Times of India: December, 2016
Bengaluru: Hyderabad-born Venkata Murthy Renduchintala is seen as the No. 2 at Intel. Brought in late last year from Qualcomm with a whopping $25-million compensation, Murthy is designated president — the only person in the chip maker's executive management team to carry that title. All others, barring CEO Brian Krzanich, are sundry VPs. Murthy's responsibilities include the PC chip business, Intel's biggest, as also internet-of-things, a space that many expect is set to explode. In his first interaction with Indian media, Murthy spoke exclusively with TOI on his mandate to transform Intel. Excerpts:
Very little is known about your background, especially your years in India. Tell us a little about it...
I was born in Hyderabad and all of my family is from Hyderabad. I moved to England when I was three, where I completed my education all the way from university to post-graduation. But up to the age of 16, I spent my summers in Hyderabad or in Eluru (in Andhra). My background is in electrical engineering and I did a PhD in digital communications. I spent my formative years with Philips Electronics and then moved to the US with Philips in 1997. From there, I moved to Qualcomm, and spent 12 years there, moving to being co-president of their semiconductor division. Then I joined Intel at the end of last year to help Brian (CEO) take Intel's transformation to the next stage. So I would describe myself as somebody who is fundamentally Indian by upbringing and values, but has had the privilege to work at a global stage. Through my employment, I've been able to visit India 3-4 times a year over the last decade. I know India very well.
You spoke about the transformation strategy you have been mandated with. Could you elaborate?
We are very strong in the PC and the data centre spaces. But as we look at the future opportunities for Intel, they require a much greater assimilation of the total skill set of Intel. For example, if you look at internet-of-things, at its grandest scale, while a lot of emphasis is placed on the client environment (end devices), we always talk about everything becoming interconnected and being able to share information. That communication needs to be supported by an underlying network and data centre infrastructure. So, Intel, I think, is uniquely positioned in being able to play not only in the client space — providing compute capability, connectivity and application diversity be it in connected sensors, robotics, drones, connected cars, vehicle telematics — but also in providing the network infrastructure and data analytics in the data centre, thereby providing end-to-end capabilities in IoT.
So what would be the newer spaces you move into?
We're taking our data centre technology — high-performance CPU, data distribution, storage, network within the data centre — into the fabric of the network. The new cases we are seeing are generating such vast amounts of data that the technology that used to live within the data centre needs to be integrated into the fabric of the network because of the ever increasing demands for data bandwidth and lower latencies.
A classic scenario is autonomous vehicles. Unlike a smartphone device, which could take 2-3 seconds to establish a call, there's no way you can tolerate a latency of 2-3 seconds if you see a pedestrian or car in front of you in a network that supports autonomous driving, and when all the decisions are made in the cloud. You have to start pushing a lot more data from the remote data centre much closer to the proximity of the client device, which means you now need the same data centre capability pushed to the edge of the cloud. This is playing to the same core skill set that Intel provided in the data centre.
How close are you to building such networks?
They are already in place and it's a case of continuing to grow and push the technical ambition of what those networks can go forward with. As we move towards the era of 5G, the networks will require to be more flexible and extensible in the services they can perform. Let me give you some perspective on that — when you upgrade the software on your smartphone, it gives you new capabilities and greater utility of the handset. Now there's a similar drive to see that same is done in infrastructure. Up till today, network infrastructure has been developed on very specific pieces of silicon, hardware and software to have very specific functions, and when the network has needed to evolve to support new services, it's had to require a fairly major capital intensive hardware upgrade programme. Going forward, there will be a move much more towards a software-defined network. That way, when the network needs to evolve, you have a simple way of moving it forward.
And India is strategically and advantageously positioned in that perspective because it doesn't have the extensive investment in legacy infrastructure that people are still trying to get the return on investment in. India can quickly accelerate to 5G, and the capabilities of 5G is so eloquently aligned with the Prime Minister's Digital India vision in that it's going to be the fabric that drives concepts such as Smart Cities, autonomous navigation, and the ability to distribute data in a manner which allows new use cases and applications to be performed.
To what extent is the India R&D centre part of all these new initiatives?
Intel's been in India for over 20 years, we have probably spent somewhere in the region of $3 billion on R&D in India. This is about an environment that offers us access to highly educated talent in very large numbers. The fact that we are able to conduct all of our discussions in English gives us great geographical timeline diversity and there's a track record of excellent delivery from the organization and I think India will continue to be a very important part of our R&D organization and it will only grow from where it is today. India plays a role in almost all of Intel's portfolios, going from the PC platforms to data centre to IoT to connectivity.