IBM Tackles 'Big Data' With New Software

At its Information on Demand 2011 conference, IBM has released a series of new products to help users more easily sift through and analyze "big data."

IBM has announced new software to deliver "big data" analytics to users on a variety of devices and platforms.

At its Information on Demand (IoD) 2011 conference in Las Vegas on Oct. 24, IBM unveiled new offerings that span a wide variety of big data and business analytics technologies across multiple platforms from mobile devices to the data center to IBM's SmartCloud. Now employees from any department inside an organization can explore unstructured data such as Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, weather data, log files, genomic data and video, and make sense of it on the fly as part of their everyday work experience, Rod Smith, IBM's vice president of emerging Internet technologies, said in an interview with eWEEK.

Also, as part of its announcements, IBM is placing the power of mobile analytics into the hands of iPad users with a free software download at the Apple's iTunes Store. Moreover, the new software is designed to help employees in key industries, such as financial services, health care, government, communications, retail, and travel and transportation, use and benefit from business analytics on the go, IBM said.

Organizations of all sizes are struggling to keep up with the rate and pace of big data and use it in a meaningful way to improve products, services or the customer experience, Smith said. Every day, people create the equivalent of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions and social networks; in fact, 90 percent of the world's data has been generated in the past two years. Every month, people send 1 billion Tweets and post 30 billion messages on Facebook. Meanwhile, more than 1 trillion mobile devices are in use today, and mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016.

A 2010 IBM/MIT Sloan Management Review survey of 3,000 executives across 30 industries from 100 countries reveals that 60 percent of respondents said they have more data than they can effectively use, IBM said in a press release on its new offerings. A new IBM study of 1,700 chief marketing officers from 19 industries and 64 countries further exposes this issue, with 71 percent of the respondents saying their organizations are unprepared to handle the explosion of big data.

To address these challenges, IBM is delivering new analytics and information management offerings, and skills resources to make it easier to explore and capitalize on big data. The new offerings include:

New Hadoop-based analytics software on the cloud that can be up and running in less than 30 minutes. The new software helps employees tap into massive amounts of unstructured data from a variety of sources, including social networks, mobile devices and sensors.

  • New Hadoop-based analytics software on the cloud that can be up and running in less than 30 minutes. The new software helps employees tap into massive amounts of unstructured data from a variety of sources, including social networks, mobile devices and sensors.
  • New mobile analytics software for iPad users that makes it easy to explore any type of data on the go with location-aware analytics. Clients can download the free app here.
  • New predictive-analytics software with a mapping feature that can be used across industries for marketing campaigns, retail store allocation, crime prevention and academic assessment.
  • New software that sifts through all types of data behind the scenes and ranks its quality, makes it secure and ensures business decisions are based on trusted data.

IBM InfoSphere BigInsights on the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise makes big data analytics accessible for any user inside an organization. Like the on-premise version, BigInsights on the cloud analyzes traditional structured data found in databases along with unstructured data-such as text, video, audio, images, social media, click streams, log files and weather data-allowing decision makers to act on it quickly. Bringing big data analytics to the cloud means clients can capture and analyze any data without the need for Hadoop skills or having to install, run, or maintain hardware and software.

IBM said BigInsights on the cloud is available in both basic and enterprise editions with the options of public, private and hybrid cloud deployments. The basic edition is an entry-level offering available at no charge that helps organizations learn how to do big data analytics. Clients can seamlessly move to the enterprise edition when ready and set up Hadoop clusters in under 30 minutes to start analyzing data with low usage rates starting at $0.60 per cluster per hour. Both versions include a developer sandbox where clients can develop a new generation of business analytics applications, complete with tools, and a test and development environment.

IBM customers in banking, insurance, retail, communications and digital entertainment are using BigInsights on the cloud to analyze massive amounts of unstructured data. These clients are analyzing data flowing from social networks, sensors, mobile devices, log files, and voice and video systems to understand consumer sentiment, make computing networks and smart grids more secure, and create new customer-experience programs.

Meanwhile, IT professionals and students looking to build Hadoop skills can take advantage of IBM's, a new Website where users can learn the basics of Hadoop, stream computing, open-source software development and database management techniques to prepare for careers as data scientists. The site includes hundreds of easy-to-use tutorials, videos and coding exercises geared to build Hadoop, BigInsights, DB2 and WebSphere skills, and many courses are free. More than 8,000 students worldwide have already registered from countries such as Brazil, Russia, China, India, Korea, South Africa and the U.S.

With IBM Cognos Mobile software for the iPad, iPad users can enjoy a rich, visual business intelligence experience to analyze any data about their business, including sales, customer and financial data with reporting, dashboard and scorecards. Cognos on iPad is designed to help employees in key industries such as financial services, health care, government, communications, retail, and travel and transportation, use and benefit from analytics on the go. For example, doctors and dentists can use it to analyze electronic medical records and show patients customized treatment plans and explain procedures based on that analysis; social workers can check the health and well being of children in foster homes throughout a city, and update supervisors, police and the courts on their status in real time; and bankers and insurance agents can use it to analyze loan or policy data to create individual products or services for clients.

IBM officials said Cincinnati Zoo, which has more than 1.2 million visitors annually, uses Cognos on iPad to give management instant access, and a single view of visitor and business information to drive new revenue and improve member visits. The flexibility of mobile business analytics allows managers to bring together sales and attendance data on their iPads from wherever they are inside the park to track purchase patterns and adjust marketing spend based on that information. Using Cognos software, the zoo has increased in-park spending by 25 percent this year, IBM said.

IBM also announced new software that allows organizations to gain predictive intelligence on geographic data. Organizations can use the software to understand data, analyze trends, forecast, plan and validate assumptions to drive accurate conclusions.

IBM said the software, SPSS Statistics 20.0, includes a new mapping feature that gives users the ability to add a geographic dimension to analysis and reporting, and allows users to target, forecast and plan by geographical areas. This mapping feature can be used across industries to analyze data and create statistics for marketing campaign effectiveness, store allocation decisions in retail, detection of crime hot spots, and student test score assessments. The software comes with views of the United States, Countries, Continents and prebuilt map templates where users can quickly populate them with data, including geospatial information from ESRI files.

For instance, health care organizations can use the new software to visually pinpoint areas of high accident or illness rates, or identify differences in care across different regions of a state or country, IBM said. Government employees can analyze past and present census data by city block or in dense county populations, and identify high-crime areas to allocate more law enforcement, or update tax and zoning changes. Direct marketers can locate their most profitable customer base and store locations to allocate advertising resources, and academia can use it to concentrate recruiting and alumni efforts geographically.

Meanwhile, big data analytics can be a competitive advantage; however, the quality of the analysis is only as good as the data it's fed, and the data itself has to be available to those who can use it. IBM offers an information integration and governance platform for big data that ensures only trusted information is delivered to business users and applications across the enterprise, the company said.

For its part, new IBM InfoSphere Information Server 8.7 software enables integration with big data as both a source and a target for information integration. This release also features a next-generation connector to Netezza, built for balanced optimization and high performance, and packaged specifically for Netezza implementations, and an operations console to view system usage across all integration jobs, to improve productivity of integration projects.

And new IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management 10 software unifies IBM's Master Data Management (MDM) capabilities into a single product that handles any MDM requirement. New features include integration with business-process management software for MDM-centric business processes, greater connectivity to consuming applications via adaptable service interfaces, and a shared matching engine that maintains the single version of the truth. MDM technology improves the outcome of big data analytics by providing a better understanding of customers, products, suppliers, employees and accounts for further analysis, IBM officials said.