IBM STG Trip Report: Hardware-Software Synergy Yielding Dividends

Every year in the fourth quarter, IBM assembles its Systems & Technology Group (STG – the hardware guys) executives for discussions with the analyst community to review results and discuss the year ahead. STG’s Senior VP Rod Adkins teed up this year’s meeting with a reminder that STG and Software Group (SWG) both now report to Steve Mills, SVP and Group Executive – Software & Systems. This change naturally suggests the possibilities for increased synergies between the two parts of IBM, and although much collaboration has been in place over the years, IBM’s attention to leveraging the opportunity has clearly come into sharper focus. The interaction was a recurrent theme. Read more of this post

IBM’s IOD Showcases DB2, Informix, InfoSphere. Now, About Marketing….

It was hard to decide where to look first in Las Vegas this year at IBM’s flagship information management event. Coming as it did on the heels of a massive, sprawling Oracle Open World, it was also overwhelming, but distinguished itself immediately by its focus. Whereas Oracle has smashed together hardware systems, apps, middleware, java and development, systems management and database into a bewildering multi-site show, IBM continues to run separate events for Websphere, Rational, Tivoli, and Lotus. No single IBM event trumpets “we’re the biggest,” and they don’t take over the towns they’re in; the content seems a bit more manageable. And as an attendee who hopes to get a broad view, I’m happy with that. However, as I’ll discuss below, Oracle is winning the messaging war nonetheless.

There was indeed talk of systems at IoD this year, as Smart Analytics Systems got a refresh and some added units on x-based platforms. Flash memory additions to the x-based 5600, bundling InfoSphere and Cognos along with an updated Linux release, provide the basis for a good story along with more cores, memory and storage. A similar story is possible for the POWER-based 7700, which also added the new Blue Darter solid state disk (SSD.) And the z audience gets the 9600, with its sidecar, the transparent offload to the Smart Analytics Optimizer. Yes, IBM has a column-based database, with innovative storage tweaks and an optimizer that knows when to use it and when not to. Great promise there.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Try this: ask 10 IT people what Exadata is, and what Smart Analytics Systems are. Ask them who makes the offerings, and what they do. Go ahead…I’ll wait….

Back? OK. Here’s what I learned, after doing that experiment at 3 events attended by IT people (data people, in fact.) 8 of 10 I asked knew Oracle makes Exadata and it’s a wicked fast platform for data. 4 of 10 knew who makes the other one, and fewer knew why. On visibility and buzz, game Oracle.

There is much more to talk about, and visibility and buzz are not everything. IBM’s numbers continue to be good, and nobody in Armonk is complaining. But the IBM Software brand needs to get more attention, more investment, and a tighter, more focused story. The good news? Conversations I’ve been having suggest that it will in 2011, and it’s about time. Read more of this post

IBM Acquires Netezza – ADBMS Consolidation Heats Up

IBM’s bid to acquire Netezza makes it official; the insurgents are at the gates. A pioneering and leading ADBMS player, Netezza is in play for approximately $1.7 billion or 6 times revenues [edited 9/30; previously said "earnings," which is incorrect.] When it entered the market in 2001, it catalyzed an economic and architectural shift with an appliance form factor at a dramatically different price point. Titans like Teradata and Oracle (and yes, IBM) found themselves outmaneuvered as Netezza mounted a steadily improving business, adding dozens of new names every quarter, continuing to validate its market positioning as a dedicated analytic appliance. It’s no longer alone there; some analytic appliance play is now in the portfolio of most sizable vendors serious about the market. Read more of this post

More TDWI Notes – ParAccel Rolling On, HP Stalled, Vertica Leading Insurgents

On my second day at TDWI, I was in meetings all day – events like this are a great opportunity for analysts to catch up with many of the companies they follow at one time, and this particular one was packed with sponsors. Congrats to the folks who sell sponsorships – they had a packed exhibit hall, and a lot of very interested attendees. I got a chance to chat at a few booths (all buzzing), ask a few attendees some real-world questions (and was asked some surprising ones myself), and get a sense of the workload in the trenches (heavy and growing.)

Read more of this post

Oracle Exadata: Early Signs Promising

Exadata is looking good. In the past few months, I’ve had the chance to talk to several early adopters of Oracle Exadata V2, some in connection with a sponsored white paper Oracle has just published. It’s still early, but I see this product as a milestone, regardless of its commercial success. That is still to be determined, although I wouldn’t bet against it. How it will be affected by Oracle’s execution of the Sun acquisition is another open question, and the recent surprise layoffs, which showed that either the announced expectations were laughably off base or Ellison’s early announcements about  hiring plans were less than candid, don’t bode too well for the near term. Rob Enderle made some strong and provocative points in his guest post here. Read more of this post

IBM Gets Feisty — Mobilizes Analytics for Oracle Battle

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.

This post is a slightly updated version of a piece that appeared in the PUND-IT newsletter. Read more of this post

IBM’s “Smarter Planet” Will Capitalize on HW, Analytics

Rod Adkins, the SVP and Group Executive of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (STG) took the time to engage the influencer community quite early in his tenure for a well-run event at the Watson Research Lab in Yorktown Heights. “I’ve been in this position for 38 days,” he  reminded us, as STG’s AR team widened the usually hardware-focused invited audience to include generalists and more software-focused folk like me.  IBM execs from IBM’s Software Group, its Research organization and corporate, joined us  for a look at the science behind the systems, a compelling addition to the agenda. And another pitch for IBM’s analytics thrust was a scene-stealer. Read more of this post

Cognos Showcases Strong Momentum, Ambitious Plans

IBM’s Cognos analyst event this week in lovely Ottawa, Canada showcased strong evidence of progress and continuing momentum for one of the  largest software acquisitions of recent years. An international group of analysts listened to a series of discussions that highlighted key developments:

  • The launch of Cognos Express, aimed at mid-market buyers
  • New Analytic Applications that continue to expand the portfolio and IBM’s increasing commitment to this new form of applications
  • Internal integration of Cognos within IBM proceeding and gaining momentum
  • New Performance Blueprints continuing to roll out
  • Upcoming product plans, with numerous launches planned at the Information on Demand conference in October
  • The planned SPSS acquisition, pointing the way to new opportunities  Read more of this post

It’s On: IBM To Acquire SPSS

With one stroke, IBM has signalled that it believes itself ready to redraw the BI map. After a multi-year, multi-billion dollar spending spree, IBM has assembled the product portfolio, marketing and sales organization, and a 4000-person services army to launch a full-scale assault. It’s a lucrative opportunity: Mary Weier at InfoWeek quotes IDC to the effect that in 2008, the total BI market grew 10.6% to $7.8 billion. But although IBM’s acquisition of Cognos made it a formidable presence, with around 10% of the total market, until now it seems to largely have been in a holding pattern. IDC says IBM’s 2008 BI revenues were $800 million, up 5% since the previous year. But key competitors  SAP and SAS, who are ahead of IBM in share, and Oracle, nipping at its heels, grew at  double-digit rates. It is time to for IBM up that ante; as strong as Cognos was, it ought to have benefited more from IBM’s muscle. And now, it’s on. Read more of this post

IBM’s Smart Analytics System: More Than An Appliance?

When is an appliance not an appliance? When it’s more. On July 28, IBM’s Software Group and Systems and Technology Group (i.e., the hardware folks) hosted an analyst event to introduce the Smart Analytics System.The discussion began with a series of conversations about the value of “workload optimization,” or the effective tuning of processors, storage, memory and network components with software used for information management.  Not controversial, but hardly news. IBM claims to be raising the bar, though, with the promise of a system that is already tuned, and attuned to the needs of its purchaser, at a level far beyond appliances that other vendors have delivered: appliances, if you will, not only predesigned for specific use cases, but customized for specific instances of those use cases. It’s no accident that IBM never called the Smart Analytics System an “appliance.” Extending the Smart brand here is a powerful move, and IBM appears poised to make good on its promise. Read more of this post

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