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 Shows Broad Mobile Portfolio at Largest Lab

IBM employs 45,000 software engineers worldwide, and like all large firms, has been greatly expanding its overseas contingent, leading some in the US to complain that not enough is being done “back home.” In mid-June, IBM provided an answer with the opening of a new lab facility in the Boston suburb of Littleton, Massachusetts, one of 70 IBM Software Labs around the globe, and its largest in North America.  It has “more square footage than Boston’s Fenway Park or the TD Garden,” IBM noted, and employs fully 10% of the firm’s software engineers. Since 2003, IBM said, it has acquired 14 Massachusetts-based companies, partnered with more than 100 VC-backed small firms, and has more than 1,600 business partners in New England. This investment was not lost on the Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, who joined IBM SVP and Group Executive Steve Mills for the lab opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. In a bid to demonstrate the breadth of his portfolio, Mills assembled the heads of several of his software brands to discuss mobility, a primary focus of the Littleton lab. Read more of this post

IBM Impact Event – Process is King

IT vendors perpetually balance between “business” and “product” messages. And it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of problem. Take a mixed load of analysts and half will always think one of the dimensions got short shrift – and the other half will say exactly the opposite. So take my first impression of IBM’s Impact event, the WebSphere gathering, with a grain or twelve of salt: “IBM didn’t say nearly enough about product at Impact this year.” And there was much to say, so for me, it felt like a missed opportunity.

Analysts are spoiled creatures; I was annoyed that there was no analyst workroom, no power at our “special seating” (as if the good seats weren’t enough), bad connectivity on Day Two….as I said, spoiled. I try not to behave like a diva. Mostly I succeed. I did manage to remain focused enough to see clearly that business process has become the focus for the WebSphere gang – they’ve moved beyond an obsession with technology to focus on what we do with it. That’s a very positive step up. 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

Oracle Ups EPM Ante

After a 2 year wait, Oracle is rolling out some fruits of its daunting integration efforts in enterprise performance applications. New suite bundles, an Essbase connector and Hyperion uplift are highlights of its Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2 release. The numbering scheme, evidently constrained by the overall Oracle level 11 nomenclature, drove the understated “11.1.2” moniker, but make no mistake, this is a major thrust – delivered in 15 languages and with a new focus on role-based thinking. The task-specific and vertical themes that dominate developments in enterprise applications were on display here as Oracle delivered Financial Close Management, Disclosure Management, and Public Sector Planning and Budgeting applications atop the Fusion Middleware platform that is the basis for further product portfolio integration in the quarters ahead. The architectural value of the Business Intelligence Foundation here cannot be overstated; Oracle is delivering on a well-thought-out model that facilitates a steady growth in product opportunities that will drive incremental revenues. 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

IBM Software Partner Programs To Get a Boost From Sandy Carter

Sandy Carter is excited. If you know her, that shouldn’t be a surprise – she’s one of the most enthusiastic, engaging and social media-savvy folks at IBM. And after a couple of years with WebSphere, where she has been an effective leader and evangelist , she’s taken on a new challenge: taking IBM’s already exemplary partner programs to another level. Sandy’s new title is Vice President,  IBM Software Group Channels. Read more of this post

GoldenGate Software Buy a Win for Oracle

Oracle today announced it is buying GoldenGate Software for an undisclosed sum, likely a couple of hundred million dollars. To revisit some facts from an earlier post, Goldengate had been in business 15 years, with some 500 customers, 4000 solutions deployed, and strong partnerships with Oracle, Teradata and Ingres on the database side, and Microstrategy and Amdocs in the app and BI space. Their message revolved around 3 key attributes of their changed-data-based replication technology: heterogeneity, real-time (log-based) performance, and high-volume transactional support. Read more of this post

Can GoldenGate Software Continue to Grow Transactional Replication?

GoldenGate Software may not be a well-known name, except in circles where transactional replication is a hot topic, but after 15 years in business, they have assembled a sizable base of some 500 customers, with 4000 solutions deployed, and partnerships with vendors as diverse as Teradata and Ingres on the database side, and Microstrategy and Amdocs in the app and BI space. Their message revolves around 3 key attributes of their changed-data-based replication technology: heterogeneity, real-time (log-based) performance, and high-volume transactional support (committed only.) And despite their notoriously closed-mouthed approach to their finances, it’s fair to say that they are generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue yearly (Hoover’s says $9.7M in 2007, but I believe that’s very low), so it’s evident the marketplace is interested. The big question is whether GoldenGate will invest to sustain and grow sales, or watch larger competitors competitors take their market away, now that they’re on the radar. Read more of this post

CEP: The Tech That Dare Not Speak Its Name

IBM has decided to go after the complex event processing (CEP) market with InfoSphere Streams a bit sooner than expected (by about a year, it seems.) The Product Formerly Known As System S (apologies to Prince – but at least it doesn’t have a weird symbol instead of a name) has been released into the wild because it’s ready enough. Or because Sam Palmisano wanted to talk about it at a recent analyst event. Or (Curt Monash theorizes here) because Microsoft announced that their CEP offering will be in SQL Server Real Soon Now.  Read more of this post