Fred Kohout serves as Senior Vice President Products and Chief Marketing Officer, responsible for leading Cray’s worldwide marketing. Before joining Cray in 2016, Mr. Kohout led global partner marketing for EMC, a global leader in IT and business transformation. In that role, he oversaw the development of EMC’s partner strategy and all aspects of partner go-to-market. Prior to EMC, Mr. Kohout led marketing organizations as CMO at technology firms UC4 (Automic) and Tagsys RFID. Before that, he spent 18 years with Sun Microsystems in executive positions in both high performance computing and commercial product marketing, sales and corporate marketing. Mr. Kohout is a graduate of Central Washington University.
HPCwire: Cray announced your hiring as CMO of Cray two years ago. In that time, what have you learned about the particular challenges of marketing Cray, and what are some of the key principles you’re instilling within the company’s market vision and messaging strategy?
Frederick Kohout: Cray is a great company with a rich history, amazing customers, and a well-established brand in the supercomputing industry. Cray has been the leader in supercomputing since Seymour founded the company. To be sure, our focus on the supercomputing market is not going to waver. But there are also really exciting developments in AI and cloud, and a growing number of commercial companies are beginning to recognize they need something more than commodity data center infrastructure to address their challenges. And they need a partner who will be with them all the way to success. So, the challenge for Cray marketing is as we stay true to our supercomputing heritage, how do we reacquaint the broader market with Cray. That means we need to take different marketing motions, perhaps a different language, and a different go-to-market approach. It’s a great position to be in – leverage our leadership position in supercomputing as we show new customers in new industries how they can use Cray supercomputers to expand their problem-solving potential. Everyone at Cray is energized by the opportunity, not just marketing!
HPCwire: Everyone’s talking about AI, machine learning and deep learning these days. What unique capabilities and advantages would you say Cray brings to organizations starting on their AI journeys? How do you differentiate yourselves from other systems providers competing for leadership in the AI market?
As was evident at SC17 in Denver, as well as last summer at ISC in Frankfurt, the buzz on AI, machine learning, and deep learning is at a fever pitch. Walking the show floors at those conferences, you would be hard pressed to find a single booth that didn’t include some mention of AI – ours included! But that’s nothing new for Cray. We’ve been talking about the convergence of modeling and simulation with big data analytics and AI for well over five years now, and it’s great to see the market coming into focus around convergence. At their core, training problems look very much like classical supercomputing problems, and as a leader in supercomputing, we believe we can help customers successfully navigate their journey into AI. We have the systems, people, and expertise that will allow customers to explore the worlds of deep learning and machine learning at unprecedented scale. What really separates Cray from the pack is you don’t buy a Cray for AI – you buy Cray. With Cray, the difference is you partner with the only pure play supercomputing company on the planet. You have access to all our knowledge, experience and creativity to answer your biggest questions.
HPCwire: Tell us about Cray’s offering of HPC capabilities as a public cloud service. What has been the market reception, and what sets your offering apart?
One of the great things about our forays into supercomputing-as-a-service and cloud-based supercomputing is that we are making it easier for an expanded set of customers to be able to utilize the power, performance, and capability of a Cray supercomputer to solve their problems. I mean, who wouldn’t want to use a Cray? Customers are no longer limited by the physical constraints of their data centers. Our partnerships with companies like Deloitte, Markley, and Microsoft Azure are great examples of how Cray is changing the game and expanding the accessibility of supercomputing. Our partnership with Deloitte has been growing. The market reception for Markley and Azure has been strong and we’re actively engaged with a number of clients who want access to Cray supercomputing. It’s all about having the right partners in place to help take supercomputing from unique to ubiquitous.
HPCwire: What do you hope to see from the HPC community in the coming year?
Movement and choice. I think there has been a bit of fence sitting, putting programs on hold, until there was a clearer picture of how the processor supplier roadmaps would unfold. That’s now becoming more clear. There’s going to be more competition in the processor market, and that means clients have the opportunity to choose the solution that best fits their need. We think that choice will be the catalyst to drive program spending forward. Then there is exascale. The race is on and it will unlock a tremendous amount of collaboration and innovation in the HPC community as we all try and meet the challenges presented by exascale. And finally, AI. We’re looking for this year to be one of more reason and rational thinking versus the hype and oxygen-draining marketing we endured in 2017. Customers are ready, they want to get started, and they are looking for solution partners in the market to place their bets on. It’s going to be a great year for the HPC community!
HPCwire: Outside of the professional sphere, what can you tell us about yourself – personal life, family, background, hobbies, etc.? Is there anything about you your colleagues might be surprised to learn?
First off, it’s great to be in HPC and get re-connected with so many people I knew when I worked at Sun Microsystems. My family, Kathy, Karsten, and I, reside in Redmond, WA. We keep looking for the sun…. As for hobbies, some good buddies are trying to teach me how to fly fish, but they are about to give up because I’m so bad. In the “Did You Know” department, I played a 24-hour game of fast pitch softball as a senior in high school. We were young. And stupid.