IT Life: Do You Want Chips With That?


AMD’s EMEA head Darren Grasby talks about his career in IT, excitement for VR and why he’s firmly on the fence about cloud

Darren Grasby is the EMEA general manager of AMD, the world’s second largest supplier of x86 chips after Intel and one of the major players in the GPU market. Grasby has spent a quarter of a centurey in the IT industry – sufficient time to foster admiration for Steve Jobs and Lenovo, but not enough to formulate a definitive opinion on the cloud.

Tell us about your company, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?

AMD HQFor those that don’t know AMD well, we design and integrate technology that powers millions of intelligent devices, including personal computers, tablets, game consoles and cloud servers.  AMD solutions enable people everywhere to realize the full potential of their favourite devices and applications to push the boundaries of what is possible.

On a personal level, I entered the IT industry 25 years ago. Over the course of my career, I have specialised in running global distribution channels, although much of my early years were spent working in the graphics industry. I’ve also focused on running multi-country regions, and managing large and diverse organisations, not to mention P&L management.

What motivates you right now?

The pace of the industry is one of my biggest motivational factors, especially in the last three to five years. It keeps me on my toes and staying ahead of the curve is my main motivation.

What has been your favourite project so far?

My favourite has to be breaking the typical Moore’s Law rational CPU way of thinking, and driving APUs (a CPU and GPU on the same piece of silicon) across the broader markets, with AMD.

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?

Ten years ago I was already heavily involved in the semiconductor industry, working with ATI – which later merged with AMD to provide the graphics technology that makes AMD the company it is today. The graphics industry is a fascinating one and I’m proud to say that AMD currently holds the title for the world’s fastest graphics card! Quite an achievement.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?

oculusrift2Although Virtual Reality is in a nascent stage, I believe the experience is going to be incredible as it becomes part of day-to-day life. We often associate VR only with gamers, but if we think about VR from a business perspective, for example ‘virtual tourism’, where you could research your next holiday destination from the comfort of your own living room before booking it – I think it’s going to be huge.

Who’s your tech hero?

Steve Jobs. What he created and accomplished with Apple is no easy feat. Ultimately, he framed the path for Apple and its journey has been formidable.

Who’s your tech villain?

My tech villain is lack of competition in the IT industry, just like in any other industry. The promise of open, competitive markets is what inspires innovators to push past the boundaries of what is possible to create new realities. Today’s changing technology markets and revolutionary products mean consumers have more choice and more freedom to purchase the best products for their needs at competitive prices

What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?

We all use our smartphones, and I use this the most. But my favourite technology? That has to be the level of broad connectivity now available. Think back five years ago – you wouldn’t be able to connect to Wi-Fi on a train, or be able to connect to an Aeroplane’s Wi-Fi at 35,000ft. The level of connectivity has expanded at an inconceivable rate – and people forget just how fast this has happened over the past few years.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?

The greatest challenge in the IT industry is the pace of change and being able keep up with end users’ needs and demands.  This, coupled with the economic issues we have seen around the world, have created huge challenges for our industry.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?

Ashton-Kutcher-Lenovo-©-Getty-Images-for-LenovoLenovo. The company has evolved from a local Chinese PC brand to become the world’s No 1 PC manufacturer, by expanding its product portfolio and maintaining dramatic growth.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?

I’m on the fence for this one. For a small business owner the connectivity the cloud can give them is huge. For medium and larger ones, I think a totally cloud-based IT system is less appealing, but having the choice is very attractive. Ultimately, it is completely dependent on the needs of each individual business, whether ‘to cloud or not to cloud.’ However, it is clear that cloud will dominate consumers experience over the coming years.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

That’s an easy one, a civil engineer – specifically, I wanted to design buildings. I inherited a mechanical gene, which is exactly what guided me towards the PC industry in the late 80s early 90s. And a very satisfying journey it has been too.

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