Cloudflare TV

*APAC Heritage Month* The CTO Show: Andy Nallappan

Presented by John Graham-Cumming, Andy Nallappan
Originally aired on 

Tune in for a special edition of The CTO Show with John Graham-Cumming, CTO, Cloudflare and Andy Nallappan, CTO & Head of Software Business Operations, Broadcom, as we celebrate APAC Heritage Month.

The CTO role varies enormously from company to company. In The CTO Show, John speaks with CTOs from across the industry to understand their role and how they ended up in it.


Transcript (Beta)

All right, everybody. Welcome to a special 30 minutes as part of Cloudflare's APAC Heritage Month and also my little show, The CTO Show, where I end up talking to CTOs.

And today, I am very happy to have Andy Nallappan, who is the CTO of Broadcom and has had a long career there as my guest.

Welcome, Andy. Thank you. Thank you, John.

It's very nice to have you on the show because obviously many of us will be using Broadcom things without realizing that Broadcom is in there.

And I feel a slightly kindred spirit because many people use Cloudflare without realizing Cloudflare is in front of their website or protecting it.

So we're kind of one of those substrate companies that people don't necessarily know about.

Yeah, you're absolutely right.

I used to say in Broadcom, if you walk into any data center, you're guaranteed to find a Broadcom component.

The same way I say that if you walk into anybody's home, most of the homes, you will find a Broadcom chip because we are in the TV set-up box or you're in the cell phones, you know, Wi -Fi.

It's almost everywhere there. So it's really like people may not know they're using Broadcom for the high quality, high performing semiconductor components.

And now recently, we are expanding into software business Yeah, let's talk about that in a bit because I'm interested.

We were talking earlier about cloud and things like that.

And I think of Broadcom as a chip company or a silicon company or whatever.

But we'll dig into that in a little bit. But your current title is CTO, but you've also been in CIO type roles as well.

But perhaps you could just take us through a little bit your career.

How did you end up as CTO of Broadcom and what were the big stepping stones along the way?

Sure, sure. I'll be happy to. You know, I've joined this company about 27 years back in HP.

And then I evolved the company as, you know, I never left the company, but I split into Agilent and then it became an Embargo small company.

Then we went private, then started, you know, going public and growing in the high tech semiconductor space over there.

And we went from $1.5 billion to close to $17-18 billion.

And then when we were trying to acquire Qualcomm, which didn't go through well.

So that's the time we pivoted it and said that, no, we can apply the same business model, what we've been successfully doing it in growing Broadcom into a software space.

And that's where we started looking at that space and ended up acquiring CA Technologies in this manner.

So in that journey, you know, I became a CIO.

You know, CIO really helped during the hardware growth, you know, integrating all those companies there.

So mostly focused on M&A integrations, cost synergies, and creating platforms from an internal focus, you know, from a back office and an employee focused order.

But then when we started pivoting it, the software is a little different business than hardware, because a lot of things, you know, it starts in the software after you sell it, you know, it's a relationship, it's a customer support, you know, you Cloudflare, you know, very well, it's a service and support, you know, it's about renewables recurring in a hardware business, it is, you're involved with the customers before, you know, you start shipping the components, now the designing phase there.

And mostly work with the R&D team, designing, then you start shipping it, once you ship it, not much that supported that.

So it's a very different business model.

So I thought, it'll be an interesting, it'll be an extension, an evaluation of the evolution of my role, you know, going from internal focused, same technology and extend to the external focused, mostly customer there.

So in my role, I took the role last December, and helped to grow the software business, and improve the customer experience.

Now I'm providing a frictionless business model for customers and also help to grow similarly, I've grown in the business.

So in a nutshell, CIO, also technology and CTOs of technology there, but only the focus and outcome, the CEO was mostly focused on the internal side, and CTO is mostly focused on the product development, and also hosting for customers, SLAs, it's a little different perspective, and so revenue impact.

So I wanted to evolve to become a model of business development, and also the revenue side.

So I'm enjoying my role, and I think it's a natural extension for a lot of CIOs that so, and we live in a time where technology is ruling everything, and it's really important to keep the customer experience, that's the top of the tongue.

So that's the focus of my role.

And so is it, you spend most of your time on what I think of as external activities, so working with customers, partners, and looking at the business development opportunities?

Of course, yeah. And part of my role is, I have two roles that one of the roles as a CTO is, I'm in charge for the SaaS platform, and so the SaaS hosting on the cloud.

So I have external hosting for customers, or also the CICD development process, or the framework, and that also, I also have another corporate, the software marketing there, not product marketing, corporate software marketing.

Then also I have business operations, where now we focus on the enabling customers, the support, and education, and professional services, and customer success, and also the port-to-cash processes, things like that.

Interesting. What was it made you stay through this long set of transitions over a long period, in different lives of this company?

What was the thread that kept you saying, yes, I should keep going, keep going, keep going?

That's a good question. Many people ask me that in the past, especially when you live in Silicon Valley, when people used to change jobs every five years.

Right. Two years. I mean, it's crazy how fast people change jobs.

Yeah. And it's the interesting, I used to ask myself too, why I keep staying in this company?

There are a few things. One of the things is opportunity, especially in the last 15 years.

Broadcom is in the land of opportunity. I've got so many different things to do, especially with M&A in the board.

And I always look at, if I go outside, would I get the same kind of opportunities over there?

So it is the fastest opportunity to try different things, to grow, to learn.

And the second one is, it is the support I get from my executives, my leaders, my CEO, my CFO.

They enable me to execute, and they have that vision, and they help me provide all the support they needed to execute.

I couldn't have done all the things what I've done it alone by myself.

So that sponsorship, that support, that keeps me going.

It's interesting you bring up the leadership support, because I think this is one of the things that sometimes I see with younger people, they miss how important the management is, who you work for, how much that is really going to matter compared to, oh, the shiny technology over here looks interesting, I'll go for that.

Yeah, exactly. So I always say, no, opportunity is important, and support is important.

Those two, if you have it there, you can do a lot of magic stuff there.

So that's the one that's kept me going, and still keeps me going.

Even now, I'm finding other opportunities of CTO. It was possible only working in this company.

And if you wind way back to Madras, and you're a university, and you're thinking about the future, what was that looking like?

Were you thinking about a career in technology as being definitely what you wanted to do, or were there other directions you might have gone back then?

Back in the 80s, when I was in Madras or Chennai, looking at my future, what I want to do.

One thing, I want to come to the US.

I want to do my master's. And at the time, the computer science was coming up.

There was no discipline called computer science in the universities then.

And computers were being introduced to the work I was doing back in India, in Bangalore and HAL.

I've seen this lot of software, a lot of French computers there.

So it was amazing to see this 3D modeling happening in the computers, how things are possible there.

So I wanted to be in that computer science field.

And having a mechanical engineering, I thought going to the US would give me the opportunity to change the area and focus there.

So yes, I wanted to be in the technology area.

And also, I wanted to be in the Silicon Valley. Now, that's why even though I went to the University of Texas at El Paso, as a graduate, I knew that I have to be in the tech area.

So I came here. It wasn't an easy transition, having a mechanical to IT or computer science area there.

It was a hard area there.

But it's because of my passion that I wanted to be. And I stuck with it.

And I think looking back, that was the best decision I've made in my life.

It's interesting, isn't it, though, that I also went to the university in the 80s, how in some ways, it wasn't obvious that computer science was really a thing to do, particularly in the UK.

It was kind of like, oh, computer science didn't exist in universities.

It was like, oh, it's like an odd addition to mathematics or something like that.

You sort of add it on. And now, it seems like, oh, obviously, it's computer science is a valid thing.

But there was definitely a period where I was like, post the 8-bit machines, I was like, it's probably going to take off.

But then maybe it's not.

And you had to be very passionate about it, I think, at that point to really go for it.

Yeah. And also, able to see what's the potential of that computers could be there.

It was part of a math department, right? So it was kind of a more analytics and things that not more of an information side of what the use cases are there.

But I was able to correlate from my ex-work and see how the computer could be used at work, how it can change the world.

And that Silicon Valley is the place.

And that's where the whole innovation happens. But then the O2K came in, and then 2008, the cloud came in, Internet came in.

It was much more than what I expected, to be frank with you.

I didn't expect all of these things at all. Right.

Exactly. That's one of the things is that it's just a sort of exponential thing, and humans are very bad at exponentially understanding how something's going to explode.

So we miss that incredible growth. What were those first years in Silicon Valley like?

What were you doing at the beginning? Oh, that's interesting.

When I came in to the valley there, it was not a great time. It was after the earthquake, where the bridge was like, and there was Black Monday, or the whole stock market crashed, recession was going through it.

And I didn't have an experience in computer science, I needed a visa.

So getting a job was not easy. There was no computer, there's no email, there's nothing.

I had to walk in door to door to give the resumes and mail.

Even finding a computer to type a resume, because we didn't have a computer, you know, in homes.

And I need to go find a computer to type resumes and take a printouts and make copies.

And I went through a tough times and search. And during time, I kept myself working in our jobs.

And then I found a person one of the, that's the beauty of dinners.

Now, another person, he was starting a company, startup company, remember that back in 90s.

And they were looking at some personal information management system.

So developing software for Apple Mac. It is very simple.

It's like, no, I'm developing software to manage your appointments and tasks, no, no things like that.

It's the now you think it's very simple, menial stuff.

But at the time, there was nothing like that to manage your calendars, in the computers, and tasks and contacts and things like that.

So using hypercard language, no, I'm starting a company that a bunch of people are putting money and time there.

So I went there as a full time employee trying to coordinate with the development.

Now, basically started in software, no, developing software for Mac, and stayed there for about close to less than a year.

And then I figured out now it's going nowhere.

So I had to switch. Then I switched into the into a company that is much more relevant to my experience, which is the power plants.

And they were developing softwares for the nuclear and thermal power plants.

And I started there.

Then I went to HP. Then you went to HP. And then it's like, that was the thing that took you a long way.

Yeah, when I went to HP, I went to HP for PeopleSoft.

And HP was one of the earliest companies, earlier companies of billion dollar and more revenue, implementing PeopleSoft.

PeopleSoft was not a public company, it was coming up, again, another startup company there.

And the whole technology was new, three-tier technology or two-tier technology with all this high -level language and all the stuff over there.

They were hiring people and training it.

So I went in and got trained. I got really passionate about PeopleSoft and that's how I worked in HP and then moved on.

And so on and so on. And now, you sort of alluded to this, but Broadcom itself is moving along with the times as well.

And you see, we're talking about the sort of your view on the cloud and multi -cloud and all these kinds of things.

First, take us through a little bit of that.

Sure. Back when I started becoming a CIO and trying to establish a platform that can scale and also give us a lot more efficiency, effectiveness, one of the things we decided is go through it, it was SaaS.

So that's how we started the journey.

Now, Broadcom was at the time, it was the first billion dollar plus company to adopt Gmail in 2008.

Now, nobody was using Gmail. At the time, Gmail was considered to be for then now we're putting Box and putting Octa and Workday and things like that.

So we focused on first on a SaaS because we thought we can scale and we can leverage their innovations or we don't have to have a big team to manage.

Then we started slowly looking at what we can do with the cloud.

When we pivoted it into going to the software, all of our customer hosting the SaaS, we looked at that because that's the cloud is the right solution because again, you get a lot of flexibility.

You can scale up and scale down and because it's very hard to predict the forecast, what is the conception of customers, especially when we have the security tools and DevOps and stuff.

And on weekends, it goes down, weekdays, it goes up and the morning is now high and evenings is now low.

So with the cloud, you get a lot more, I call it knobs, just to dial down, dial up and maintain the cost optimization and also keep, it is transforming the technology that is much easier over there.

And also in the process, what we've realized is when you go to this cloud and SaaS, it becomes stickier.

Then when it becomes stickier, then your cost and everything, you don't have an option to kind of optimize it.

So that's why now I think we realize everybody looking at multi-cloud.

So they want a solution which is cloud agnostic so that I can move between clouds.

Now for many different reasons, people like one cloud or other cloud.

It could be for business reasons, it could be for technology, other things that, but you don't know what happened in the next five years and 20 years.

When you look at the 10 years back, only AWS was the cloud.

So now Azure is a cloud coming up, GCP is coming up now. It could be more there now.

So it won't evolve, it will transform. So it's better to be more agile and flexible in architecture there, where you can take the advantage of the technology innovations, not sticky within one area.

They're also given options, it helps you to optimize them.

So I believe in multi-cloud or hybrid cloud will be the way to go now and keeping your architecture more cloud agnostic.

You get the best of the both worlds, the best of your on-prem as well as the cloud.

So because you have a control to really optimize it and also you can keep evolving in this area.

Right, of course the challenge of this is that the big cloud providers are adding more and more and more services so that you get sort of using all that stuff and it's difficult to get out of being part of that world, right?

So how do we think that through in terms of like, how do we get to this actually multi-cloud world where we can move workloads around?

See, one of the main things is, like you said, the challenge is for a lot of the developers, much easier to consume those cloud services what they give.

That's where they are trying to make it stickier.

It's much easier to start using it. So that's why the architects, the products, technology strategies like me as a CTO, we have to be careful in choosing those architecture, those services, technology there and making it more either portable or more cloud agnostic.

The good thing is even these cloud vendors are now realizing it now, that's what customers want.

And they're slowly opening it up and being more of a supporting multi-cloud.

And there are a lot of other solutions which enables the multi-cloud and going to containers, going to microservices, which is very portable and also picking solutions which works in multi-cloud and many of them are getting into the direction of that.

So it is either if you start now, you have to start with that mind of, I'm going to be cloud agnostic now, either open source, open stack and cloud agnostic solutions.

And if you've been already in the cloud, you have to use the next three to five years, slowly transform as part of your product development, becoming cloud agnostic so that then you can take advantage of all three clouds.

Each cloud has their advantage, is a strength and so you get the best of all the three world and they can evolve there and sometimes if you are like us, it's supporting customers and selling to customers, customers have a choice.

They want to demand, give me only on this cloud and this area there. And also when you support government, go cloud, I'll stop there.

So you will have more choices, you're not stuck in one.

But the important thing is when you do this multi-cloud, you don't want to make sure you don't increase your cost of development.

You don't want to have three different pipelines or four different pipelines, four different development team do it.

That's why you need to have one pipeline but with the three different delivery channels over there.

So the whole CACD, that's where the architecture, the process, everything, everything all super nuts.

You need to think about multi-cloud, not in a single cloud. So also other thing is now all the developers, they love it.

They don't want to be just only doing an AWS developer, Azure developer.

That's what we like it. Now we tell our team, hey, there's opportunity to learn and learn all these three cloud, you'll be the cloud goose, not like one cloud there, that increases the value of our employees to them.

That's a very good point actually about developers liking this world. And in general, developers want that learning and breadth of possibility rather than being, I'll only, there are some that only ever want to write in one language, but most want to learn what's new and what's coming.

Yeah, absolutely. The learning is now, a lot of people, no, I know the employees love the compensation.

They want to be paid more, but after a while, they do appreciate the learning, the opportunities to learn and grow and keep up their skills.

And it is keep up to the pace of what's happening in the market, in the innovation over there.

It's always better to have a spread your skills.

They're not in just in one area over there, especially as you go up in your chain, you need to have that spread, they call it T-skills.

You need to have the T -skills that should cover the whole cloud. So I think the future, when you say, I have a cloud experience, I don't think people will expect just to be in a one cloud.

They expect, you know, all the three clouds, you know, the strength and weakness, you know, how to manage it, you know, how to come up with the architecture, which works in all three clouds.

All right, well, listen, let's switch gears a bit because we have nine minutes left in the show and talk about another sort of hybrid situation, which is, you know, you moved from India to the U.S.

and come with one culture into another culture.

Let's talk about that sort of thing since we're doing APAC Heritage Month here.

Tell me about some of the things that are part of that hybrid process, right, where you live in another country and another culture.

And what are the things that you've perhaps been involved in since then that are connecting the two?

Sure, sure. That's a very apt question for the month of heritage. So when I, to be frank, when I came to the U .S., I thought this is like 8000 miles away, you know, long distance from family and culture that I think I would never see a bit of my culture there, you know, it'll be completely, you know, changing the whole thing there.

But then when it came to the Silicon Valley, I said, no, that's a fully diverse area.

There are people from different backgrounds and different faiths and different things there.

They're all practicing it. There is an opportunity now to maintain that your identity there.

But one of the things that I was worried is, is the, you know, the kids who are born and growing up, you know, in this, you know, foreign countries or they're losing their identity, not to know who they are, you know, where they come from, not to have enough of knowledge about the culture and tradition over there, then the whole generations will become like that.

So we don't want the kids, you know, growing, the kids of our generations growing up here being confused, you know, want to be very clearly known for who I am, where I come from.

Part of that, we thought, you know, one of the critical element of the culture is the language.

If you know your language, you know, and that brings a lot of wealth of culture, a lot of tradition there.

So back in late 90s and early 2000s, we started a school here to teach a language called Tamil, which is my mother tongue, you know, I came from South India.

And so at the time, there was like one school in Cupertino, one of my friends have started it there.

Then I joined a few years back.

And now, right now, it's been about 20 plus years there. At the time, it started with five kids in a kitchen over there.

So now you won't believe the over 14,000 kids, you know, they come on the weekend, you know, we can learn.

And there are not only in the United States, we also have a schools in the US, you know, we have a skills schools, there were 20 states, 20 states of schools, there are 14,000 kids, and about 85 schools, we have, they all come here on Sunday to learn the language over there.

And it is 22 years, it's been successful, completely run as a volunteers, you don't pay anybody over there.

The people who teach is all volunteers, mostly parents over there. And initially, no, it was, it was a lot of struggle to get the kids to come to school on Sunday morning, you know, Sunday morning, they want to sleep, you know, sleeping there, you know, wake them up and come to school and eight o'clock and nine o'clock, it's a tough thing to do it.

But over the years, they got used to it, they see the value, like my kids went there, and they went to college, they really realized how much it helped them.

So that's the part of things I'm very passionate about, helping the kids over here to learn who they are, you know, and have that connection back to the India now, and keep speaking that mother tongue.

And also we figured out, the best time to learn a language is when you are, you know, when you're like, you know, three years, five years old, right?

When you grow up, it's much harder to learn another language.

But when you're a little, not much easier.

So we, we start not this, the kids come to our school at the age of three, you wouldn't believe this will be their first school they've ever attended that one, right?

So three year age of three to like about 1516 kids come to the school, every Sunday, they go through about, you know, 10 to 10 to 12 years, eight to 10 years, you know, based on their their option choices that they learned there, and some of the schools, they get a credits for the foreign language in high schools over there.

So it has been working well. And I've been, I've been part of the board.

And I've enjoyed sort of, I was gonna say, it's interesting how much you know, you made the point about language and culture being very, very linked.

I, I moved to Portugal two years ago, and I've been having Portuguese lessons here.

In fact, I had Portuguese lesson this morning. And it's interesting how much you see the cult, the underlying culture of the country through the way things are said through the words that exist or don't exist and things like that.

It's fascinating to me.

And I really see it now. I've been here two years like, oh, yeah, it's explained, or at least describes the culture that exists here.

Yep, yep.

No, I've enjoyed it. And the good thing is no, and we see the fruits of it.

No. And now the kids, the kids come back now, after they graduate, they start now, even some of the kids.

No, because we wanted this to be here forever.

No, it's just not like, you know, one short term period, they want to be part of this, this culture there.

And it's becoming part of the kids, you know, a life and early life and part of their weekend activities.

And also they meet a lot of other peers, you know, and that's what motivates them.

Now they see that, hey, I'm not alone here. There are a lot of a lot of kids like me, and I can create friendships, I can create a community or that.

So it's by teaching Tamil, we're helping to create a community and keep them together and practice their culture and traditions.

And do you think maybe you experience this?

I also speak, I speak French fluently. And if I speak in French, I think I have a slightly different personality in French than when I speak in English.

Do you feel the same thing if you speak Tamil or you speak English? Of course, of course, you know, when I speak in Tamil to the people over there, they can connect to me well, they become like a more of natural and authentic, you know, and see that I can connect to the connection is much more stronger, not when you know the language that you know.

And when you are speaking in English, you've been here for 30 years now, it's becoming more natural over there.

But that connection, that culture, we want to reflect that culture, that what helps them and it gives you a different perspective or a different view of you that when people see you through a different lens.

A lot of them tell me that when I when I give speeches in Tamil, they said no, they like it.

They love it there. And they encourage me that to continue to speak and sometimes even tell me that we should speak more in Tamil, not to mix in a lot of English words, because we've been here for a while.

So automatically start. That's that's something I do when I speak in French, which is I accidentally slip in because I you know, your brain finds that other word too quickly and you're like, I'll use the English word.

I understand that.

The other thing you mentioned to me when we were discussing this before was the importance of the church for you doing that because you've been involved in for a long time as well.

And we have a couple of minutes. So we got a lot of time. Sure, sure.

And like one of the when I said about the culture that the other one is not which I value a lot is a faith.

No, I'm like times like this now when the COVID is hitting us, what keeps our hopes up?

It's a faith. No, no. And especially when you live very far from your family, very far from your your country where you're used to it.

No, you need something to hang on to it. No, that faith is very critical that no, that gives you a lot of hope, a lot of security, you know, and safety in your in your thinking there.

No. So I thought no. And when you practice faith, if you practice the way you used to know, then you have a lot more connections and a lot more confidence on this one there.

So I thought, like, you know, let's create something which people are used to it in the South Indian based.

Now, there's a lot of other churches that here was mostly not part of India there.

So we wanted to create and develop a community church, which is mostly focused on the South Indian because there's a deity called Murugan, which is very popular in South India.

So we wanted to create to have the church there and develop that. So I've been part of this board about 20 years.

And again, like language, it gives you, you know, the culture things that this one, the church gives you faith and hope.

And when people go through tough times, I know, and when people needed, you know, the kind of, you know, something to hang on to it, you know, when they're far away from the family, they come there.

So that has been is a great help and community proceeds that it is right here in Concord, California over there.

I know we're building a new temple, you know, because we bought a whole church, really the church and converted it.

Now, we have a lot more support than getting a more traditional temple.

And people, the important thing is now both my school and the temple during the COVID year, you know, we had a challenge how to keep this going.

That's why you know that we have we only have 20 seconds left. So as fascinating as the story is, I'm going to have to say, we need another half an hour to talk about that that challenge.

It must have been absolutely enormous logistically to build something during this last year, as we've all been through.

Andy, thank you so much for being on the show.

And thank you for talking about all these different issues.

I started, thanks for having me.

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The CTO Show
The CTO role varies enormously from company to company. In this series, Cloudflare CTO John Graham-Cumming speaks with CTOs from across the industry to understand their role and how they ended up in it.
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