Pontus De Laval, former CTO of Saab- a Swedish aerospace and defence company, has recently joined Ingrid Cloud as a chairman. In this interview, Ingrid Cloud’s CEO chats about the challenges that new technologies face when presenting their innovation to large enterprises.
"Big companies always had everything very locked up within their IT operations. Now, with the huge cost benefits of going into cloud services, enterprises will have to adapt."
S: Hi Pontus, thanks for taking the time to chat with me, and thanks for becoming the chairman of the board of Ingrid Cloud.
P: It’s my pleasure.
S: You used to be the CTO of Saab, a defence aerospace company that had a revenue in excess of 3 billion euros, is that right?
P: Yeah, that’s correct.
S: What was the R&D budget that you guys had?
P: Around 800 million euros.
S: Wow, that’s crazy!
P: Yeah, it’s a lot of money.
S: Companies like Saab, do they consider using cloud services or SaaS service like Ingrid Cloud?
P: That’s a good question. Being in the defence business where we have a history of being very very secret and of course, using public services like Ingrid Cloud today is a difficult question for us. We have a tendency of trying to lock in everything, but I think looking forward this will change. Actually, I think we saw a big change just a month ago where the U.S. defence department put an order now on Microsoft to supply cloud services to U.S. defence using Azure.
I think we will see a dramatic change in the coming years. This goes for a lot of big companies having had this notion of having everything very tight to their IT operation and now, with the huge cost benefits going into cloud services, these big companies will have to adapt.
S: Not all companies can have their own supercomputer or supercomputing resources either. Or can they?
P: A company like Saab of course we had it. You do it at the high cost and when you see the huge cost benefits of actually using this as a service instead of actually doing it all by yourself, the change will come.
S: When you think about Ingrid Cloud and the services that we provide to be able to run high-fidelity, automated flow simulations in the design process and early in the design process, what strategic value would you say that it could bring to large enterprise companies?
P: I think the strategy that you’ve chosen, going for an area where you’re not used to using these kinds of tools, is exactly the right one. In the building industry, and primarily architects of course they don’t have the experience of using CFD or Computational Fluid Dynamics in their design work, and I think what you’ve done making this quite complex technology very easily accessible to people not accustomed with this kind of technology is quite amazing. I think that strategy will eventually come to the big enterprises, but this is a much harder case actually- convincing all the engineers that this technology in itself is quite mature, so many of these big companies already have experts in the field. But I think the road that you’ve taken is absolutely the right one. I think that’s also one of the reasons why I thought it was fun to become chairman of the company because of the very nice packaging you’ve done with this very very complex technology.
S: It’s quite a change going from this huge company like Saab to become a chairman of a startup like Ingrid Cloud, but you do have experience from startups before?
P: I’ve been on our investment committee; we have a solid venture so I’m still on that investment committee. Now with my new assignments I’m working for SEB- the bank and for the Wallenberg Foundations. My primary work is being an advisor, how should I say, to bring out new technology and innovation to the market, and then of course it’s very good to actually do a hands-on job also as chairman.
S: We’re super happy to have you on board! If we go back to sales, when you sell to these enterprise companies and meet these engineers that you used to work with, you know, for in excess of 50 years, right? How do you convince them and what can you do to reduce the time, so it doesn’t take three years to get there?
P: I think this is a combination of these big enterprises being accepting of public cloud services. That’s number one. And then second is that the solutions should be easy to use and adapted to their different applications. If you’re designing cars or if you’re designing an aeroplane you have to understand the challenges of actually doing that. These peculiarities of when you do computation in these areas, you have to have that knowledge of the area. I think this will come in the company. We will have to bring in that kind of expertise over time.
S: There’s a lot of boxes to check in the process, and a lot of people to convince.
P: Yeah, of course. I think it’s important now with the strategy that we have chosen in the company, now going forward for these first markets. I think it’s very important that we have success in this area before we jump into new areas because that’s one take away when looking at many small companies: there’s focusing.
S: It’s one of the classic mistakes. On a long-term what role do you think? We’ve seen there’s a new generation of supercomputers for example coming up, the exascale generation. What role do you think that high-performance computing, or supercomputers and faster computations will have for the evolution, or let’s say revolution towards computational design, towards using algorithms to design products?
P: I’m not an expert in the field but what I see is a merge between commercial cloud environments. That’s what you find with Google or Azure, or Amazon with the HPC environments for classic computing, and this will merge. This of course will put a strong pressure on enterprises, that they should go in that direction, because the cost benefits are huge.
S: Another thing that intrigues me is the way that this kind of power that a supercomputer can give that was exclusive to the large enterprise and the research community. Now it’s available to anyone. Exactly, and that’s very exciting. I want to thank you for chatting us. Thank you, I hope we can do it again on another topic!
P: Sure, it’s my pleasure.
"Saab is a great place to work, being able to build aeroplanes, radars and more from scratch is amazing work!"
Former CEO of Saab, Pontus De Laval, has more than 30 years of experience building aeroplanes, radars and more from scratch. He is now chairman of Ingrid Cloud.