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IBM Gets Feisty — Mobilizes Analytics for Oracle Battle

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

By Merv Adrian, IT Market Strategy

In July 2009, IBM announced the Smart Analytics System 7600, a workload-optimized, pre-integrated bundle of hardware and software targeted at the business analytics market. Included in that package are an IBM POWER 550 running AIX, storage, plus InfoSphere Warehouse Enterprise Edition (which consists of DB2, Warehouse design and management tools + Cubing, Data Mining and Text Analytics services), and Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, configured and tuned, and “health check” features. Accommodations are made if the customer already has licensed some of the software and wants to use it on the platform; in this sense, the software is described as “optional.” This month, IBM broadened the story and upped the ante, making Smart Analytics System a key weapon in its widening battle with Oracle.

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My Impressions of IBM’s SOA Impact Conference

April 16, 2008 1 comment

Last week I attending IBM’s Impact conference which Sandy Carter, VP of SOA for IBM contends is the largest SOA conference in the world. With more than 6,000 attendees all focused on SOA, I think she might be right. So, it is interesting to listen to see what the key messages and issues. I have some time to take stock of what I heard and saw at the meeting. This is the second year of the Impact conference and it is interesting to see the difference a year makes

While I could go on for a long time about the details of the conference, I wanted to give you my top three impressions of the meeting.

Impression One. SOA is about end-to-end business process. IBM is maturing with the market. When IBM first started on its SOA journey, the focus was primarily on the Enterprise Service Bus but that has changed. While the ESB is still important (although there are camps in the industry who think it isn’t so important anymore), there is a new focus that is more holistic. IBM is now much more focused on end-to-end business process. I think this is an important move for customers and for IBM’s go to market strategy. It is a more business centric view and approach to SOA. I think that this is a testament to the fact that SOA is starting to mature. Customers are beginning to think of SOA not just as a substitute for applications integration but as a way of managing business. This is a step in the right direction.

Impression Two. SOA gets Smart. IBM is using the Smart SOA brand as a natural evolution of its SOA strategy. I come away from the conference understanding that IBM is beginning to leverage its experience with thousands of customers into a set of best practices that are codified into a set of industry frameworks. Many of these frameworks are culled from IBM Global Services experience working with customers. Pre-defined and extensible frameworks are an essential solution to the problem customers face in trying to pull together the pieces of a SOA architecture from scratch. Part of IBM’s journey as a SOA vendor is to pull its elements of software together into a cohesive SOA approach. I observed that IBM is working to create a SOA approach that leverages its five software areas: Tivoli (service management, security, etc.), Rational (development and quality), Information Management (databases, search, content management, information infrastructure, information services, etc.), WebSphere (application server, enterprise service bus, etc.), and Lotus (collaboration and social computing). Implementing a long term SOA strategy really does require all of these areas to be intertwined. It is not an easy path for any vendor.

Impression Three: It’s about the customer. IBM made it clear that it was putting its focus on customers at this meeting. There were more than 250 sessions run by its customers. It was pretty overwhelming with often more than 50 sessions going on simultaneously. Our team ran a SOA for Dummies session and had standing room only. We weren’t sure what to expect. Were all IBM customers too smart to attend a introduction to SOA session? We found that, in fact, a lot of attendees that we met during our session are figuring out the basics: how to work with the business, how to think about governance, and what does it mean to capture code out of an existing application and make it into a reusable service. Many of the other customers we spoke with at the meeting are well along in their SOA journey. They are getting real business value because they are looking at SOA from a customer experience perspective.

I was struck by the comments made by Jim Haney, CIO of Harley-Davidson who started off the conference by driving onto the stage on a motorcycle (a Harley, of course!). His words were so good that I’ll quote some of what he said (If I got some words wrote, you’ll have to forgive me). He spoke about the customer facing SOA application the company has put into production. “SOA is not about technology, it is about how you use technology to change the business.” The application called rideplanner.com is designed to help Harley customers plan trips. The application is intended to enhance the customer experience. It is not as simple as providing a trip map, rather as Jim explained, “it is about defining the process and bringing all these technology together to create an end to end experience. It is about pulling everything together with soa to change the way the customer interacts with us.” He pointed to the need to determine the right route to travel and what sights are along the way. Is it a long ride or a short one? Are there events that a Harley rider might be interested in? “We are creating a different customer experience. It isn’t about the individual transactions. We had to look at the person behind the application — not just at the technology. It is a cultural change.” I think that says it all…

Five things I learned at IBM’s Software Group Industry Analyst Meeting

November 9, 2007 4 comments

Every year at about this time I attend IBM Software Group IT Industry Analyst meeting. This meeting is attended by about 90 industry analysts and about three times that number of IBM software group leaders, managers, and support staff. It is quite the event! While I can’t possibly talk about everything I am hearing, but I will give you an overview of the events and some of the highlights.

Since I have been traveling to a lot of analyst conferences lately, I can compare the approach of different market leaders. Next week, for example, I will be at EMC’s analyst meeting and in early December I will attend SAP’s analyst event.

But I digress. Here is what I came away thinking about IBM and its software strategy. One of my first thoughts is to compare Microsoft’s SOA/BPM event the other week to IBM’s. One of the big differences is that while Microsoft is announcing new long term initiatives (Oslo) for SOA, IBM is executing on a long term plan that has been in the works for more than five years. I think the best way to understand IBM’s software DNA is to look at the perspective of its leader.

I start with an observation that is actually not new for me. Steve Mills, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Software Group has been the force behind herding the multiple business areas within the software group to have a common set of underlying services. While this may make perfect sense, it not an easy achievement for a company with thousands of software offerings across hundreds of different business units. As an example, when I first met Steve he was grappling with a few hundred different data stores under hundreds of different products. Somehow he managed to get all of these groups to use DB2 as their underlying database engine. But that was just the start. Steve’s next big leap was to move out of the packaged software market and into the middleware and horizontal software market.

 

 

 

 

I thought Steve’s remarks were quite insightful: In essence, Mills pointed out that IBM’s focus with its horizontal software approach is on what he calls industry frameworks. With this approach he believes that IBM is armed with the right stuff to focus on what he calls “customer business outcomes.”

Rather than packaged software these frameworks are a combination of best practices and business services. For example, in the financial services industry these services would include financial services for payments platforms, high performance event processing, and large scale data mining and analytics. Therefore, the overarching strategy for the software business is to provide the building blocks that apply to business requirements across business domains.

Mills contents that the real benefit that customers are looking for is to gaining operational efficient and innovative business performance from this horizontal. He contends that the greatest benefit from a growth and cost containment basis comes from a focus on harmonizing business practices across the organization. Simply automating and re-automating vertical slides such as customer relationship systems, booking keeping, inventory, and the like not where the opportunity is. Could this be a swipe at companies like Oracle and SAP?

 

Like Microsoft, IBM is moving its focus to process and models-based approaches but with a horizontal flavor. Mills believes that transactions, messaging, information integration, management of an increasingly virtualized enviornment, data management, and collaboration are at the heart of the requirements to make this vision a reality. This is where IBM software is putting its money and its bets.

So, here are the five things I learned from this meeting (I probably learned more but I know that people who read blogs have a short attention span…):

1. IBM is focused horizonally and will not get into the packaged software market. The exception will be software packages that focuses on more horizontal requirements.

2. IBM is reinventing Lotus into a collaboration platform. There are many exciting initiatives unfolding in Lotus that focus on a true distributed platform. I expect to see some important Software as a Service initiatives come out of the new Lotus. I would like to see IBM move faster into Software as a Service.

3. Information Management is an increasingly strong part of the IBM platform that transcends the database. IBM is doing a good job at integrating a large number of acquisitions into a substantial SOA based information platform.

4. IBM is doing SOA well. Clearly, the investment in SOA is paying off for IBM. It has more than 5700 SOA engagements under its belt. It is now able to leverage its expertise across key verticals to present a sound strategy to customers.

 

5. Now, I don’t want you to think that everything is perfect at IBM. There are still areas of concern. For example, the Tivoli organization has plenty of work to do to explain its portfolio to the market and give customers better techniques to get started without getting indigestion . Like other parts of IBM software, it is, in essence a software company in its own right with hundreds of products that don’t always work together as they should. Likewise, IBM Websphere is a huge set of technologies — some better integrated that others. Sometimes customers get overwhelmed with the portfolio.

Trying to reduce IBM software strategy to under 1,000 words is a task few humans should undertake (without a stiff drink of something). I have left out a lot — and there is plenty to say. For example, I haven’t talked at all about the herculean task that Danny Sabbah (I have added a link to Amy Wohl’s blog. She has a good interview with Danny from the same meeting) has taken on to reinvigorate Rational. (Yes, he is making progress. The direction is well conceived — it will just take some time). I also have not talked about the important Express software platforms that are probably IBM’s best kept secret. There are a series of impressive product offerings designed for ease of installation and ease of use required by the mid-market. I always wonder why it is o.k. for big companies to have to do things the hard way (but that’s just me…).

I guess this means that I have to write more about IBM’s software strategy in future entries…