Fueling IBMs Software Growth

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-03-03 Print this article Print


Fueling IBM's Software Growth

So where did IBM's software market growth come from? Not from flash and frills, but from good old hard work, Mills said. "My story has never changed; I just work hard," he told eWEEK during an interview in his conference room at IBM headquarters in Armonk, NY.

Indeed, the IBM Software Group and its history and future are very much a part of Mills' making. He instituted the company's move to focus on middleware more than 10 years ago, and he made the move to realign IBM SWG into two groups. He also handpicked the leaders of the two inter-related organizations.

However, Mills does not seek any personal credit for this. "We do not have a culture of personality at IBM," Mills said. In fact, Mills says his job is to make it easy for the next person to be able to come in and do his job. "My job is to make my role unnecessary."

Mills said IBM has learned that businesses today want technology to solve their business problems and make them leaders within their own industries. In response to these requirements, IBM has been on a path to move its middleware portfolio into new, higher-value opportunities, growing its core capabilities, strengthening its portfolio and building solutions that support IBM's Smarter Planet agenda.

The Smarter Planet

Smarter Planet is about modernizing and automating the world's physical infrastructures-from railroads to water management to food traceability and health care modernization, IBM said. Intelligence is being infused into the way the world literally works-into the systems, processes and infrastructure that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold. Software plays a crucial role in these Smarter Planet initiatives. Much of the demand for software is being created by new stimulus investments and the need to automate and modernize virtually every system today such as electronic medical records, fraud detection, energy management through smart grids, etc. IBM has been on this path for the past few years. And IBM officials said they believe IBM is better positioned than any other vendor to help leverage these new opportunities and deliver the right technologies needed for this transformation to smarter systems.

At IBM's recent Pulse conference for Tivoli users in Las Vegas, Stephen Stokes, an analyst at AMR Research, shared his views on IBM's renewed software push and Smarter Planet initiative with eWEEK, saying: "This is the most significant organizational transformation in IBM's history. They're setting themselves up to really win big in the new economy."

However, in a direct counterpoint, also at Pulse, Jonathan Yarmis, an analyst with Ovum, said, "The last time IBM tried something this sweeping it was called SAA [IBM's System Application Architecture, an enterprise computing strategy of the late 1980s and early 1990s], and that's when we defined the term 'marketecture.' This stands to be the largest unrealized vision since SAA."

Yet, IBM has boasted several Smarter Planet wins, including Smart Cities projects such as that with the city of Chesapeake, Va. The city of Chesapeake uses IBM Maximo software to manage and maintain the multiple departments, equipment and operations that are responsible for delivering critical services to more than 200,000 residents. IBM highlighted its work with the city of Chesapeake at its Pulse conference.

Peter Wallace, the chief information officer for the city of Chesapeake, told eWEEK, "IBM products have helped the city of Chesapeake modernize the way our people coordinate efforts, maximize the use of existing resources and share data. On the ground, this means less duplication of effort, more cost-effective purchasing, and improved coordination between departments and divisions, reducing the number of visits and time it takes to complete work and satisfy citizen requests."

Added Wallace:

"Data previously stored in a variety of formats on hard drives and in filing cabinets is now available to everyone who needs it from a single source. We can review work history and ongoing work as part of our scheduling and planning processes.  Public Works can see if Public Utilities is already working on a flooding incident and avoid dispatching another crew unnecessarily. Having our asset management, work management and inventory management under one enterprise system has allowed us to engineer a single streamlined process that is more efficient, accountable and transparent."

Another recent Smarter Planet win for IBM is Galveston National Laboratories (GNL), which is part of the University of Texas Medical Branch. Also highlighted at Pulse, GNL is one of only two National Institutes of Health-funded biocontainment laboratories, and its goal is to serve as a national and international resource for the safe conduct of essential infectious disease research.    

GNL is using IBM Maximo technology to manage, calibrate and monitor state-of-the-art biomedical assets like air-flow handlers, decontaminating showers, and door seals and locks-making sure they are working properly to assure safe and secure operations. This is an example of an IBM Smarter Buildings/Facilities customer-managing critical physical and digital assets to ensure their safe and proper function, and applying analytics to determine inefficiencies and cost reduction opportunities while improving operations.

David Reynolds, director of fixed assets and reliability systems at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said, "IBM's Maximo software is designed to help schedule and report on the performance of the assets that run the building: air handling units, pumps, compressors, filtering systems, etc. IBM helped the GNL configure Maximo so it would properly support the safety and reliability processes that the GNL must operate under."

Mills said he believes that as the digital world and the physical world continue to intersect, the need to better capture data, to do better analysis and to have more anticipatory management and control of the physical assets increases exponentially. And with Smarter Planet, IBM is prepared to deliver that.

"As the world's infrastructure has gotten bigger and bigger, you reach these inflection points where costs get too high-operating expenses are rising and you need to flatten those things out," Mills said. "So if I move a little bit of OpEx [operating expenditure] and CapEx [capital expenditure] over to IT, I can do a better job of managing those massive infrastructures." 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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