The public face of tech industry giant IBM is about to change, with the announcement that Virginia Rometty will be succeeded as IBM CEO by Arvind Krishna as of April 6. Rometty--who had been CEO since 2012, and led IBM during a period of financial decline--has decided to step away from the role to become executive chairman before retiring by the end of the year. Compared to the highly prominent Rometty, Krishna, who is IBM's senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software, is far less known in the tech industry. But Rometty said that the longtime IBM executive brings both technological and operational know-how, and "is the right CEO for the next era at IBM."
What follows are five big things to know about IBM's new CEO, Arvind Krishna.
Krishna has nearly three decades under his belt at IBM, having come aboard at the end of 1990.
His roles have spanned from working on the Watson research team to serving as general manager and senior vice president of numerous businesses within the past decade.
Krishna "thinks and executes squarely at the intersection of business and technology," said Alex Gorsky, chairman of the IBM board's executive compensation and management resources committee, in the news release announcing the CEO succession.
"Through his multiple experiences running businesses in IBM, Arvind has built an outstanding track record of bold transformations and proven business results, and is an authentic, values-driven leader," Rometty said in the release.
Krishna has served as IBM's senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software for the past year, having assumed the role in January 2019, according to his LinkedIn. His oversight includes the IBM Cloud platform, as well as the IBM Security division and Cognitive Applications business. In the news release, Rometty cited growth in IBM's cloud and cognitive software business as one of Krishna's major accomplishments. In the company's fourth quarter of 2019, cloud and cognitive software revenue grew by 9 percent, year-over-year, the company reported earlier this month.
Additionally, Krishna oversees IBM Research, the company's research lab, which includes 3,000 researchers spanning 12 labs on six continents, according to IBM's website.
Krishna's career at IBM has included a major focus on artificial intelligence--which has long been involved in, starting with his early involvement with the Watson AI system up through to his oversight of IBM's cognitive software unit. Emerging technologies, in general, are a specialty for Krishna and something he's had a direct hand in, according to Rometty. "He 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 the announcement of his appointment.
A year ago, for instance, Krishna was quoted in an IBM news release touting the IBM Q System One quantum computing system. "This new system is critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science," he said at the time.
IBM is crediting Krishna with being the "principal architect" of the company's Red Hat acquisition. The US$34 billion acquisition of open-source software vendor, which was completed in July 2019, was IBM's largest acquisition yet in its long history. Suggesting that capitalizing on the Red Hat acquisition will be a major emphasis of his tenure as CEO, Krishna said in IBM's news release that he is "looking forward to working with IBMers, Red Hatters and clients around the world at this unique time of fast-paced change in the IT industry." In tandem with the announcement of Krishna as the next IBM CEO, the company announced that James Whitehurst, Red Hat CEO and IBM senior vice president, will assume the role of IBM President as of April 6.
Krishna, 57, holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
Before taking over his current role heading IBM's cloud and cognitive software business, he had served as senior vice president of hybrid cloud at IBM for two years. Earlier executive roles included serving as general manager of the development and manufacturing organization within IBM's systems and technology group. Along with boasting technical knowledge, Krishna "is also a superb operational leader, able to win today while building the business of tomorrow," Rometty said in the IBM news release.