, one of the geographies I focused on was BeNeLux, where I went every few months for more than ten years. While there, I developed a well-known preference for Duvel, one of the great Belgian beers. It just so happened that one of the local IBMers in Belgium was very friendly with the brewmaster at their brewery just outside of Brussels. One evening while in Brussels I was whisked off by two IBMers and taken to the Duvel brewery where I was given a private tour by the brewmaster himself in a closed brewery, followed by several rounds straight from the tap and several Duvel mementos. This is one of those life experiences you never forget.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
Our focus is on data centers and computing environments; most people have some concept of data centers, having seen images of thousands and thousands of servers crammed into a building. The reality is even more interesting. Data centers have become the backbone of our digital lives, from banking to Netflix to everything we do with Google. With this comes ever larger scale and complexity; rather than thousands of servers, modern data centers may have tens or hundreds of thousands of servers. How to manage this? Traditional processes and tools just don’t work, so we have focused on managing these complex environments using both Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Essentially, let the intelligence within the data center help manage and run the data center.
How do you think this might change the world?
We live in a world where a Google outage makes front page news; when Amazon had a technical hiccup during one of their Black Friday events, it materially affected their financial results. Not only are data centers ever more critical to corporations and our daily lives, but they have become conspicuous consumers of energy. Various outlets report data centers use 2–3% of all electricity, and they have a carbon footprint equal to the worldwide aviation industry. Data centers are facing scrutiny on several fronts; our solution may change the world simply by keeping them out of the headlines!
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
The critical issue in many AI systems is the level of control given to automation. As with many technologies, there is an evolution where we become ever more trusting and confident with that technology. Currently, many organizations use AI systems to provide predictions and recommendations which are then synthesized and processed by humans; over time, AI systems will and should be given ever more direct control; it is this boundary that will need to be managed carefully.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The “tipping point” was the ever-increasing scale, complexity and optimization of modern data centers, which forced a natural, new approach, namely AI. Feeding this tipping point was a convergence of several macro trends in the market, namely increasing criticality of data centers, ever larger and more complex facilities (Facebook just announced a $750M facility, and Google is well underway on a $600M facility), increasing sensitivity to energy usage, and increased scrutiny of both capital and operating expenditures. Plus, data centers have “optionality”: for all their complexity and cost, data centers have alternatives: Colocation facilities (think hotels for servers), cloud computing (such as Amazon Web Services) and “everything as a service” (such as Office365) to name a few. All of this is causing a natural inflection point in the market, driving the need for AI.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
In many ways, data centers offer a commoditized service, namely a secure and stable environment for servers and the ultimate applications. There are several benchmarks in the industry which are used as baselines, such as Power Usage Efficiency (how much energy is actually used to run applications rather than the building itself). Inefficient or problematic facilities simply can’t compete with alternatives; once a critical mass of facilities uses AI to become ever more efficient and drive down costs, other facilities must also adopt AI to remain competitive and relevant. There is widespread acceptance that AI will become a de facto technology within data centers within the next five years; numerous analyst firms, from Gartner to Uptime Institute, have published detailed findings on this topic.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We are fortunate that there is significant pent-up demand in our industry for precisely our solution. We have a very talented and effective marketing team in Nlyte that uses traditional channels extensively yet is always investing in new techniques such as self-qualification and rich media. Further, we have built our AI solution with IBM’s Watson portfolio, which has great visibility in the marketplace. Customers have natural interest in AI overall and Watson in particular; we have readily gained significant attention to our solution from the market and customers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Very early in my career, I fortuitously met and started a lifelong collaboration with a very successful, major player in the harsh New York diamond business. I learned the importance of brutal honesty, of leading rather than following the market, and of extreme attention to detail and quality, all of which have served me well both professionally and personally.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My success has allowed me to be very generous to various causes, and it has allowed my wife to liberally invest her time with many organizations. She regularly volunteers at a children’s intensive care hospital, and it is the highlight of her week. I have seen my children develop their own sense of compassion and gratitude; goodness defined.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- The power of compound interest. Didn’t Einstein call it the most powerful force in the universe?
- There is no excuse for poor quality, personally or professionally; quality is a readily discernible trait that can easily paint a person positively or negatively
- Read voraciously, any topic, every medium. It’s the unique connections we make across disciplines that give deeper insight and perhaps a competitive edge
- Try everything in life at least twice, because maybe something went wrong the first time. After twice, if you still don’t like it, you’re forgiven
- Travel far, travel often, travel like a local. Our world truly is becoming ever more interconnected, both socially and in business. Having first-hand experience and empathy of different cultures and customs is immeasurably important as we navigate this ever-smaller global landscape.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Clear communication. Think of how much time we spend trying to decipher what others mean, and how much we get wrong. Communicate clearly, concisely, simply.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everyone you meet in life knows something you don’t.” I always try to listen far more than I speak; it is fascinating what others have already learned, and most are willing to share if you simply ask. I attribute a good deal of my success to applying the wisdom and life experiences of the many people I’ve met in my journeys.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Data centers are a $230 Billion annual market undergoing significant pressures and disruption. Although there are many immediate opportunities to provide value throughout this market, the adjacent market of Workload Asset Management is even more significant and disruptive. Let’s talk.
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Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Thank you for the opportunity. I enjoyed the topics and the discussion very much.