IBM Edge 2013: The World Is Being Shaped by Big Data

    This week I’m at IBM Edge. This show has become impressively successful, going from around 2,000 attendees last year to nearly 5,000 this year. IBM opened the event with a rather impressive percussion band both on stage and marching up the aisles. This helps pull the audience’s attention to the stage and in many ways it is a metaphor for the world we live in. Surrounded by mobile noise, we often miss what is going on around us unless someone, in this case IBM, hits us upside the head. Let me walk you through IBM’s key messages.

    The World of Mobile

    IBM argues that we are in a world of mobile devices where virtually everything we are doing, from personal to business, is increasingly done on mobile devices. We use the phones and tablets to manage our lives and stay in touch with our customers, coworkers and employers. Partially because of this, we increasingly expect all our IT services to be appliance-like and always on.

    Management Costs Are Killing Us

    According to IBM- management costs for trying to keep the back end systems working have been rising significantly over the last few years, from under a third to nearly three quarters of IT cost. Companies, because they are largely driving systems that weren’t designed for this always on, always connected world, are being thrashed and the resulting inefficiencies are creating an unfortunate trend. By driving more cost into management, the IT organization has fewer resources to drive into replacing systems that are increasingly out of date and more costly to manage. This is an ugly cycle; as it feeds itself, the more money that is spent, the worse the problem. It gets worse at an increasing rate until the IT organization can no longer keep up with the business requirements and some catastrophe results in a massive change.

    The Cloud Isn’t the Answer

    At least, the cloud isn’t the answer for every question. IBM used Jaguar/Land Rover as an example of how to approach this problem. The problem was that the dealerships were unable to maintain the entire lines of the cars and the dealerships weren’t located where a lot of buyers are. IBM helped create the idea of the virtual dealership, which was a large touch-screen kiosk allowing people to configure the cars they wanted. They could hear, and virtually feel, what the car would be like. This way, Jaguar/Land Rover could take the virtual dealership to car events and, rather than forcing the buyers to come to them, they could go to the buyer. This had nothing to do with “the cloud,” this had to do with rethinking the problem and designing a solution to address it.

    Smarter Computing

    IBM is launching over 65 products at this show. At the core of each one is the idea and concept of Smarter Computing. Smarter Computing doesn’t mean more power or capacity. While these systems do have those advantages, it is about intelligently solving problems: thinking through what has to be done and then supplying the solution that best solves the business problem you have conceived.

    The next example was Centerline Digital. Charles Long, Centerline’s CEO, was on stage to talk about how IBM helped him create a smarter solution. Centerline builds content marketing programs designed to connect companies to their customers. Everything it creates not only has to look great, it has to have measurable business results. The business has been massively affected by the availability of metrics in real time and the massive increase in data transmission speeds. Everything it creates has a very narrow window and the job is to make sure that the content it creates is both relevant and has the longest time in front of the audience as possible, while the audience is still interested. The company not only doesn’t intend to keep the IT budget flat, it views IT as a strategic resource that drives the business. Long fell in love with IBM PureFlex because it allows Centerline the flexibility it needs to adjust to market, customer, and technology needs. It was the most economical, flexible and intelligent of his choices. (It amazes me how IBM can get customers to basically do a sales pitch for it. You just don’t see this from anyone else. It really showcases the power of the relationship.)

    In the end, Long is arguing that his company couldn’t be as successful without PureFlex. From a CEO, this is a powerful message.

    The Word ‘Storage’ Is Obsolete

    IBM then moved to talking about storage and why the term should be obsolete, largely because it focuses you on the repository and not on what you need to do with it. With storage, you need big repositories to hold all the data, most of which you’ll never use or need. IBM is more focused now on intelligently making use of this data, securing it, and driving innovation for a variety of business vertical markets. Up to 90 percent of IBM’s current customers aren’t managing or using their data efficiently. IBM is now focused on correcting this as opposed to just throwing new hardware at the problem.

    The PureData initiative is focused on this problem with a combination of analytics and improved management. Storwize is one of the platforms IBM is showcasing at the show, and they are talking about the third generation of this platform. Open standards-based and tied sharply to analytics, this is the foundation of the third-generation, virtualized, open, and industry led approach. IBM is announcing that it is beginning the move to all Flash storage because mechanical solutions just aren’t fast enough. It is using Sprint, Vion, Kroger, and Reuters as examples and one evidently said “Flash is the answer to all of the poor software they have been running for decades.”

    Prudential’s Savings Results with IBM

    IBM brought up another customer. This time, it’s Joseph Balsamo, VP of Platform Engineering for Prudential. He is a lifer, and has been working in IT for decades. His goal as an IT manager is to deliver a simple, agile and transparent solution to customers because they demand it. His problem was to blend cloud and traditional technologies in a seamless solution. Prudential needed high availability, sustainability and innovation, and it couldn’t wait for IBM or any vendor. It introduced XIV and migrated a petabyte of storage seamlessly. The result requires no storage admins for routine operations, and they took a 75 percent reduction in operating expense, RPO dropped from 72 hours to 15 seconds, and there was a 50 percent reduction in cost per megabyte. Going forward, they are focused on being an internal cloud shop using PureAS and PureFlex In order to take these kinds of powerful results even farther.

    Wrapping Up: Lots of Content, Clear Message

    I’m struck by how powerful the voice of the customer is at IBM Edge this year. This really stands out because vendors can always say great things about their own products but when you get customer after customer to get up and sing your praises, you have a powerful message.

    IBM closed by talking about how IBM is using Smarter Computing to transform IBM. This is the one part I’ve personally been waiting to hear because IBM, traditionally, has been a company that often stood out by not being able to justify using the amazing technology it created internally. This was a huge discord for the company and apparently it has been addressing this aggressively. The result has been a massive savings in operational costs, and equally massive improvements in response time. IBM is saving $1.25 billion a year, 30,000 megawatts of energy per year, and got back 103 sq. ft. of floor space. It also got a 36 percent improvement in application deployment cycle time.

    This is the true power of the new IBM. It has become its own biggest customer and the results are incredibly compelling. I’m ex-IBM myself, and there was a small tear in my eye when I realized IBM had become what I’d always hoped it would again become, its own best customer.

    This was a powerful moment for me.

    Rob Enderle
    Rob Enderle
    As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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