The Power of Data Podcast
Episode 77: Behind The Power Of Arm Technology
Guest: Inder Singh, Chief Finance Officer, Arm
Interviewer: Richard Shore, Solution Sales Leader, Dun & Bradstreet
Hello, everybody, welcome to the latest edition of The Power of Data Podcast. I'm Richard Shore and I’m the Solution Sales Leader here at Dun & Bradstreet in the UK, hope you're all doing very well. And today I'm really excited to be joined by Inder Singh, who's the Chief Finance Officer at Arm. Welcome to the podcast Inder, how are you doing today?
Hey, Richard, thank you very, very much for having me here today, I'm doing well; I hope you are as well and it's a delight to be with you. I'm super excited about our conversation, thank you for having us at your podcast today.
It’s an absolute pleasure. Just by way of introduction, it would be great if you could tell our listeners just a little bit about yourself and your role?
Yes, I joined Arm as CFO two years ago, where I looked at this company – it’s been a tremendous success story over the last three decades and I'm excited about our next few decades in terms of technology and innovation and continuing to serve our ecosystem of customers out there. My role is around integrating our go-to-market but also really importantly, our underlying infrastructure to scale the company and scale our licensing and royalty business which we call IPG. My mandate is around, of course finance, but also around IT and the development work that our engineers on that IT infrastructure, as well as our cybersecurity and protecting our crown jewel assets that we have. And then around really important things around procurement and supply of talent, as well as infrastructure that we require for our products and internally as a company. Prior to coming to Arm I worked at other large us tech companies in key finance leadership roles at companies like Cisco Systems, and AT&T, Unisys, and others, so, super excited to be here with you today.
That's great and it's a fantastic story. I think CFOs are great personas in business today. I mean, many, many years ago, when I first started out in business, I think CFOs were seen as the people who would say no; today, they're very much seen as the people that can say yes, and I think they are the enablers of business much more so than ever before, so it's great to have you and your role on the podcast today. And I mentioned to you earlier, I chose to work in technology consulting many years ago, and I always kept a keen eye on what Arm was doing, because you guys are a great success at the forefront of the technology space and you guys have been ahead of the curve for many years. It'd be great to give our listeners a brief insight into Arm as a business if they don't know you guys and how you've grown so rapidly from humble beginnings.
Yes, thank you for that. Arm definitely is a very successful company, it has its origins back in 1990, really as a spin out or a start up from Acorn Computers in the UK, based in Cambridge. And really it established itself as a designer of processors that were very energy efficient and that provided high compute density at the same time, the types of things that you actually need in key things like smartphones, which were beginning to come to the market later on. But beginning with phones really moving into smartphones. So today, we're the global technology leader and more than 1000 customers - we call them partners, by the way - and in the market, there are now about 190 billion Arm based chips that have been shipped cumulatively over the last 30 years. And these range from smartphones to sensors to supercomputers. And the strategy, the company has not been to build the processor, but rather to design it, and then license those designs to our customers, we then innovate based on that platform. It's a very tight partnership between the ecosystem that we have established over the last couple of decades, and the fact that they basically have decided that it's more efficient for them to outsource their R&D around processor design to us. And that gives us a very nice, I'll call it synergistic relationship with them. And this partnership approach is key to our business model of shared success. So yes, we are very passionate about really sparking the world's potential with technology, enabling the 1000 plus customers and partners that we have around the world to innovate on our technologies, and we're now starting to broaden our horizon in terms of the markets that we focus on.
Yeah and I think it's nice to have that position. It's unique in so many circles, even in technology, isn't it to that your customers are partners as you said, because you're drawing them into your world, and you're drawn into their world to help them I guess, help you design the solutions that they need and the innovation they need. it's a really interesting space, I guess, just you know, thinking about the business and the way you work with your partners kind of brings me on a little bit to culture within the business at Arm and we've worked with you guys for a little while now. When it comes to leveraging data in an organization, though, there's benefits that can be gained from having really tech enabled staff. It made me laugh actually speaking to one of your colleagues, he told me everyone at Arm is a techy or a programmer, which is great on the one hand, because you guys can do so much so quickly, in a very efficient way. But it's also a challenge, isn't it? Because you've got to be careful how you use such great talent in the business and that everybody doesn't just go off and do their own thing, right. So how do you manage that? You know, when it comes to embracing data in a very technology savvy business, what are the good parts of that and what are the challenges?
You know, it's very company specific, so as your listeners probably can relate, sometimes companies have a tech focused culture in a textbook or business model, and therefore data can come naturally out. On the other hand, there are non-technology companies that equally are now having to face with the reality of having to live in a tech-enabled world because their competitors have gone that way, because their customers are purchasing differently, and so on. So I think it's somewhat easier as you said, for a tech focused business to begin to think about how to harness the power of the data that that business has either within its own borders as an enterprise or available to it to drive some analytics. So you could argue that sometimes it's easier, but sometimes it can be equally challenging, because everybody has an opinion on what is the right way to use data. Getting on arguably is easier in the beginning, but also it takes a bit of synthesizing in terms of what you want to do. You know, I've also had an opportunity to work for large consumer facing companies that in one case had literally petabytes of data generated by its operations every day and was using very siloed and very narrow purposes for the data. So they might be using it for how do I reduce my spending on postage stamps or something like that, as I send out advert mailers, but then really convincing that company to be able to use it more holistically, to say, well, how do we drive our top line growth and advertising differently? How do we think about enhancing our products equally? And so, you need to have a bit of a rallying point to get even a tech savvy company to be ready to go about it. And then you need to give leaders access to the analytics and the data. So it isn't that you want to set up an organization or a team that creates insights and then really doesn't do much with it. But you want to make it more available to more people to really drive home the point that having the data and the insights from it is super important. We've done things at Arm that we've had to do here as well, which is around creating like single panes of glass that give people access to information and therefore insight from that.
Yeah, I think that point about the access to the insight that they tell or the data itself can provide is key. And you know, we have a bunch of customers where I think they say the same thing to us, that we're not in the business of trying to just give them more data, we want to provide insight and make it actionable. And of course, the big part of that, as you said, is making it available to the right people at the right time. And it's interesting hearing you say that even in a highly technical business, you’ve still got to watch that and make sure that that is there. And one of the key things is encouraging your staff and I guess your partners as well, that actually if they can see the outcomes and see the benefits, then they're more likely to engage in a data driven culture, right?
Exactly right. And I think that one last thing that it's worth adding, which is that as more and more companies embrace data, and either use it internally, operationally, or use it in their products, increasingly, it's important to have a sense of governance and an ethics around the use of that data. You have to strike the right balance between AI and ethics governance. So yes, there are regulatory things you have to watch out for as well, but this is a brave new world where information is being used in ways that it was never contemplated even just 10 years ago. At Arm, we thought about what sort of a data governance policy do we want to have? Where is it appropriate to use that information? How? And then yes, while you want to democratize data and make it more available to people within the company, you also have to be mindful of who should have access to what and why. So it's really important to have that and we actually share with our board of directors, how we're using it, what are the ethics considerations that we're putting in place?
That's great to hear, I guess it's a position of responsibility, isn't it that we all have, when working with data, whether it's our own data, our counterparties data, other third party data, and I guess having responsibility about the decisions we make based on it. Data can tell us a lot of things, and they can tell us to go in one direction, but unless we've got that buy in from the business, and we are consultative, then it can be as harmful as it can be good, I guess. And just moving on Inder into looking at Arm specifically and your architecture that naturally lends itself to scalability, efficiency and performance enabling partners to deliver specialized processing for applications that range as you said, from sensors to supercomputers, how does your Arm architecture manage to deliver such a broad range of applications because you know, your use cases are vast, right?
They are, Arm architecture really provides our customers with - I'll call it the Lego blocks that they need for their unique solution. We can try to engineer it entirely for them if they want, we have a team that does that, but for the most part, we allow our customers partners to build their own products. And really what that means, therefore is that we have to provide them with a uniform architecture and that is, of course, customized for particular applications, I'll call it in the last mile, but for 80% of it is pretty homogenous in terms of how we develop it. And that really allows a laptop to communicate with a smartphone to communicate with a cloud. So architecture is actually pretty prevalent, obviously in the mobile market where I think best known as a company, but equally we have - I call it the millions to billions of IoT devices of different types out there that form part of that 190 billion chips that I was talking about. Ensuring that you have a uniform architecture that allows for the creation of I'll call it secure devices at every level with the complete tools that you need to be able to have and innovate from it. And then the ecosystem support that you need, whether it's manufacturing, whether it's go-to-market, and Arm invests a lot in our ecosystem as well. It's not just our architecture that I think has made us a winning combination in key markets like mobile, but it's also the fact that customers depend on us in this symbiotic way I was mentioning. In March of this year, we actually launched what we call Arm version 9, v9 for short, which is our newest architecture. And that really signals for us a new era for Arm technology. We believe that as a company that as our partners embrace this new architecture, and increasingly, they're beginning to do that with velocity, that this will be at the forefront of the next 300 billion Arm-based chips that are out there over the next decade.
The numbers are extraordinary and just to dwell on that a little bit more, in the last 18 months globally, we've seen the impact of COVID-19. There's been an incredible shift in B2C and B2B in this digital and technological shift, as more and more consumers and businesses look to interact, engage and buy via digital channels, much more so than ever before, it's been exponentially increased, I guess by the current environment. And for businesses, it's resulted in accelerated digital transformation. And that's in our home lives, we've become more reliant on technology to connect us to people and access crucial services. And it seems that Arm’s technology has been at the forefront of those solutions. And I think the last correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm reporting in the last calendar quarter of 2020, your partnership to record 7.3 billion Arm based chips, which equates to more than 900 chips per second. And I think you've kind of covered this a bit, but would be great to get clarity on what is driving that proliferation of technology, and how is Arm driving and supporting that innovation in the market in the current climate?
I think we've all experienced it as individuals, I'm sure our listeners can relate to the fact that many of us around the world have had to go to a remote working environment pretty rapidly at the beginning of the pandemic last year. So that made us depend on technology much more than ever before. And you can see that across the board, whether it was the way you buy your products from an online retailer now versus going into a mall in the past, or the way you communicate over zoom or other video collaboration platforms, or the way that companies think about their supply chains and the resiliency of their supply chains and how they're become super dependent on everything. I think everyone has heard obviously about the bottlenecks that are being created by the huge demand right now that is the demand for chips. And so our ecosystem is really cranking to deliver on all of that demand right now. And yes, Arm technology is therefore proliferating more rapidly simply because of the acceleration of digitization of businesses; something that would have taken a decade has happened in 10 months. And so yes, as I think about how Arm is now increasingly touching our lives, as you said, Arm is inside the smartphone that you may be holding, but it's also in the network that your smartphone is connecting to. It's also in the companies that are delivering services to you over that smartphone. Equally, if you drive a car, and more and more people are starting to drive more cars, not less cars, the car that you drive is likely to have what's called a driver assistance system in the system that determines that you're about to get into an accident, you need to hit the brakes, you're not doing it fast enough and it does it for you. It makes these decisions in fractions of a second. And chances are that the driver assistance system has an Arm based chip in it. And then of course, we talked about supercomputers and the world's fastest supercomputer right now is built on chips made by Fujitsu that are Arm based as well. And I'd like to say this last one, honestly because I've shared it internally in other audiences, but Arm technology is even on Mars.
It's the ultimate programming responsibility, isn't it? We could talk all day about some of the application’s you guys are involved in because you know, they are just mind boggling, it's fantastic. And I think we kind of almost have to bring ourselves back down to earth pardon the pun, when we're thinking about B2B data as well, particularly in how decisioning is done there. And you think about some of those applications within car technology, for example, self-driving cars and the systems you just talked about where that processing is dealing with probably billions of elements of data in a very short space of time, and certainly in B2B decisioning that we see, we're being increasingly asked about the importance of data in that world of AI and machine learning. So when businesses are looking to make B2B decisions, they are doing that real-time. Put it this way, one thing we found, and I don't know if you have seen this yourself Inder is businesses that have gone into COVID, where they thought they knew their market, they thought they had the right intelligence and analytics. And then they found out that suddenly they didn't, they knew that but the time it's taken them to shift the focus of their business, their campaigns, their service models, their engagement models, has taken months and months. And it's too long, because when they've done that, they've kind of missed the boat. So it's incredible hearing about you guys are very forefront of technology. I'm wondering if one day, there may be solutions that literally rely on this kind of processing power to literally just say, well, flick of a switch, we're going to change direction and the whole business can move. I'm wondering what your views on the COVID market currently and how businesses need to adapt.
Clearly, it was a Black Swan event, so no one could have predicted what happened here. But increasingly, businesses are having to deal with different disruptions to their markets, or their supply chains. You know, geopolitical, other things have happened as well over the last few years. I think that it's been a wakeup call for virtually every industry and every company. And if a company isn't waking up to that reality, it may find itself irrelevant five years from now. In my humble opinion, it's important and now is the time. If you're willing to actually deploy something that not only leverages the power of machine learning, AI, computational technology, and things like that in your products, but equally in the way you interact with your customers in the go to market programs that you might have in the way you think about your sales pipeline, and looking at what's in your CRM, and really going through that and saying, do we actually have a growth prospect here? Are we delivering the product and the way that our consumer, customer or business customer wants to buy it? And then within its own operations, every company has to think about how do we optimize internally? And optimization in the past, Richard, for many companies has meant just in time sourcing of components. And components here, I mean, writ large components in terms of physical widgets that you may use in your product, components in terms of software that you may include in your products, or components in terms of resourcing talent around the world. But all of the inputs that you need are now being sometimes delivered to you differently. Even your workforce is now saying from surveys, we've seen that they want to do it in a digital way. In other words, they want to work remotely in some cases and be in some other days. Whereas if you think about supply chains, and I mentioned this earlier, supply chains have been hugely disrupted by this right, whether it's in food in agra (agriculture), and in the delivery of products or in the sourcing of components from around the world. And so virtually every company that we come in touch with that I've personally spoken to the leaders of are now rapidly thinking about how to bifurcate things like their supply chain, so that it is at least part resilient and digital, and just in time may have served its purpose; may serve its purpose again in the future. But for the next few years, you almost need to have a bit of excess inventory, frankly, to avoid disappointing your customers if you don't have the product sitting on the shelf on time.
Absolutely. I mean, we provide a bunch of data assets to customers, certainly to help them analyze supply chain and de risk it as much as possible. But you're right, that kind of next generation supply chain has got to start looking at real-time data and real-time alternatives. If that usual avenue of supply is at risk through various types of disruption, can that business turn real-time to alternative suppliers to fill that gap? I think you're right, it's such a key area and it's developing all the while and again, technology, quite rightly, at the forefront of how we're moving goods around the world and keeping track of them more importantly. Inder just moving on from that, so I mean, it's kind of loosely related. But you know, you guys have been around for over 30 years. And we've talked about those 190 billion chips worth of experience in providing IP and enabling software platforms. And one application is creating the architecture for Internet of Things and embedded devices. What are some of the kind of key considerations in emerging applications created by the Internet of Things, and the increased volumes of data as a result? That's quite an interesting area would be good to hear from you about that.
Yeah, the Internet of Things has been something that has been on the drawing boards of many companies as they've thought about a connected world. I remember from my days at Cisco Systems, even a decade ago, we were looking at smart cities, we were looking at the needs of a smarter planet, frankly, even but really the power of connecting devices together here at Arm now, which is actually the technology behind, you know, coming up on almost 200 billion Arm-based chips out there. And any year now we will report that probably sooner rather than later, maybe even this year. So as I think about the fact that you have the advent of 5G happening at the same time, where there's enough bandwidth to actually connect IoT devices to each other where it makes sense, you now open up the opportunity for devices to either talk to each other and do things without actually intervention. So that's called sort of machine to machine connectivity, where there's a sensor talking to another device and back again, and they’re resolving something and then making things more resilient. And then there are other things where businesses are now starting to harness the data being generated by all of these IoT devices that may be within their own enterprise or within their reach of their customers. What's really important here is now computational storage. And that's really emerging as a critical piece of the data storage puzzle because it puts processing power directly on the storage device, rather than in the cloud, giving companies really very secure access. And Arm has been super focused on not only the connecting of the devices, not only the fact that the bandwidth needs to be there, but also security. And this is one thing that is held, I think IoT back is a uniform approach to thinking about security. So again, back to Arms v9 architecture in terms of how we think we now will put that into the market, we've created what's called the confidential compute architecture, and CCA, which is a confidential computing shield that provides code and data from access or modification; it really shields something bad from happening while in use, even from privileged software. So I think we can begin to rest easier - never say rest easy on cybersecurity - but I think the common denominator of security, the common denominator of 5G networks, and the common denominator of more devices out there that are now smarter, and can actually talk with each other, that is what's going to unleash more IoT use cases. You know, we can talk about a few of them if you want, Richard.
Yeah, I mean, if you've got a couple of examples, that would be a fantastic.
It's amazing, isn't it? You know, there'll be some people listening thinking, well, this sounds very future state, but it's kind of almost not really is it? I mean, it's here now and it's great to hear that Arm as ever is involved in the forefront of that. I think there's two key things there that you know, you pick up in, particularly the consumer market, but in business as well is that one of trust, you know, security - through security comes trust. For the more we want to allow our mobile devices or cars or whatever to do, we want to be able to trust the environment in which we're doing that and where the data is being gathered and used. I think the other thing you've mentioned, which I think is just huge is that sustainability side as well, that the more we can trust our devices and our technology to make our own lives more environmentally friendly and sustainable, the better, you know, they're kind of predicting when we are not using things, you know, the digital home, you mentioned, I think the positives there are extraordinary the way that we can run our houses much more efficiently and ultimately, hopefully, our businesses as well. So that's fantastic Inder, there's so much there that as I said, we could have a whole other podcast just talking about our applications. But we are coming to the end of the podcast. And I guess my final question really is more of a personal one, and just to find out if you've had any particular mentors over your career, or if there's been any specific piece of wisdom or lesson learned that you've taken with you throughout your career?
Yeah, thank you. I think it's really important for everyone and I've had this great privilege over my career as well to benefit and learn from mentors that are either formal or informal. And really seeking out someone can be very, very helpful in the development. Yes, I've been very lucky and feel privileged to have had a few in my career and I'll give you a couple examples. Especially in my early days, I found it was very important to broaden my horizon in terms of understanding how leaders think about businesses. I was privileged to work with a woman named Carly Fiorina, when she and I were at AT&T, she ran our products business, I was our finance and strategy lead. And together, we had the chance to work on some very exciting IPOs. We also worked on some commercial deals. And the thing that I learned from her, which I carry with me today was that it's really important to not just have a collection of strategies that you think now add up to some sort of a vision or purpose, but actually have a vision. To frame a vision for what the company or the business is trying to accomplish. And I think it might sound obvious, but I think many companies, many individuals often conflate the having a collection of tactics, maybe they even look like strategies to something that is more like a purpose. She was really important in that sense, in my sort of popping my head up a little bit and looking beyond kind of the things that I was doing, but also in understanding the importance of vision. I mean, I've had two more I want to mention, I think in sort of my Wall Street years, I was privileged to work with another individual. In this case, it was a head of capital markets, head of equities, a guy named Steve Buell, who really inspired me to depend on and unleash my own creative ideas. And for an engineer, which I am and a finance person, the importance of actually creating brand new ideas from whole cloth is where he basically allowed me to have the space to do and every time I'd go to him for help with something he'd actually say, I know, you'll figure out the answer to that, so you need a mentor like that as well.
I've had a few of those, yeah.
Right? They're just as important. And that actually taught me self-confidence and creating an idea, and then presenting it to a large institutional investor, like Fidelity or Wellington, or T Rowe Price, and have it sound compelling to them. And so you know, yet another sort of rung on my ladder. And then lastly, when I was at Cisco Systems, I worked with a mentor that was the CEO of the company named John Chambers. And he was almost a founder of the company, but he'd been there about 25 years or so he's really indelible impression he left on me was how to think in multiple dimensions, how to anticipate disruptions in the market. And even if you can't predict the next Black Swan event, by definition, because you don't know it, then how to manage through it. And at the time, we were managing through the Lehman crisis. And working with him, I saw that the power of actually investing through a down cycle like that, rather than backing off on investments, doing the opposite, doubling down on things on the right things, of course, and you come out stronger on the other side. I mean, even if you just learn another five or 10% it's super important to have someone, it doesn’t have to be the same person, but you need to have someone, I think.
I totally agree, that's certainly right and it's wonderful that you've picked up such great insight from those people you've worked with and it's clearly rubbed off because I've loved listening to you today Inder and I just wanted to thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. It's been really insightful, and I would encourage all of our kind of listeners follow companies like Arm religiously, because it's a great insight to all of our tomorrows, so Inder thanks so much.
Thanks Richard and thanks for being good partners to Arm, my team obviously depends on D&B a lot, so thank you very much for having me, Richard.