CIO Profiles: Ken Silva, Senior VP And CTO Of VeriSign

This security pro sees huge potential for virtualization.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 4, 2009

3 Min Read

Career Track

Ken SilvaSenior VP and CTO, VeriSign

How long at current company: 9-1/2 years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Over a number of years, VeriSign acquired a significant number of companies. Most of those technologies hadn't been integrated from an infrastructure standpoint. To obtain maximum efficiency, we decided to integrate all of those operations, including networking and security. By being decisive and making the goals and objectives clear, we were able to fuse multiple teams into a single unit, which in the end was smaller and far more productive.

Most important career influencer: Peter Kellman served as a mentor and a technical barometer for more than 10 years while I worked at the National Security Agency. His mix of technical expertise and his unique ability to bring out the very best in people is something I've rarely seen in a senior technical leader. In working with him, I saw how a mix of technical skills coupled with a personable demeanor could take a team to a new level of productivity.


Advice for future CIOs: If your security or technology policies are in conflict with the corporate culture, you're in serious trouble. You either need to adapt the policies or change the culture. If you don't, you'll never get the buy-in from your peers or management.

Best way to cope with the economic downturn: Make sure that projects are clearly prioritized and the risks for not doing some projects are well understood.

The federal government's top technology priority should be ... securing critical communications infrastructure.

On The Job

IT budget: $200 million

Size of IT team: About 700

Top initiatives:

  • Virtualization is one of the most exciting initiatives we have. I see an enormous potential for rapid deployment and configuration control. We have a number of small initiatives around virtualization that will ramp our efforts over time. There's so much potential for productivity improvement.

  • Distributed storage is another key initiative. Storing and retrieving data is one of the biggest challenges companies with large data sets have. We've launched a distributed storage initiative that will greatly simplify data replication and data mining.

  • Security is important to any company (or should be), but at VeriSign it's in our DNA. We constantly revise our security measures to take maximum advantage of the latest technologies available.

How I measure IT effectiveness: Aside from the quality of your applications, one of the most important elements of an IT organization is its availability. It doesn't matter how good something is if your customers can't get to it. By measuring uptime and availability as a metric, you can understand which components might need attention. By tracking uptime and availability at the component level, you can see where trouble spots are.


Leisure activity: Golf

Tech vendor CEO I respect most: Bill Gates

Business leader I'd like to have lunch with: Steve Jobs

Biggest business-related pet peeve: People who show up late for meetings

Last vacation: Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Smartphone of choice: iPhone

Personal computer of choice: iMac

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