Lenovo’s Paul Walsh: ‘Next year there will be 50 zettabytes of data on the planet’

21 Jun 2019

Paul Walsh. Image: Lenovo

Irishman Paul Walsh is driving an all-encompassing revolution that joins smart devices, data centres and 5G to usher in the future of computing.

As chief digital officer of technology giant Lenovo, Paul Walsh is helping to harness the disruptive technologies fuelling the intelligent transformation that will shape the company’s customer experience for the next decade.

Specifically, Walsh is focused on driving improvements to the entire customer experience, from channels and processes to data, operating models and culture. Additionally, Walsh has global responsibility for customer research and insights, customer journey mapping, and driving improvement of company-wide customer engagement and experience.

‘Lenovo has that end-to-end offering that can really deliver this information transformation’

An expert in his field, Walsh has nearly 25 years of experience across a variety of roles in highly respected brands, including Visa, Dell, Amazon and Microsoft. Most recently, he was senior vice-president for platform strategy and innovation at Visa and prior to that he served as the global CIO at Dell.

Can you describe the ‘intelligent transformation’ journey that you are taking Lenovo on?

It is part of a number of major transitions in the company’s recent history. The first was really around moving from being a reseller/distributor of multinational brands in China, and they transformed from that to being the number one PC maker in China.

The second transformation came when Lenovo acquired the IBM PC business and started to think about globalisation, and then became the number one PC company in the world.

The third transformation is what we are in now, intelligent transformation … where we are after acquiring the IBM System X server business and after acquiring Motorola’s handset business. It is really now a big pivot to the future of data and computing. This intelligent transformation is around what happens when devices and data centre infrastructure powered by AI are all working together in harmony to introduce newer system solutions.

What impact will this have on the enterprise?

From the enterprise perspective, it is about revolutionising areas like smart retail, healthcare, smart manufacturing, smart cities. And it is really uniquely a Lenovo opportunity because it is not just about compute; we actually have a role in everything from communications right to the infrastructure in the data centre. The ultimate goal of this is to be able to provide much richer, smarter technology for all.

The vision is around three specific areas. One is around smart internet of things (IoT) – making these devices smarter to be able to tap into the value chain, particularly around manufacturing and services, and providing capabilities that tie around the whole ecosystem. What Lenovo brings to the table is about having both compute and communications, but really launching into new devices and categories that we haven’t seen before. This includes smart home capabilities, from consumer right up into the enterprise.

The second area is really around smart infrastructure. As we think about 5G and what capabilities that brings, 5G is not just enabling the next step in a number of technologies, but what it actually provides us with is this always-on capability, new real-time immersive services. Combine that with computing power, combine that with what we traditionally delivered around the data centre and infrastructure power, and you are now opening up a new world.

The third area is where you take smart IoT and infrastructure, and that’s when you start lighting up, if you will, smarter homes, cities, healthcare and manufacturing.

Strategically, where will this place Lenovo in the overall tech industry?

According to IDC, we are number one in PCs and that has gone extremely well for us. We’ve been growing extremely fast around the mobile business with Motorola, and the data centre group has doubled its revenue in software-defined storage, the fastest-growing player in hyperscale in the market.

Now, we are thinking about the combination of those businesses in a much richer way, being able to deliver a bigger, better, richer customer experience. That’s what this intelligent transformation is all about.

How do you see 5G affecting the future of Lenovo?

I think Lenovo is uniquely positioned to be able to go from communications right through to the data centre. When you think about the majority of companies, they have some of the elements. Lenovo has that end-to-end offering that can really deliver this information transformation.

For me, that was really exciting. You can take from the ubiquity of devices, working across a cloud-based infrastructure offering – having the ability to move between all of that is quite unique.

5G is really the next step change improvement – having all of that in real-time, always-on services where it is generating data. By next year, there will be 50 zettabytes of data on the planet and what we can do is be able to understand that data from all of the devices it comes from.

The vast majority of the data is connected to an IP address. My phone can be talking to my PC, to the data centre; I am able to interact with all the devices in my smart home, car, when I get to work … Being able to analyse that data and then being able to predict what’s going to happen. Think about that within smart manufacturing, think about that within healthcare, within agriculture – there are so many opportunities.

Even at the centre of all of those capabilities, Lenovo’s incubator group is also investing in a lot of start-ups and in entrepreneurs who will drive some of this AI, cloud and big-data opportunity that we’ve been seeing.

The uniqueness of the opportunity is going from handheld to the data centre, and being able to understand all of that data, cleanse it and drive outcomes from it.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years