IBM, Skillsoft Team to Harness Big Data for Enterprise Learning

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-01-24

IBM, Skillsoft Team to Harness Big Data for Enterprise Learning

IBM and Skillsoft announced a partnership to leverage the power of big data in enterprise learning.

The multi-phase joint development agreement is aimed at creating an adaptive learning experience for users that combines IBM Research's big data and customer experience analytics capabilities with content interaction data from Skillsoft's more than 50,000 learning assets.

Skillsoft provides learning solutions for customers worldwide, ranging from global enterprises, government and education to small and midsize businesses.

"Big data has the opportunity to transform corporate learning outcomes," Anshul Sheopuri, an IBM Master Inventor at IBM Research, said in a statement. "We are working with Skillsoft to create new enterprise learning-based big data techniques that will drive personalized user interaction resulting in improved engagement. Our initial findings show insights that can make the learning experience customized to users' preferences and drive next-generation adaptive learning and integrated development."

The market for data analytics continues to experience exponential growth as companies seek new ways to maximize performance using big data technology and analysis. In 2013, Gartner reported that 64 percent of organizations invested or planned to invest in big data technology.

Skillsoft officials said the corporate learning market provides an ideal application area for big data analytics. As organizations continue to offer more online learning to their employees, they need to analyze which learning experiences are the most productive and apply that knowledge to continually improve business outcomes.

"We are exploring new ways of leveraging data to boost learning outcomes," John Ambrose, senior vice president of strategy, corporate development and emerging business at Skillsoft, said in a statement. "With IBM's research scientists and technology, we now have the ability to holistically look at content interaction data and understand trends in user interactions and drivers of engagement. Together, we look forward to further harnessing the power of big data to define a more personalized, adaptive enterprise learning experience."

The first phase of the research initiative is complete. Skillsoft and IBM will release future insights of data analysis and relevant findings as the agreement progresses.

Meanwhile, in other big data news, IBM recently announced it closed its acquisition of Aspera, a privately held company that securely speeds the movement of massive data files around the world. Aspera's technology helps users speed the movement of big data on premise and via the cloud.

Aspera's patented technology accelerates the secure transfer of large files or data sets by up to 99.9 percent—potentially reducing a 26-hour transmission of a 24GB file, sent halfway around the world, down to just 30 seconds, IBM said. This speed is achieved by Aspera's patented fasp protocol. This also gives customers a more efficient way to transport data to and from cloud networks.



IBM, Skillsoft Team to Harness Big Data for Enterprise Learning

"Aspera solves critical challenges at the intersection of two of the most influential trends driving business today—big data and cloud computing," said Craig Hayman, general manager of Industry Cloud Solutions at IBM. "With this acquisition, IBM will help our customers more effectively and efficiently move large files to and from the cloud and within the enterprise to where individuals can extract real business insights from that data."

Traditional network protocols limit the speed and reliability of moving big data around. Large data transfers can take hours or days by traditional methods and can be compromised by security issues. These barriers impede organizations across a wide range of industries, from a clinical research group needing to access complex genomic research stored across several cloud services around the world, to a production studio trying to quickly transmit a hit movie to a popular video streaming service, IBM said.

"This is a strategic move by IBM acknowledging the need of enterprises to move large files quickly, reliably and securely across the Internet," said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. Given IBM's announcement to invest $1.2 billion into its cloud infrastructure, the playground for Aspera's services will be larger than ever. We expect IBM to quickly leverage Aspera in a similar manner to the recently acquired SoftLayer assets that form the backbone of its cloud infrastructure."

Aspera makes cloud computing faster, more predictable and more cost effective for big data transfers such as enterprise storage, sharing virtual images or bursting to the cloud for increased computing capacity. Moreover, Aspera provides big data transfers with bandwidth control and security, including the encryption of files in transit or at rest.

This acquisition builds on IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative by allowing businesses to accelerate their digital supply chains between partners and suppliers. This also extends IBM's capabilities in Managed File Transfer with a complementary set of capabilities to help enterprises further gain control and oversight of their data transfers. The Aspera fasp technology will be integrated with IBM's SoftLayer cloud infrastructure later this year.

IBM said Aspera recently received an Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development, in which the academy commented that fasp is an "an industry game changer" used by "virtually all the major broadcast television networks, Hollywood studios and CG/animation houses."


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