AiThority Interview with Steven Mih, CEO at Alluxio
Hi Steven please tell us about your journey in technology and how you started at Alluxio.
Growing up I mostly loved computers for the games you could play but I always knew I’d do something more with them. I ended up getting an Electrical and Computer Engineering degree from UC San Diego and all I wanted to do was get to Silicon Valley and get involved with startups. Having no idea how to get into a startup, I interviewed with the companies who came to campus. It turned out a lot of Semiconductor companies would recruit from my school and I ended up starting at AMD as a Field Sales Engineer.
I loved working with the systems companies helping get “design wins” for our chips. After that I moved to Cadence to help companies buy software that made those chips. After a few years, I decided that the IT infrastructure software space was where I wanted to build my career. It’s generally easier to shift industries in a startup because oftentimes they are in a relatively new area so hiring managers are willing to take risk on bringing on people with related but not directly relevant experience. I’ve done 4 startup “tours of duty” since then, taking on more responsibility with each role. As I love open-source distributed systems and Cloud technologies, I was introduced to the Alluxio’s Founder, Haoyuan Li and got really excited about his vision of Data Orchestration to address the growing complexity of Analytics and AI/ML workloads.
Tell us more about the team you work with? What kind of skills and abilities does one need to be part of your technical team?
We have an amazing team that I’m really proud to be a part of. Our technical team members hail from the top universities and, IMHO are the best distributed systems engineers in the valley. They’ve consistently over-delivered on our vision of Data Orchestration. We look for all different types of exceptional people to join Alluxio engineering, and one common theme is their interest in distributed systems and building open-source products that are used by some of the largest online and offline companies in the world, like JD.com and Walmart.
You come from a very strong Sales background. How do you see the burgeoning trend of mixing Marketing and Sales tactics together to meet business demands?
I love Sales. There are timeless aspects of Sales because fundamentally Sales is about people. I’ll always remember my first Sales Manager at AMD, Brian Fitzgerald, who taught me that something is always bought and sold in every interaction. As we have become a more digital world, the buying experience is all that matters and this also goes for the user experience of the product or service that is on offer. I’m a big believer in “One Funnel”, the idea that Marketing and Sales need to be more closely aligned than ever to achieve the best results. IT products have become very outcome-orientated around solving a problem.
As such, Marketing is more and more about bringing awareness to a problem that people are looking to solve. Similarly, Sales is about assisting those people to get that problem solved and later growing that usage to increase the number of problems that are being solved by your product or service. Business nirvana is when you thread the needle and boom! You’ve got your Marketing and Sales flywheel going.
We hear a lot about AIOps and its role in transforming various business units, including IT and DevOps. What opportunities and challenges in your industry do you foresee with on a daily basis?
I’d argue that data continues to be the biggest opportunity and yet the biggest challenge for many companies. As software eats the world, the world of data causes a lot of indigestion. Being more specific, I see companies spending a lot of time wrangling data instead of feeding the AI and Analytics workloads with the data they need just in time.
You provide services to global Internet Companies. Tell us about your current customer success campaigns and how you engage these groups to expand to new regions and industries?
We are thankful to have 7 out of the top 10 global internet companies using Alluxio in large scale production environments. Our users are our best voice both internally between groups and externally with other companies via our webinars and meetups. They are also our best contributors to the open source project. We have a wide range of industries using our software, and the one thing in common is their need to be more data-driven to effectively guide their business.
AI ML, Big Data, Mobility and IoT/Connected devices – these have opened up a whole new level of innovations that need to be monitored and governed. How does Alluxio secure its AI data research and help others to mitigate security risks in these areas?
As Alluxio is a layer which you can mount any data store in any location, it is a gatekeeper for the apps that run on top of Alluxio. Our software includes Cross-Cloud platform security and governance with authentication, authorization, encryption, and audit logging.
What is the biggest challenge in the current multi-cloud ecosystem? How do your customers leverage Alluxio Computing, Cloud and Analytics technology to find solutions for these complex challenges?
The biggest challenge in a Multi-Cloud environment is the amount of data and the synchronization of that data across on-prem and multiple Cloud providers. With Alluxio, our users can mount all data stores without having to maintain complete copies of the data in each of the cloud vendors you rely upon.
As more and more business groups join the Digital Transformation revolution, AI failure incidents are only going to increase. Which businesses are more likely to fall victim to such risks in the modern digital era?
Companies that are betting on AI technologies that call privacy into question will fall victim, in my opinion. We’ve started to see more around facial recognition technologies, and failures will be a big problem as they increasingly become used to identify us, letting us access services or not. And that’s not even taking into account the privacy concerns. The line will continue to be blurry, which for many may be viewed as a dangerous step in the “privacy” direction.
One recent global incident that you think could have averted if we adopted and leveraged AI ML platforms*?
It’s the end of January 2020 and top of mind right now is the Coronavirus. I read that AI was able to provide early detection of a possible outbreak. While AI won’t necessarily stop the virus, it has already helped in helping to monitor and respond to the outbreak. In cases like these, if we can leverage AI to take advantage of the amount of data being generated around situations like these (think social media and news outlets), we can provide more insights and assistance to the world at large. From what I’ve seen so far, I think this use of AI is promising and I hope that it becomes the standard.
Thank you, Steven! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Steven has over twenty years of experience in Sales, Business Development, and Marketing of enterprise technology solutions. His multifaceted go-to-market experience spans leading organizations including Aviatrix, Couchbase, Transitive, Cadence Design Systems, and AMD.
Proven at global web scale in production for modern data services, Alluxio is the world’s first system that unifies data at memory speed. Named a Top 10 Storage Startup by CRN in 2018, Alluxio provides a single source virtual data layer connecting data analytics and machine learning frameworks to data running on premises, in public clouds or in multi/hybrid cloud environments. Intelligent data tiering and data management deliver consistent high performance to customers in financial services, high tech, retail and telecommunications. Venture-backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Seven Seas Partners, Alluxio was founded at UC Berkeley’s AMPLab by the creators of the Tachyon open source project.