IBM is quickly establishing a new cloud computing identity. On Nov. 16, it revealed what it calls “the largest private cloud computing environment for business analytics in the world” and pronounced it ready for prime time.
What IBM has done, and what no one else has yet attempted, is this: Over decades, through its hundreds of thousands of employees, it has researched and archived an enormous amount of information in numerous vertical markets, garnered through solving innumerable business-related IT problems.
So the company is now putting all that stored-up intellectual property to work behind a new cloud service for use by IBM internally and for its customers’ use. The amount of data is estimated conservatively to make up about a petabyte of digital storage.
IBM equates this mountain of information to some 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text.
The part of this cloud for IBM’s internal use, called Blue Insight, is currently gathering and storing information from about 100 corporate warehouses and data stores. It provides analytics on that estimated petabyte (1,000 terabytes, or 1 million gigabytes) of data and turns it into usable business information for IBM’s sales force and development communities.
Blue Insight is a sophisticated system that runs on a System Z10 mainframe computer-one with 48 processors (32 processors for production, 18 processors for development and test environments) and strong cryptography capable of handing up to 10,000 secure transactions per second and providing redundant backup support, Michael Bradshaw, IBM vice president of Application and Infrastructure Management Optimization, told eWEEK.
Blue Insight Is Foundation for Smart Analytics Cloud
To show customers how they can adapt this model into a system designed specifically for themselves, IBM has launched a new service package based on Blue Insight called the Smart Analytics Cloud.
Combined with a customer’s own data storage, Smart Analytics Cloud can extract and analyze information from data stores around the world to help users make good business decisions at the point of sale and to predict and act immediately on business opportunities, Bradshaw said.
IBM is now ready to sell the attributes of the Smart Analytics Cloud to customers old and new.
Cognos Provides the Backbone
The software backbone of this new private cloud is IBM’s Cognos business intelligence software division. Big Blue acquired Cognos in January 2008 for about $5 billion. Last September, IBM unveiled an “express” version of Cognos’ analytics for midrange businesses.
Cognos currently has about 23,000 customers around the world, with verticals including banking, government, scientific, retail and education. The Smart Analytics Cloud stands to raise awareness of Cognos significantly.
“We recognized that [IBM has] the same challenges that any enterprise has,” Bradshaw said. “The Smart Analytics Cloud will provide a common business analytics framework, no matter where an employee sits in an enterprise.
“This is clearly in the private cloud model, as well as an offering to help our clients go implement their own business analytics internally,” Bradshaw said.
The data IBM is talking about is a “combination of existing data stores and data marts, along with transactional systems,” Bradshaw said. “In the past, you’d basically have to go on a hunt to find all the business data you would need: You grab it, you bring it together, you create your own data repository, which includes all the elements you are interested in to do your reporting.
“For example, if a business wants to link historical information with existing transactional data, then instead of having to go find that transactional information, combine it with the historical data to drive reports and then create a database to hold all that stuff, Cognos allows you to define those repositories, those locations,” Bradshaw said. “Once you register those locations, you don’t have to do it again. I can then pull the data in and build the analytics of the views I want to see on top of those two databases.
“I don’t have to bring them together [each time], don’t have to relocate them. They are where they are. This is a business analytics cloud, as opposed to a business data cloud,” Bradshaw said.
Once they’re set up on the Smart Analytics Cloud through IBM Global Services, customers request space in the cloud, where they get access to all these different data sources that are already registered, in addition to registering their own data stores, Bradshaw said.
“The two immediately tangible benefits are these: We start moving away from siloing of information, and you slow down the proliferation of hardware and software elements in a distributed way across the enterprise,” Bradshaw said.
“And the best part of it is this: Now that you can bring this information together more efficiency, people are going to start making associations with the data that heretofore weren’t necessarily even thought of,” Bradshaw said.
“For example, on Amazon.com, they show you not only what you’ve bought, but right underneath it, they tell you that ‘People who have bought this also purchased these products.’ These systems can bring this kind of information into the hands of many people, not just a few experts at a company.”
IBM Smart Analytics Cloud is available now. For more information, go here.