A new top Intel exec explains how he’s preparing the firm for its challenging next chapter (INTC)

Intel data platforms group CTO Guido Appenzeller

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When Guido Appenzeller first got a call last year to possibly work for Intel, his initial reaction was, “You have the wrong number. I’m not a chip guy.”

At the time, Appenzeller had worked as chief product officer at the security key startup Yubico for almost two years. He had previously worked at VMware for over four years as CTO of cloud and networking, but beyond that, he’d spent his career working at startups.

Still, after months of conversations with a recruiter and also former Intel CEO Bob Swan, where the company made it clear that it was serious about a deeper commitment to software, he decided that the “scale and ubiquity” of Intel excited him. He joined its data platforms group as chief technical officer in January. 

It’s a crucial time of transition for Intel. Former VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger took the helm as Intel’s new CEO in February, returning to the chip giant after over 11 years. And right now, Intel is transitioning from building CPU (Central Processing Units) to XPU, which is more efficient for graphics, media, AI, memory, security, and networking.

“It’s well publicized that Intel has challenges at the moment,” Appenzeller told Insider. “If you really want to change how computers are built in this space, there’s a lot you can do at Intel. That’s a very exciting opportunity for me.”

He plans to help forge “deeper” customer partnerships 

Intel has more than a 92% market share in data centers, according to Mercury Research, which makes Appenzeller’s data platforms group a vital unit for the company. Right now, Intel is building new data centers that use computing resources more efficiently. 

The data platforms group, which is the group Appenzeller oversees, also includes the network platforms group – both of which performed well last year. Last year, Intel’s data center group saw its revenue grow 11% year-over-year to $26.1 billion. The network platforms group, which is part of the data platforms group, also grew 20% year-over-year and generated $6 billion in revenue last year. Now, the market that Intel sells to is changing as more people move to the cloud, Appenzeller said.

“Our customers are changing,” Appenzeller said. “Working within Azure, Amazon, Google — these sophisticated software companies are built on software stacks that require us to do things differently.”

The firm plans to”forge deeper partnerships,” including by expanding its cloud services. Intel also plans to build more chips and data centers for specific industries or specialties, like tailoring them to run powerful AI applications. 

“Designing a CPU for a general market, that’s a different challenge compared to building something for somebody the size of an Amazon who has very specific requirements,” Appenzeller said.

In his role, Appenzeller hopes to spend plenty of time with customers, many of which he has known in his past life at VMware. He will use those conversations to help plan a long-term strategy for the technology his group builds.

“There’s a lot we can do to work better with them to listen more to understand how we can help them with customization for particular data center use cases, for particular workloads to help them differentiate from competitors,” Appenzeller said.

Appenzeller joined Intel about a month before Gelsinger became CEO. He had previously worked under Gelsinger’s leadership at VMware, and he says at Intel, there’s now a “renewed focus on technology and innovation.”

“Pat is a fantastic manager,” Appenzeller said. “I’m a huge fan. I was super happy. It’s almost a little bit of an Intel renaissance at the moment. Some of the best products are coming back. There’s a feeling inside of renewed energy in the organizations.”

Do you work at Intel? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at rmchan@insider.com, Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request.

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