IBM's software is the lifeblood of its Smarter Planet initiative to add a layer of intelligence to the basic processes that run today's world, including roads, water and power, among other things.
Indeed, Big Blue's Smarter Planet initiative has deep roots in IBM Software Group. In fact, you cannot even talk about the IBM Smarter Planet strategy without mentioning IBM's Tivloi brand, as Tivoli provides much of the software to enable the management of all the smart processes, networks and grids that will bring the smart strategy to fruition.
"The basic idea of Smarter Planet is resonating because anywhere you look there's instrumentation, and the amount of information you can get out of that is enormous," said Al Zollar, general manager of Tivoli software at IBM. "Smarter Planet starts with a simple proposition that as more things get instrumented-like facilities in a data center-using embedded chips or RFID devices, and being put together on networks. ... We're calling that whole movement Smarter Planet."
IBM software, particularly IBM's Tivoli software, provides service management solutions for industries that help them build what IBM calls twenty-first century infrastructures, or dynamic infrastructures. And IBM software is used to manage the infrastructure of smart utility grids, smart water management and traffic systems, smart levees, smart oil refineries, and more.
IBM middleware, systems management and collaboration tools, and other software lie at the heart of many of these systems. IBM's Tivoli software automates, secures and manages the smart IT and physical assets, and WebSphere software manages the business processes in different environments including SOA (service-oriented architecture). Information management software from IBM manages the data. And Lotus software helps organizations work smarter, while Rational software is developing advanced systems and tools for enterprises to build up dynamic infrastructure.
Where there used to be a clear line drawn between the five brands in the IBM Software Group and their uses for organizations, all are now working together, on top of and around each other, to make a more intelligent and dynamic infrastructure possible. The comprehensive software offerings coupled with extensive hardware and services expertise-especially in the areas of industry-specific service management offerings-are unmatched by anyone in the industry and proving to put vendors such as Hewlett-Packard even further behind in the race, IBM officials claim.
"Many of our competitors are trying to use similar words to describe what they offer, but the difference is we have the experience and customer success stories," Zollar said.
Of the mingling of the IBM software brands to deliver a final, smart solution for customers, Zollar added: "The brands are just convenient handles for our clients to look at what they can ask us for. Underneath it all, we look at this as a set of architectures for us to deliver what our clients need."
Software has long been used to operate electric grids, pipelines, railways, production facilities and manufacturing lines, among other things. Now IBM software is being used to make these grids, infrastructures, facilities and products more intelligent so as to save money, improve operations, and better manage the use of, and even save, natural resources, Zollar said. Where corporate and public IT departments were once tasked with managing scores of PCs, servers and networking gear in their data centers, they are now required to manage bridges, trains, nuclear power plant turbines, sand bags in levees and any other piece of physical infrastructure to which wireless sensors can be applied.
And, according to Zollar, IBM has big plans-along with the hardware, software and services chops-to help customers in this new world where the boundaries of the traditional IT data center are being stretched far beyond the data center. The opportunity provided by this new world is sizable. Market research firm IDC estimates the market for the services, products and technologies to build the new infrastructure to stand at $122 billion by 2012.
As Zollar noted, IBM has the tools and technology as well as the experience to take on these new challenges.
For example, in the Netherlands, with about 27 percent of its area and 60 of its population located below sea level, IBM is working with country officials on a smart levee system where sand bags are equipped with sensors and managed through an integrated emergency management system, IBM said. In a widespread storm, rising water levels and weakened levee walls can alert central management systems to deploy manpower and resources to the areas requiring immediate attention. This saves money on infrastructure costs and quickly resolves problems affecting the residents.
And the same software that is creating smarter levees can be applied to bridges, IBM said. The I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a good example of what a smarter bridge could prevent, IBM says. Smart bridges with sensors to report wear, weaknesses, and areas of corrosion or concern can report back to a centrally managed system aligned with city infrastructure and planning. City and local government offices are able to deploy resources to the bridges in need before a catastrophe happens.
Moreover, utilities in the United States, Denmark, Australia, Italy and other countries are now using IBM software to build digital grids to monitor the energy system in real time, the company said. This enables them to fix outages much faster, and source and distribute power more intelligently. It also makes the integration of traditional and new sources of power possible, providing end-to-end insight across all forms of energy.