IBM Research Bolsters Services

IBM research unit turns to services to help propel high-value business opportunities.

Think research, and what comes to mind is usually dull, detail-oriented work—certainly not where the money is. At IBM Research, that perception could not be further from the truth. In fact, IBM is counting on its research arm for help not only in developing hardware and software technologies but also in bolstering its biggest business unit: services.

IBM is putting more of its research dollars into services and turning those services into high-value business opportunities for IBM and its customers. At IBM Research, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., the company showed eWEEK how its investments are adding value by cutting time and increasing productivity for IBMs services arm and the companys customers.

Paul Horn, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, said that since more than 50 percent of IBMs revenue is generated by services, IBM Research is shifting its focus there.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEKs interview with Paul Horn.

Services address high-end, high-value business problem solving; business design transformation; and process integration, as opposed to labor-intensive, maintenance-type services, Horn said.

As a result of this new focus, IBM Research has created ODIS (On Demand Innovation Services), an arm within IBM Research that provides customers with access to researchers who specialize in business transformation and technology consulting. ODIS marks the first time IBM Research has created a formal, customer-facing services organization.

IBM Research is calling on its computer scientists, mathematicians and other researchers to create new types of services and provide high-end services, as well as optimization algorithms, to speed up processes. In addition, it has initiated a service-related research project called the Business Component Model, which uses a model-driven approach to bridge technology and business processes.

Horn said that in 10 to 15 years, IBM Research will be able to look at a series of service practices that would not have been possible without dedicated services research. He said IBMs is a new research model for the IT industry.

"Weve had a history of getting connected to our products with research," Horn said. "Very strong connections exist between IBM Research and our hardware and our software products.

"In fact, now, essentially all of our products start as a partnership between Research and one of our product divisions," Horn said. "And that allows us to take innovative new components and get them into WebSphere quickly.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about IBMs new versions of WebSphere, which rival Microsoft, Sun and BEAs tools for ease of use.

"And the team that does it actually doesnt just do the early research; they also stay with the development right until it gets into the marketplace. Thats worked pretty well, and I think IBM Research is in many ways unique in the way we flow technology from our research organization into our products. So thats great, but half our company is services. So you really would like to have the same concept.

"So what weve done, just as we have with hardware and software, we said its not good enough just that you have ideas that you want to transfer to this services organization; youve really got to work with them, just the way we work with hardware and software."

Next page: Putting expertise to use.