IBM's IOD 2011: A Cornucopia of Solutions

IBM titled its Information on Demand (IOD) 2011 conference in Las Vegas "The Premier Forum for Information and Analytics." IOD featured innovation and a cornucopia of products and services that act a litmus test and checkpoint as to where the IT industry is and where it is going.

David Hill

November 4, 2011

10 Min Read
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IBM titled its Information on Demand (IOD) 2011 conference in Las Vegas "The Premier Forum for Information and Analytics." IOD featured innovation and a cornucopia of products and services that act a litmus test and checkpoint as to where the IT industry is and where it is going.

One of the problems that any large vendor has at a meeting like IOD is how to intelligibly classify and categorize its potpourri of products and services so attendees "get it." Now, this is not as important for people who are very familiar with and focused on particular products and ignore everything else. However, for someone with a broader perspective--say, an IT architect--trying to fit all the pieces of the categorization puzzle into a coherent whole is important.

At this year’s IOD, IBM focused on three distinct categories that, while they reflect what the company has done historically, also serve as mental reference points: enterprise content management, data management software and data warehousing systems, and InfoSphere. Let’s briefly examine selected highlights from each:

Enterprise Content ManagementEnterprise Content Management (ECM) has been defined most recently by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM, the worldwide association for ECM) as "the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organization processes. ECM covers the management of information within the entire scope of an enterprise, whether it is in the form of paper documents, electronic files, database print streams or even emails."

That overarching umbrella means that ECM covers record management, document management, digital asset management (DAM), workflow management, and capture and scanning. (And that is just for starters.) Now, no one company today covers every single aspect of ECM, but one would be hard-pressed to identify many aspects where IBM does not have skin in the ECM game (for example, by partnering with companies that do cover a specific aspect of ECM that IBM does not currently focus on). That is important to understand since, with its breadth and depth of products, IBM seems to offer close to one-stop ECM shopping. IBM’s ECM theme at IOD was "unleash the value of content in motion," which emphasized the following aspects:

  • Document imaging and capture: This is bread and butter to ECM. IBM claims that it offers a complete solution for the entire life cycle of document imaging, capture, content management, workflow, document viewing, and so on through one part number for the complete solution, featuring FileNet and DataCap technologies. The product is Production Imaging Edition (PIE for short) and everyone wants a piece.

  • Social content management: Through its IBM Connections Enterprise Content Edition, IBM stresses a solution to securely manage and gain useful insight from large volumes of unstructured social content. Applying ECM to social content management leverages IBM technologies to take advantage of an area that could have immense potential for many enterprises in gaining insight that improves decision making.

  • Information life cycle governance: IBM states that new in 2011 is a unified archiving solution that includes value-based archival, disposal and e-discovery features, including new policy management and policy execution capabilities within its IBMAtlas 6.0 product.

  • Advanced case management: IBM has a new release of its case management product, IBM Case Manager 5.1. Case management is about the coordination of services on behalf of a specific party, such as the facilitation of medical treatment plans. The medical and legal markets are big users of case management. Although business process management (BPM) is part of case management,it extends well beyond just BPM. Productivity increases are key to advanced case management, but a real benefit is improved outcomes (such as a better health treatment plans).

  • Content analytics: It should come as no surprise that IBM is beating the drum for the greater use of analytics. What is important, however, is that IBM is trying to make analytics pervasive across its product lines, including ECM. For example, a key new offering is IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare. IBM states that the use of analytics transforms healthcare clinical and operational decisions for improved outcomes through new insights that enable actions that were not previously possible. To do so, the solution is designed to complement and leverage the IBM Watson technology (albeit in a smaller and domain specific package). Note that although some of the values may be traditional, such as increased productivity, the real benefit is improved outcomes, which in some cases may very well be lives that would have otherwise been lost.

    Note also that IBM's ECM efforts assimilate company acquisitions (of which FileNet was the anchor, and also includes more recent deals such as Datacap and PSS Systems) and leverage organically developed IBM technologies into selected aspects of ECM (the ubiquitous Watson as a prime example).

    Now, the not-so-hidden downsides of ECM are its expense and the fact that it requires an internal discipline not only on the part of IT but also on the part of everyone (more or less) within an enterprise. Therefore, IBM (as well as its ECM competitors) has to emphasize that the benefits make the cost and discipline required worth the effort.

    IBM stresses efficiencies that lead to cost reduction. Doing things right is always a popular theme, as well as effectiveness (doing the right things) that lead to revenue growth. But IBM also emphasizes outcomes, which means that an organization can better do the jobs for which it is responsible. For example, one police department uses content analytics to solve cases. That should make the community (except for those taken off the street for legal infractions) happy.

    Data Management Software and Data Warehousing SystemsIBM has three long-standing database systems that seem to get better with age.

  • IMS: Although floppy disks have gone the way of the Edsel, older IT software technologies do not necessarily fade away. In fact, some get better with time. For those customers who have acquired the taste for the IMS database system, IBM claims that the new IMS 12 is the fastest database system ever. IMS must be the Energizer Bunny of databases--although it has a very targeted market, it keeps going and going.

  • DB2: This is the workhorse of IBM's database systems and, as with IMS, seems to keep improving with age--not only in speeds and feeds, but also in OS support (Linux; Unix, including IBM’s AIX, HP-UX and Solaris; and Windows) on top of the traditional mainframe z/OS. IBM has even announced a DB2 analytics accelerator that integrates DB2 for z/OS and the Netezza analytics appliances.

  • Informix: If any of IBM's database systems were in line for retirement, this would seem to be the one. But that is not the case. Each database has unique characteristics, and no one size fits all. IBM is emphasizing what it claims are Inforfmix’s large advantages over Oracle Database for loading smart meter data and for time series queries.

    In fact, analytics seems to be one of the fastest changing areas of data warehouse technologies. One key to understanding analytics is that there are at least three types, which IBM refers to as deep analytics, time series data analytics and operational analytics. Deep analytics includes one-time analyses that try to provide insight into enterprise decision making. An example of time series data analytics is gaining insight from collected smart utility meter data. An example of operational analytics is real-time fraud detection.

    Traditional data warehouse solutions are not necessarily enough. In fact, IBM feels that traditional architectures have become too complex and were not designed for big data, which consist of enormous data sets and may include structures different from traditional relational databases around which traditional data warehouses are built.

    To address this situation, IBM talked at IOD about smart consolidation that leads to a "logical data warehouse." This includes a "data bridge" that IBM defines as pre-integration and optimized software for data movement and migration among analytics solutions, including IBM's Analytics System, InfoSphere Warehouse and Netezza, as well as Oracle Database.

    This latter instance is interesting. On the one hand, IBM is in the midst of a competitive war where it wants to displace Oracle Database with DB2, but that the companies also collaborate shows IBM’s practical side. The fact is that Oracle’s database solutions are not going away anytime soon (even if DB2 makes inroads), so if smart consolidation using IBM’s data bridge is to succeed, then that reality has to be accepted. Naturally, IBM had loads of specific announcements on analytics, but space does not permit getting deeply into the details.

    InfoSphereInfoSphere is the third area IBM focused on at IOD. In contrast with enterprise content management and data management and data warehousing solutions, InfoSphere is an IBM-specific brand the company refers to as "the trusted platform for trusted information." It is leveraged for integrating various data warehousing, application consolidation/retirement, governance and big data processes.

    Among the key InfoSphere announcements at IOD were:

  • InfoSphere Information Server 8.7: This is IBM's cornerstone product for data integration, and new features include strong information governance capabilities and support for big data. Information governance gives users a more complete and controlled view of their information so that they can take necessary governance actions. Big data is a hot topic, especially since integration of multiple data sources across an enterprise can be critical.

  • InfoSphere Master Data Management (MDM) 10: The focus of MDM is to ensure that there is a consistent view of master data (including a common definition of, say, customers and products, which should be simple but is not). Implementing MDM requires discipline, but products such as Version 10 make it easier for enterprises to use and benefit from MDM. Version 10 offers many new specific features, but IBM emphasizes that the goal is faster time to value through decreasing the time to go live with an MDM project and reducing the skill set necessary for MDM implementations.

  • InfoSphere Guardium 8.2: This product provides database security for key enterprise information, such as data managed by SAP or PeopleSoft, and can also be applied to a variety of approaches, such as preventing cyberattacks with database activity and privileged user monitoring. The latest version applies automation features along with virtualized grid and cloud capabilities.

  • InfoSphere BigInsights V1.3 and InfoSphere Streams 2.0: These products are big data-oriented. BigInsights is designed to make Hadoop useful to the enterprise, and Streams 2.0 enables the use of big data analytics in real time.

    We covered a lot of ground here, yet it comprises only a small fraction of what was discussed at IOD 2011. Hopefully, you got some perspective on the breadth and depth of what is happening on IBM’s information management waterfront. To reiterate, the company has three general focus areas that IOD addresses:

  • Enterprise content management: This is not just your father’s ECM. Social content management shows that IBM is aware of what is happening in this space and providing ECM capabilities to meet the market needs. The use of content analytics in ECM illustrates IBM’s firm belief that analytics have a much wider range of applicability than many customers and competing vendors have previously imagined.

  • Data management software and data warehouse systems: IBM’s old database system goodies, IMS, DB2, and Informix, just keep ticking away. Traditional data warehousing systems can no longer keep up with all the analytics businesses need, and IBM has delivered (and will continue to deliver) technologies that complement traditional data warehousing.

  • InfoSphere: Data integration across a number of business and organizational dimensions is critical if enterprises are to make better use of valuable data resources, and IBM’s enhanced solutions can aid this endeavor.

    Your head may be spinning, but that is IT today. A lot is going on not only by IBM, but also by many other vendors large and small and customers, too, who do innovative things. At IOD 2011, IBM’s innovative wares were clearly on display.

    IBM is currently a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

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