How IBM Brought Analytics to the Cloud

IBM's new private cloud environment for business analytics could be considered the culmination of IBM's overall strategy around analytics to this point.

IBM's new private cloud environment for business analytics could be considered the culmination of IBM's overall strategy around analytics to this point.

On Nov. 16, IBM announced its private cloud computing environment for business analytics, which launches internally with more than a petabyte of information, equivalent to 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text, which stacked end-to-end would circle the entire planet Earth. And to share the success models of this internal project, IBM also announced a new solution for clients to build their own private cloud environments based on this architecture, called IBM Smart Analytics Cloud.

IBM Smart Analytics Cloud provides easily consumable business intelligence services, systems and software to help customers create an efficient delivery of shared business intelligence services across lines of business and functional organizations, IBM officials said. IBM's own Analytics Cloud deployment served as the template for this solution offering, which features:

"??Ç IBM services - enables the client to transform the corporate business intelligence (BI) strategy and achieve rapid return on investment with planning and strategy sessions, installation and implementation of the Smart Analytic cloud solution, as well as optimization of the cloud for the enterprise??Ç IBM Cognos 8 BI - provides the BI capability for the cloud, offering a broad range of business intelligence services, including reports, analysis, dashboards and scorecards to monitor business performance, analyze trends and measure results??Ç IBM System z - supports the foundation for the cloud with z/VM industry leading virtualization running Linux on efficient "specialty engines" for massive scale with resilient, secure, multi-tenant operations"

Some IBMers my cringe at the use of the word "culmination" to describe what the cloud analytics play means for the company's analytics push, because there is so much more that IBM plans to do in this space.

"'Culmination' makes it sound like there's nothing more...there will be more around this in the first half of next year. That said, this is certainly the result of many recent acquisitions," an IBM spokesperson said.

Indeed, IBM's acquisitions of companies such as Cognos, RedPill Solutions and SPSS, among several others have strengthened the IBM business analytics portfolio, but the company is not done yet. IBM intends to continue to seek dominance in this fast growing market segment through both acquisitions and internal growth, Big Blue officials said.

Ambuj Goyal, general manager, Business Analytics and Process Optimization, IBM Software Group, said, "This is a trend for us. This is not just an announcement; it's a journey for us."

Goyal, who has shepherded the business intelligence and analytics acquisitions for IBM, said, "This is an example of how IBM's $6 billion worth of R&D is coming together to further the company's overall mission. We will continue to grow through both organic moves and acquisitions."

For instance, SPSS had been a global leader in predictive analysis with 20 years of experience before it became part of IBM, Goyal said. IBM now owns all of that expertise.

Dave Laverty, vice president of worldwide information management marketing at IBM, said IBM has expended its efforts across the company to "help clients accelerate information-led transformation. Laverty said IBM has made more that $10 billion in investments in information management software, and has more than 4,000 global business service analytics consultants.

Overall, the amount of time, effort, manpower and financial investment IBM is putting into analytics is impressive, Goyal said. And IBM Research deserves credit as well for enabling Big Blue to push its analytics offering into the cloud, company officials said.

Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Software group, said, "Our clients' investment in business optimization projects is growing more than twice as fast as business automation." Analytics play a key role in IBM's business optimization efforts.

Mils said he has noticed three trends that IBM is addressing: workload optimized computing; workload optimized systems; and simplified, unified infrastructure. Moreover, he said characteristics of analytics workloads include search and query, predictive analytics, and risk analysis.

Meanwhile, IBM customers say they welcome the analytics efforts.

Shirley Lady, vice president of Business Informatics/Blue Health Intelligence for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said the two biggest issues in healthcare are controlling the costs of healthcare and maintaining the quality. Analytics can help on both counts, she said.

"We're looking at various trends, such as utilization trends and prevalence of diseases," Lady said. "We have an analytics data mart we call ADAM. Since we added analytics capabilities, we have added fraud functionality to the system to determine fraud aspects across the data."

Melody Playford, a data mining architect and manager of enterprise solutions at the Dillard's retail department store chain, said Dillard's has several projects going that require analytics. "In this economy we have to look at closing under-performing stores," she said. "So we looked at the performance of stores and also looked at our customers to see if they were shopping our others stores" to determine which stores could be closed with the least impact to the company and its customer base, she said.

People are analyzing historic data to be able to discern what to do in the future," Goyal said.

Regarding the cloud scenario and analytics, Mills said, "We're spanning the private cloud model where there is sensitive information" that IBM clients will want to keep private. "But there is potential for certain types of mixed scenarios where you can get a hybrid of public and private cloud information."

"This is about unlocking the business value of information," Goyal said about the analytics push. "If you're going to treat information as a strategic asset, you need to do transformation projects. And to do this we needed to build a service line built on consulting,"

IBM launched an analytics consulting services line in April of 2009.

"Our clients understand they're operating in a competitive environment where more than ever before, in addition to being fast, they have to be right. That requires something beyond the traditional notion of 'sense and respond,'" said Frank Kern, senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services, at the launch of the line. "That drives the need to speed business decisions, understand the consequences of any decision and predict outcomes with more certainty-in short, moving to a new level of enterprise intelligence."

In addition, IBM has been opening a series of IBM advanced analytics centers around the world to promote the use of analytics. Most recently IBM opened an analytics center in Washington, D.C.

IBM said:

""The new IBM Analytics Solution Center in Washington, D.C., will draw on the expertise of more than 400 IBM professionals. These will include IBM researchers, experts in advanced software platforms, and consultants with deep industry knowledge in areas such as transportation, social services, public safety, customs and border management, revenue management, defense, logistics, health care and education. IBM also plans to add an additional 100 professionals, through retraining or new hiring, as demand grows.""

In addition to the Washington IBM Analytics Solution Center, IBM has opened five other analytics solution centers - in New York, Dallas, Berlin, Beijing and Tokyo.