IBM Launches Big Data Boot Camps

IBM has launched a new skills initiative, featuring free boot camp-style training, to help IT workers tackle emerging Big Data issues.

IBM is taking Big Data seriously and is working to help IT workers the world over to handle the challenges that Big Data represents.

As part of its initiative to tackle Big Data, IBM launched a global skills initiative to educate clients, business partners, and college students how to use IBM business analytics and information management software, and many of the underlying technologies of the Watson computing system to grab information from new sources and use it to create business opportunities.

The term Big Data typically refers to datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. Difficulties include capture, storage, search, sharing, analytics, and visualizing. As the world becomes increasingly instrumented, with sensors collecting data from all manner of sources, the Big Data phenomenon will continue to grow. IBM's Smarter Planet strategy helps to address the Big Data issue, yet it is but one of several approaches IBM is taking to handle massive amounts of data.

The new IBM Big Data skills initiative, launched March 10, provides IT professionals no-charge access to 1,200 on-site skills bootcamps at client, partner and university locations worldwide, at 38 IBM Innovation Centers, and online at

In an interview with eWEEK, Rod Smith, IBM's vice president of emerging internet technologies, said making sense of Big Data requires a new set of skills that many IT professionals do not possess today. The skills bootcamps will provide education to these communities on topics such as Big Data, analytics, data management and open source technologies including Hadoop and Eclipse tools.

The new initiative comes on the heels of IBM's Watson Jeopardy! challenge where the system demonstrated how it analyzed natural human language in under three seconds to defeat two champions using commercially available technologies from IBM.

IBM maintains that businesses today are looking for disruptive technologies like Watson to help them capitalize on the growing volume, variety and velocity of information known as "Big Data." This includes the massive amount of public information available on the Web, information generated by sensors, mobile devices, social networks, cloud computing, and public sources of information that are not integrated into a company's existing information management platforms.

In a press release on the skills initiative, IBM said IT professionals and students will get hands on training to learn:

  • How to use InfoSphere, DB2, Informix, Optim, and Guardium software to manage and integrate data flowing across and into their organization
  • "Big Data" management and analysis skills including data federation, integration, and warehousing techniques using InfoSphere BigInsights, Streams, Warehouse and Information Server software
  • Advanced skills such as data management planning, and data governance, quality and security strategies
  • Where to take advantage of free exams and testing to become certified on IBM Software in support of career advancement

"We're rolling out these bootcamps so people can get prepared as Big Data comes down the line," Smith said.

IBM claims that more organizations are moving to IBM Software in support of Big Data growth initiatives. In 2010, more than 1,000 Oracle Database customers chose DB2 instead, the company maintains. At the same time, IBM has invested more than $14 billion in business analytics which includes 24 acquisitions, and has assembled 8,000 analytics consultants with industry expertise, and opened a network of analytics centers of excellence around the world.

Smith said one of the key areas of focus for the Big Data initiative will be academia. For instance, Marist College based in Poughkeepsie, NY, is equipping its students with green technology skills, and in turn helping future employers find new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. According to Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist, Watson demonstrated a new standard for an energy efficient computing system that today's companies can use to become more green. As Big Data is presenting a new challenge for industry and academia to re-think the way they see IT. Marist is expanding on its initiatives working with IBM to offer more courses in DB2, BigInsights and analytics software to help the utilization of data centers and simplify the consolidation of IT resources while also analyzing untapped data generated from sources such as Facebook and sensors.

Meanwhile, officials at MGM College of Engineering & Technology, under MGM Group based in Maharashtra, India, said all companies face the growing amounts of data and the challenge to quickly turn that into a competitive advantage. MGM recently launched on-campus workshops on DB2 for their engineering students and faculty. Currently, more than 600 students and faculty members are certified and trained on the latest DB2 features and other IBM technologies. In fact, MGM recently migrated its technology lab from Oracle Database to DB2, IBM said.

"IBM is bringing real world industry experience to students to keep them in touch with emerging technologies and IT trends such as Big Data," said Professor Nareshkumar Harale, Head of Computer Engineering, MGM College of Engineering & Technology, in a statement. "When universities and businesses collaborate, they build the next generation of skilled information technology leaders to create new opportunities, fuel economic growth and solve challenges that can improve the way we live."

Sri Lankan-based Haycarb, a manufacturer of activated carbon products and provider of a range of purification solutions, is in the process of implementing a leading ERP solution. In a continued effort to rein in IT and energy related costs, Haycarb recently participated in an IBM Skills Bootcamp to learn about the migration capabilities of DB2 database software.

"We had this idea that migrating from one database software to another would eat up a lot of time, money and resources. Instead of having to go off site to take the course, IBM came to us, tailoring the course based on the existing skills our staff and building upon that," said Chinthaka Abeykoon, Head of IT at Haycarb, in a statement. "It is extremely vital to stay current on these technologies that address challenges such as taming growing amounts of data and ensuring database security. IBM is providing an effective way to help green tech clients such as Haycarb significantly reduce IT costs and more effectively manage data to identify new market opportunities."

Meanwhile, IBM said it also is relying on some of its key partners to assist with the skills initiative. For instance, IBM Business Partner Perficient has played a key role in working with IBM to develop the content of IBM's Skills Bootcamps. According to Perficient Managing Director Matt Castle, clients are looking to their IT teams to tackle Big Data challenges. IBM's investment in helping IT professionals learn new skills helps clients bridge the two worlds of Internet-scale data and data generated within an organization to create a single view of all that information. For example, how businesses can use social media as a means to get closer to consumers to better understand their preferences on their goods and services. At the same time, all that data generated still needs to be stored, cleansed, and analyzed in a data warehouse.

Castle said Perficient is an IBM Authorized Training Partner (ATP) and has a lot of experience in developing material for and conducting bootcamps. The systems integration company also has maintained a focus on Big Data initiatives such as large enterprise data warehouses and business analytics. "We've been in the big warehouse business for some time; we've always held a Big Data position."

"Companies are amassing up to petabytes of information during peak hours of operations, and they see an opportunity to use this data to gain new insights into their customers and get ahead of the competition," said Arvind Krishna, general manager of IBM Information Management, in a statement. "Uncovering insights hidden among data in existing IT systems, and outside of the firewall in social networks, on clouds, and from mobile devices, requires today's IT professionals to possess new skills."

Krishna said IBM's goal for this year is to attempt to get 10,000 Oracle Database professionals to "expand their skills with IBM Software to more rapidly achieve their business goals."