The new CEO of IBM sees the dawn of a new era for computing that will be defined by a new generation of IT systems that will use Big Data to provide actual cognitive insight.
Speaking at the IBM PartnerWorld 2012 conference, IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty said that the first era of computing was defined by simple computation. The second era began in the 1960s with the introduction of programmable systems. Now with the arrival of systems such as IBM Watson, Rometty says we're entering a new era of computing that will transform every major vertical industry segment.
Rometty says that what distinguishes systems that provide cognitive insight is their ability to learn, hypothesize and suggest courses of action based on patterns observed in the data being collected. In fact, Rometty says businesses should be thinking of their data as "the next great natural resource" to be exploited. How that data is effectively analyzed and managed, adds Rometty, is what will ultimately determine in the years ahead the business winners and losers in every industry.
The biggest impact these systems will have, says Rometty, is not on back-office operations that have been a traditional strength for IT, but rather in the front office where businesses engage customers. Analytics is the thread that will weave together front- and back-office systems to give companies that harness huge volumes of unstructured data a competitive business advantage.
Given the fact that the amount of data most companies will need to manage will grow by a factor of 10 every five years, Rometty expects that companies will need systems that can process data at rates that are 10,000 times faster than today. In addition, those systems will need to be as self-managing as possible, which is an effort IBM is starting to embark on with the introduction of a new generation of systems to be introduced this spring that will automatically distribute workloads based on the attributes of specific classes of applications.
Those "integrated by design" systems, adds Rometty, will form the foundation for a raft of new Smarter Planet use cases that are all going to be dependent on decisions that are informed by access to massive amounts of data.
Whether it's just serendipity or part of a deliberate strategy, the arrival of a new IBM CEO in January of 2012 appears to be timed with an effort by IBM to use advances in analytics and other emerging technologies to redefine the role of IT in the enterprise. That obviously has not only huge business and technology implications, but it also begs the question of what role IT professionals will play in this new era of computing.