IBM is poised to embark on a new chapter in its long history, with CEO Ginni Rometty stepping down to be replaced by the company’s senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software, Arvind Krishna.
At the same time, James 'Jim' Whitehurst, Red Hat CEO and IBM senior vice president, has been elected by the board as the new IBM president, effective April 6, 2020.
The top tier changes mark a new era and direction for Big Blue, which has been in business for over 100 years. With Arvind and Whitehurst at the top, the company’s growing focus on cloud looks set to become its dominant drive going forward.
Krishna was a principal architect of the company's US$34 billion acquisition of Red Hat, a move that quickly resulted in IBM aligning its software with that of its new acquisition.
At the time, IBM said its portfolio would be transformed to work cloud natively and be augmented to run on Red Hat’s OpenShift platform.
"Arvind is the right CEO for the next era at IBM," said Rometty in a statement. "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.
“He is also a superb operational leader, able to win today while building the business of tomorrow. Arvind has grown IBM's cloud and cognitive Software business and led the largest acquisition in the company's history.
“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. He is well positioned to lead IBM and its clients into the cloud and cognitive era,” she added.
Rometty’s praise of Krishna is largely warranted. IBM’s cloud business is one of the few segments that has been growing over the past few years, and it has been growing substantially.
While IBM’s total revenue fell in the third quarter ending September last year, for example, revenue from the company's cloud services, which are driving IBM's pivot away from established businesses including mainframe servers, rose 11 per cent to US$5 billion.
Whitehurst, meanwhile, has made a name for himself over the past decade developing Red Hat into an open source and cloud software dynamo -- a track record that also positions him well to help lead IBM to a future in which cloud is likely to become the dominant feature.
"Jim is also a seasoned leader who has positioned Red Hat as the world's leading provider of open source enterprise IT software solutions and services, and has been quickly expanding the reach and benefit of that technology to an even wider audience as part of IBM," said. "In Arvind and Jim, the board has elected a proven technical and business-savvy leadership team."
Rometty, who has been at the helm as CEO, president and chairman since 2012, will continue as executive chairman of the board and serve through the end of the year, when she will retire after almost 40 years with the company.