I’m not a huge fan of vendor events, largely because I go to a lot of them and, after a wave of them, I tend to be a homesick mess. That isn’t true of IBM Edge, however, because this event tends to embody much of what makes IBM a company to admire.
From the name, which speaks to how the company is developing technology to give its customers an “edge,” to content that spans from infrastructure to AI, Edge is one of the few shows that captures the heart of the large enterprise.
Given that this show is coming up on September 19, I thought I’d share what I’m looking forward to seeing.
IBM is really the only company that seems to make a big deal out of infrastructure. Most other companies are focused on hardware and software. What gets lost is the fact that all of that stuff generally needs a flexible infrastructure that can make it work. Often, in my experience, the reason a new technology fails in a shop is because it simply will not plug in to what is already there and interoperate properly.
IBM has turned fixing this into a line of business and it’s interesting that not only is this business doing very well, but it remains relatively unique in the market. I find it fascinating that this focus remains unique to the company.
IBM remains the only company that is pushing an alternative to x86 at scale, virtually exclusively. IBM's approach is unique in that it seems to have given the technology away by creating the Open Power consortium, which it did in order to get the kind of penetration it needs to challenge x86. IBM’s success has come largely from more tightly targeting large-scale opportunities and creating partnerships like the one with NVIDIA that Intel has been unwilling to match. I’ll be looking for advances and unique solutions in both Big Data analytics and high-performance computing, where the firm’s efforts have made advances. I’ll also be looking for advances in things like mixed technology water cooling, well, because I’m a geek and just find that stuff really cool.
Watson remains the only focused AI effort at enterprise scale that is sold as a line of business. IBM was really first to this concept with Watson and I think that whoever gets this right first will likely own the next wave of computing.
A lot of focus initially was on what Watson could do. But the cost and time to train the system initially was massive. IBM has been working to automate this training and vastly reduce the resources needed to bring a Watson system into service. I’ll be looking to see what kind of progress it has made and whether it can stay ahead of smaller firms like BeyondCore and internal efforts like Google’s, which are coming up very quickly. I’ll also be looking to see how IBM is using this technology internally for competitive advantage. (I’m a huge fan of checking to see if a firm uses what it sells to advantage.)
Wrapping Up: Getting the Edge
IBM is a fascinating company. It really is the only modern tech company working on its second century of life and it remains unique with its infrastructure, power and Watson efforts. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and maybe, just maybe, one of these days Watson itself may be one of them. I think the world could become a better place if we all made better decisions, and that’s really what IBM, Edge, and particularly Watson are all about.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+.