Tuesday, March 4, 2014

IBM Pulse 2014 - Rocking the world of IT

 By Rich Ptak
IBM’s string of billion dollar spends resulting in acquisitions, investments and disinvestments in software companies, platforms and technologies have raised speculation for some time. Yet, others, both vendors and consumers of IT, apparently shared similar, albeit more limited visions, following less ambitious paths. IBM Pulse 2014 recently held in Las Vegas was filled with announcements that shed light on the impetus behind these activities. A lot of information was shared, much of which we will comment upon this year. Here, we focus on three issues that struck us of special interest. 

It is clear that IBM is playing a longer game with a strategy that will fundamentally change them. It affects what product they develop, how they deliver, as well as how they are presented to and consumed by users at all levels. If things play out as imagined, the world of IT and consumers changes radically. This is an undertaking with significant risks. Too big for one sitting, we deal with it in pieces. See other blogs on our site at:

Lets look at three significant changes:
1.       IBM is reconfiguring itself to IBM-as-a-Service. No, they will not abandon their hardware and software products (though they are trimming some away). They are altering how they think, what they do, and the way they deliver value to customers. From now on, they will offer integrated services that help customers use technology to achieve enterprise goals. Doesn’t sound all that different from past statements or even from what is said by competitors. But it is very different. The difference is in the breadth of vision of the task being addressed. The difference is in the way services are built, paid for and offered. The difference is in how IBM, its business and technology partners view the changes to the way business functions.
2.       The second item for discussion is the emerging model of composable businesses. Old business models are too slow, too rigid to remain in place. While IT has been solving business problems for a long time, the last decade has seen the breadth of IT involvement in business processes explode.  On-line shopping is one highly visible aspect.  Perceptive enterprises are learning that they can, indeed, must make effective and faster use of technology to respond to consumers’ rapidly changing behavior. As an example, US retail sales data collected on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), 2013 was analyzed and reported that same day. An analysis examined sales executed using iPads versus ‘traditional’ on-line connections. Data included not just sales volume, but user experience, time to complete, comparison of performance by platform, etc.  IT staff were able to adjust apps and infrastructure to boost sales.  Fundamental to the ability of IT and business staff to respond were Cloud, Big Data/Analytics, open standards and well-executed planned integration. Research indicates that that only about 25% of some 20 Million developers worldwide have even touched the Cloud. This must change and leads to the third point.
3.       A major gap that must be bridged exists between ‘Systems of Record’ which dominates in traditional IT and that which is needed to support a composable business model. It is a gap in experience and function. The answer cannot be one of wholesale replacement to leap into the new environment. It requires plans and services to help at every stage of what will no doubt be a long, challenging journey. To survive, businesses must become composable, i.e. able to adapt, innovate and deliver new services at the speed of the internet. Traditional IT operations and architectures have no chance. The existing (Cloud, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile) and emerging technologies of IT drive this new business model. 
One critical need for the transition is being addressed by standards organizations and groups, such as TOSCA, OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, OASIS, Cloud Standards Customer Council setting the standards, providing implementation plans and creating patterns for design, configuration, etc. These tasks are well underway and supported by a large number of companies including IBM.

A second need is to help developers become familiar with the technologies which enable the composable business. This is now available with the IBM BlueMix Platform-as-a-Service. BlueMix is a PaaS specifically designed to allow developers experience at creating cloud apps and services. It allows programming in many languages, allows access to multiple services including Big Data/Analytics, Mobile and Integration (e.g. with Systems of Record solutions), as well as DevOps services. It has been specifically designed for Mobile environment. There is much more included and you can find more details in our blogs and from IBM. 

No one has the breadth of offerings or the depth of experience or the hubris to fully define the radical change taking place in the consumption of technology by enterprises and business. However, IBM has taken a major step forward by articulating the vision as they redefine themselves to live it. By committing themselves to becoming IBM-as-a-Service, and sharing their experiences through products, services and cooperative effort, they demonstrate their commitment to helping IT, consumers and business on that journey. The future is impossible to fully predict. IBM admits there are many unknowns. Waiting for full clarity is not an option, those that move to where the market is moving will be best positioned to benefit when it arrives. It is going to be quite a journey.