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IBM's Smarter Planet Evolves From Vendor-Push To Market-Pull

IBM has been promoting its Smarter Planet concept--instrument the world's systems, interconnect them and make them intelligent--for several years, but it has always seemed to be more vendor push than customer pull. However, this week the company is making several product announcements at the Pulse conference in Las Vegas, and while the news appears to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the concept seems to be resonating with customers.

IBM has been promoting its Smarter Planet concept--instrument the world's systems, interconnect them and make them intelligent--for several years, but it has always seemed to be more vendor push than customer pull. However, this week the company is making several product announcements at the Pulse conference in Las Vegas, and while the news appears to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the concept seems to be resonating with customers.

"When they first started talking about it, it was the typical marketing idea," says analyst Rick Sturm, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). "First, talk about it, then deliver it... [and] IBM has delivered a lot." Between the recession, data growth and the growing concern about green, or at least the "rock-solid benefits behind being green," the market has converged on this concept, he says. "I'm very impressed that they have over 500 customers speaking at the event."

Customers are indeed "getting it," states another analyst attending the event, Rich Ptak, of Ptak, Noel & Associates, partially because of the improvement in IBM's messaging and partly because of work IBM has done with customers, which has led to them having real live customers that can show and tell what a Smart Computing solution looks and acts like. "Also, the crashed economy and growing complexity of IT is making more efficient and effective computing compelling."

There are a number of factors contributing to this transformation from marketing concept to real-world needs and solutions, notes IBM. There will be 1 trillion connected devices by 2015, and 30 billion RFID tags this year, on everything from water mains and train tracks to traffic signals and hospital equipment. As sensors, RFID tags, smart grid networks, client devices like smartphones and tablets, and 4G wireless networks continue to proliferate, a new stream of data is emerging that can be used to drive more data-based decisions.

Big Blue says that we've reached the tipping point with the amount of instrumentation, smart devices, RFID, processing bandwidth and power at the right price point. There's also a sense of urgency to really streamline operations and be more competitive, and at same time save energy.

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