LAS VEGAS—Data visualization and virtualization in the cloud was a major theme some of the many product introductions and enhancements IBM introduced during its Information on Demand conference that convened here the week of Nov. 4.
Information on Demand is IBM's annual conference that focuses on its business intelligence and the big data analytics products designed to help enterprises get value from the immense volumes of business data they collect every day.
Among the new products IBM announced at the conference was an early access preview of BLU Acceleration for Cloud, which combines in-memory databases and business analytics with Cognos Business Intelligence tools to leverage what IBM is calling "agile data warehousing."
As part of this package, IBM also release a new version of the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center that's designed to automatically adjust storage provisioning based on an enterprises data usage patterns.
IBM also wasted no time in integrating its recent acquisition of SoftLayer Technologies cloud infrastructure into business intelligence/analytics services. The SoftLayer cloud technology is the foundation of IBM Concert on Cloud, which the company describes as a "mobile-ready social analytics platform" that helps businesses use broad collaboration to make better decisions.
IBM also reported that it has added 1,000 new clients for the SoftLayer cloud services since it acquired the company in early July 2013.
There were also additions to IBM's big data analytics portfolio, including InfoSphere Data Privacy for Hadoop, which allows customers to anonymize data in Hadoop, NoSQL and relational databases to enhance the security of these data stores with data activity monitoring to prevent unauthorized access to this data.
IBM also announced the release of the related Information Governance Dashboard that visually traces the data's history and how it has been managed to increase confidence that the data is accurate and trustworthy.
Another product, IBM PureData System for Hadoop is designed to streamline the process customers must follow to set up Hadoop systems. IBM claims this system will allow customers to set up Hadoop systems in a matter of hours rather than in days or weeks.
PureData Systems for Hadoop also includes built-in archiving tools and simplified administration components along with levels of security that IBM contends are stronger than available from open source systems.
IBM also announced InfoSphere Data Explorer, which is a search tool that, according to James Kobielus, IBM big data evangelist, makes it easier to "visualize, and profile large, diverse data sets." The goal of InfoSphere Data Explorer, according to IBM, is to take big data analytics out of the research labs and put it on the desktops of "front-line employees."
Another of the more interesting data analytics product announcements at the show was a beta product called Project Neo, which provides a new natural language, cloud-based query tool that is designed to allow customers to simply ask questions in plain English about their businesses and industries.
Project Neo doesn't require business specialists to become experts in big data analytics to use the system effectively.
For example you can ask such questions as "what were the top-rated movies of the past quarter" and project Neo will use "some internal innovation that we call smart metadata and come back to you with very interactive visualizations" of that the answer is, Beth T. Smith, vice president of business analytics, said in an interview with eWEEK. But it will also answer any related questions.
The advantage of Project Neo is that customers don't have to model the data in particular ways to get specific answers. It works with many types of structured and unstructured data, Smith said.
Preparing the data can be as simple as loading a series of CSV spreadsheet data files, and Neo is able to recognize what's in the data to generate the answers to a wide range of questions, she said.
"Neo changes that whole experience of the way that you would find the answers to business questions" by the way it is able to find relationships within the data, she said.
The smart metadata assembles a wide range of business data points that enable it to understand the relationships of "time, people, location—those kinds of things," she said. Then Neo continues to learn as data is used and added to.
Project Neo is the product of research and development that began about two and a half years ago, Smith said. But it came together as a product "in the last eight months or so, as we recognized the power of what it could do," she said.
Project Neo was demonstrated on the show floor during the conference, and IBM invited attendees to sign up for a beta program that is scheduled to start up in January 2014. IBM hasn't disclosed a target production release date for project Neo.