10 July 2012
Moving forward hand in hand: Interview with Andreas Pabinger, vp of operations for EMEA, Wind River
Three years ago, Wind River Systems – developer of the VxWorks real time operating system – was acquired by Intel. The news received a mixed reaction, but the general feeling was 'why?' and 'will it only serve one customer?'. But the company appears to have been unaffected by the move. So how is life under the new ownership? Andreas Pabinger, vp of operations for EMEA, said: "Wind River is still being run as a brand and we continue to work with different semiconductor partners and with clients in different industries."
Pabinger says one of the main benefits of the acquisition was a longer term vision. "Before, we had to report quarterly. Now, there is a degree of flexibility to invest in basic technology which will have a longer term return. Our strategic orientation has improved and there is now more long term thinking."
One area where Intel appears to have influenced the company is in making it more aggressive. "Wind River hasn't always been first to market," Pabinger admitted. "For example, we were rather late to market with a Linux offering; we looked and listened, rather than being an aggressive investor. Before, the opportunities needed to be mature enough; now we have a longer term vision, we can take a little more risk than we did."
Learning from the past, it appears, Wind River is now pursuing opportunities related to multicore microcontrollers. "Software solutions are being developed and are ready for market," he claimed.
Wind River has focused in the recent past on safety and security and Pabinger sees this focus playing well in the multicore world. "For example, how do you run safe and non safe applications on top of silicon? You need visible technology to address this. But beyond this immediate requirement, customers need to reduce their Bills of Material, they need to stay competitive and they need to be innovative. What can Wind River do to help them solve their business challenges?"
How does Pabinger see the European market at the moment? "It's interesting," he said. "EMEA has the ability to differentiate via innovation. The automotive industry, for example, is not a mature market, but it has a strong will and the ability to create growth. There's a massive amount of computing power being used to improve safety and the driving experience.
"Then there's M2M," he said, describing the sector as a major focus for Wind River in Europe. The aim is for all Europeans to have intelligent devices in their houses to reduce the CO2 footprint and improve energy efficiency. But embedded computing, smart metering, balancing energy sources and so on requires sophisticated networking."
Pabinger also sees opportunities for Europe in the development of medical devices. "It's a sensitive area," he noted. "Personal data needs to be secure, but devices in hospitals need to be linked. Can we use the internet?"
But is developing systems and applications in Europe any different to doing it elsewhere? "Overall, the approach to risk is different in Europe than it is in the US," he believed. "Adoption of new technology is slower in Europe, but when it does get adopted, it's leveraged and used. And there are now some sophisticated embedded designs coming out of Europe."
With more computing power/€ available today, customers face increased complexity, said Pabinger. "And customers now expect us to deliver systems and applications, rather than an operating system. We need to do more because our customers expect to start from a more advanced position."
So Wind River is looking to take much more of a platform based approach than it has in the past. "These platforms need particular ingredients for particular industries," he continued. "Some markets will need Linux based systems, others still want to use VxWorks. Instead of being religious, we have learned to listen to market requirements. We're more pragmatic than before; if Linux is the best solution, then we'll support it. If a hard real time operating system is needed for a DO-178B application, then it's VxWorks."
Supporting a broader market places a greater burden on Wind River. "Each platform contains a certain set of ingredients," Pabinger pointed out. "The opportunity is to find common elements between market segments so they can be grouped together. But every application will require the platform to be customised; it's very rare that a platform is used 'as is'."
And this approach also places greater burdens on the engineering staff. "We have to maintain a balance between horizontal and vertical knowledge," he said. "If you get too vertical, you struggle because you don't have the right skills; if you get too horizontal, your offerings are not differentiated enough and you don't bring application expertise to the customer. Getting the balance right is an art.
"The bigger challenge is internal; how do you build an organisation that can address these challenges? How do we create an organisation in which, for example, we can get a medical market expert running a vertical to talk with someone who knows technology who is running a horizontal?"
While the past three years have changed Wind River, the future promises greater change. "In order to be relevant, Wind River needs to make another step forward," Pabinger said. "We are moving from making discrete sales to working hand in hand with customers to understand their challenges, but also to arbitrate between those challenges and the technology we can bring to them," he concluded. "Our relationships are moving from transactional to strategic."
Andreas Pabinger is Wind River's vice president of operations for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, a position he has held since 2000.
Prior to Wind River, Pabinger was the chief executive officer of TakeFive Software, a developer of enterprise information software systems which was acquired by Wind River in 2000. He joined TakeFive in 1993 and performed a number of roles including vp of sales and marketing before being appointed chief executive in 1998. Before joining TakeFive, Pabinger worked as a software engineer.