Gururaj Rao

Profession: Semiconductor Engineer
Birthplace: India
Position: IBM Fellow, eServer Chief Engineer

IBM translated its early dominance in mainframe computing into a resurgence in high-end servers used to power e-commerce thanks in large part to the brilliance and vision of engineer Gururaj Rao. Under Rao’s leadership the S/390 mainframe — once considered a “big-iron” dynosaur in an era of miniaturizing PCs — has become the backbone of e-business as big corporations recognize the value of anchoring their computing to a core robust and powerful enough to serve a rapidly-evolving business environment.

IBM credits Rao with the vision and perseverance needed to return the S/390 back to center stage and IBM to a leadership position in this market. Rao is also credited with a knack for a competitive approach to research and product development in the context of the strengths and weaknesses of competitors.

Rao’s success as a visionary in the field owes to his long-term perspective.
“We cannot predict the growth of e-business,” he acknowledges. “Already we have seen unprecedented growth in consumer Internet usage, for example, and the rate of e-commerce. Keeping this in mind, we are building scalable servers to handle both current and future demands. This approach is now leading the industry into a new trend of architectural thinking: building smarter servers that will optimize themselves. This is key.”

Even after 31 years at IBM Rao continues to peer deeply into the future to possibilities for more trailblazing.

“Nature is a very complex creature,” he points out. “If we can build a better bridge between nature’s capabilities and the ability of humans to emulate nature — in other words, if humans can work on the same level as nature — then we will see some very remarkable developments in the future of medicine as well as in technology.”

Gururaj Rao was born in India and received his bachelor of science from the University of Mysore. He then received an M.S. from the Indian Institute of Science before coming to the U.S. for a Ph.D. from Stanford. He taught electrical engineering at Rice University before joining IBM in 1978. He quickly distinguished himself as a superior engineer, with a mind capable of grasping the design pathways most likely to lead to long-term competitive advantages.

Rao was personally tasked to lead the design of IBM’s mainframe and succeeded in differentiating it from competing products. He also contributed his insights to the intial design process for the S/390 Parallel Query Server. His team successfully implemented IBM’s breakthrough copper interconnect technology to set a new industry standard in semiconductors. Rao’s exceptional contributions to IBM’s success has led to his being selected to join the small select group of IBM Fellows.