IBM Enterprise 2013: The Most Important Part Isn’t ‘Open or Optimized’

Rob Enderle
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I’m at IBM Enterprise 2013, which is being held in Orlando this year. Unfortunately, being a California boy, my brain will likely not fully wake up for another two or three hours. The central themes for the event appear to be big data and how it is driving the market; Linux, which IBM is pushing across every platform; and the drive to free up cash so folks can afford to buy some of this stuff. It was this last point that struck me as one of the most interesting. IBM’s own survey showcased that the vast majority of companies place technology again in the lead with regard to making their firms more competitive and successful, but also said that 70 percent or more of their budgets were consumed by maintaining the systems they had. This leaves them with very little to spend on this technology that they feel is so critical for success.

Let’s talk about my initial perceptions of IBM’s Enterprise 2013 conference.

Open and Optimized

To address this critical requirement, IBM has been putting much of its effort into systems that are integrated yet open. This sounds like an oxymoron, and in a way it is. While the hardware is tightly integrated, the software is open. This means that while IBM hardware will interoperate with other hardware, it has created platforms like Pure Systems that are highly coupled and where the savings will be most pronounced if the firm invests exclusively in it.

This is how pretty much every vendor is focused right now: building tightly coupled systems of servers, networking and storage that encompass a project and assure that the hardware is optimized to provide the most bang for the buck. The U.S. Open was used as an example of how well this integration works as it is.

The hardware is highly integrated but the platform is open, allowing the large number of software partners to quickly and effectively develop on it and provide solutions that have to be delivered on a time table because the event is prescheduled. Loading is incredibly high, with nearly half a billion visitors to the U.S. Open web properties in the two weeks of the event: 41 million page views from tablet devices, 134,000 downloads for the iPad app, and 16 million page views from that app. Smartphones provided a whopping 178 million page views. The kinds of things fans were looking at were keys to the match (what a player needs to do in real time in order to win), examples of key actions, and real-time stats on player performance, pulling from 40 million data points (structured, unstructured and semi-structured). Unlike most firms, in this instance, the U.S. Open’s traffic jumps 50x during the two weeks of the event, and the solution mush scale up massively without crashing during this time. (It strikes me that given the issues with Obamacare web sites, maybe the Obama Administration should have gone to IBM for the solution).

Predictive Analytics for Data Loading

One of the interesting things about the U.S. Open system is that it uses predictive analytics to forecast and provision the systems. It looks at Twitter traffic, weather, interest in particular players, web site usage data, and text analysis to anticipate events and how much impact they will have. This assures that the resources are available when the fans need them and assures a good experience. They showed a dashboard that showcases not only how well they are matching resources to demand but how much the system IBM has provided is saving them. This last is rather unique and not only gives credit back to the folks that chose the solution, but it frees up cash to make other additional investments. This sets an example in which technology investments report back and demonstrate that they were a good financial decision.

Wrapping Up: The Important Part

While open and integrated are all well and good, the important part of the U.S. Open example was that they not only created a system that could anticipate needed capacity and auto provision for it but it’s a solution that saved money and it regularly reported that savings to management. This last part is so often forgotten, yet it is the part that provides IT with the information it needs to justify budgets and jobs.

With religion, you have “faith,” and IT too often seems to use this same level of proof to justify past decisions. This is unacceptable in an industry that lives on numbers. The U.S. Open and IBM showcased that you can put faith aside and actually create solutions that not only manage big data and provide analytics, but use analytics to showcase how much money they have saved. That last part is the most important part.

Also see the second part of my IBM Enterprise 2013 write-up: "IBM Enterprise 2013: The Apple vs. IBM Approach to Products."

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