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December 9, 2019

Five Questions with… Teradata CTO Stephen Brobst

"... in the end it was a dead chip"

By CBR Staff Writer

Every Monday morning we fire five questions at a leading C-suite figure in the business technology sector. Today we’re pleased to be joined by Stephen Brobst, CTO of data warehousing and analytics firm Teradata.

Stephen – What’s the biggest challenge for your clients?

Many of our customers are in the midst of making the transition from on-premises deployment of solutions to a cloud first strategy.

stephen brobstHelping customers understand the advantages of cloud deployment and working with them to develop transition plans for deploying Teradata Vantage in the cloud is a very popular topic in my recent customer interactions.

We have a special cloud team specifically formed to help our customers move into cloud deployment and we are seeing an acceleration of this activity.

Customers like the agility and consumption-based pricing models available in the cloud, and are starting to realise that the cloud is actually “safer” for their data than in their own data centers. They are also better understanding the data gravity issue and how that impacts the economics of cloud deployment.

Technology that excites you most?

Deep learning technology has huge implications across many applications and many industries. Although the mathematical theory for multi-layer neural networks has been around for many decades, the practical use of this technique at enterprise scale has only recently become feasible through advances in both algorithms and hardware.

I believe that we are still in the beginnings of understanding the full implications of the predictive power of deep learning and the importance of unsupervised and transfer learning techniques.

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Greatest success?

Being part of the team that took Teradata technology from fragmented and unprofitable corners within NCR into a stand-alone, profitable, and growing company that eventually had a very successful IPO on the NYSE and has held the leadership quadrant in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for 20 years.

Worst failure?

A number of years ago, Intel had a joint venture with Hewlett-Packard Company to develop a new chip architecture called Itanium.

I will take partial credit (or should I say discredit) for the investments Teradata made in porting our software onto this new chip architecture. It was supposed to be the next generation and take over the world in processing architectures and so on. In the end, it was dead on arrival.

They had schedule delays, there were a lot of issues between HP and Intel, and in the end it was a dead chip. We wasted a lot of money porting our software onto Itanium.  Luckily, we recovered pretty quickly and diverted those resources once it became clear this technology wasn’t going to go anywhere. But we clearly got diverted by this Itanium chip, which was not such a good decision and I will certainly take part of the blame for that decision

In another life I’d be…

A professional DJ

See also: Five Questions with… Druva CEO Jaspreet Singh

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