If you�re not aware of Moneyball, it�s a behind-the-scenes story of the Oakland Athletics and how they changed the game and leveled the playing field through the innovative use of analytics that allowed the team with the lowest budget to consistently compete against the big market, deep pocket teams.
Moneyballtook the veil off a much-treasured secret and demonstrated that new ideas could produce positive results in the traditional world of Major League Baseball.
The book was also recently made into a major motion picture � in theaters now � starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane. It is receiving rave reviews.
The Information On Demand social media team had the opportunity to speak with Michael Lewis about his book, the movie and the parallels between baseball and business.
Who Is Going To Read A Book About Analytics?
In the late 1990s, Lewis was living in Berkeley, Calif., and started to pay attention to the local baseball team, the Oakland Athletics.
He had some awareness of the payroll discrepancies in baseball and thought it was strange how many games the Oakland A�s were winning given how little money they had in relation to the competition.
�The answer was so shocking to me that this team, in response to its financial disadvantage, was rethinking the game of baseball that I launched into Moneyball,� said Lewis. �This was a weird book for me. I had never written a word about sports and if you asked me what �Sabermetrics� was, I�d have guessed it would have had to do with fencing. I didn�t have any idea this world existed and didn�t realize how rich the environment was until I got into it as a writer.�
Beane, however, wasn�t worried about his secrets getting out. He was more concerned about what his mother might think of the way he spoke, mainly his profanity.
When Lewis asked him if he was going to be upset for giving away his secret formula, Beane laughed and said, �Do you really think people in baseball are going to read your book?�
Leveling the Playing Field
Today, every team in baseball has turned its sights to the once dark art of analytics and the playing field has been leveled. Now big budget teams like the Boston Red Sox are using this strategy to draft players and identify free agents.
�When the book came out, the markets were poised to become a lot more efficient,� said Lewis. �And, when the Red Sox decided they were going to apply this new way of thinking to players and baseball strategies�that was the beginning of the end for the A�s advantage. Now it�s normal. The war is over.
�If you�re a team that isn�t trying to be on the cutting edge of using data to better value players and strategies, you�re at risk of being exploited in the marketplace and everyone understands that.�
Don�t Let Statistics Become Fetishized
If baseball can take analytics to the field, why don�t more organizations use the technology in their game plans? The benefits are endless.
Lewis believes that any organization � from sports to business to government � �needs to be looking for new ways to mine their data, and new ways to think about their data.�
But he also warns that baseball provides a great best practice for any business thinking about deploying an analytic solution.
�The funny thing about this story,� said Lewis, �is that it�s true the Oakland A�s set about trying to create new data and generate new information that wasn�t on the baseball field.
�But, a lot of the inefficiency in the game came from the misuse of the data that existed. The data was there, but people were just not thinking about it properly. So you could easily calculate a player�s on base percentage, but baseball was not appreciating the value of the statistic.
�And, to me the story is not just the importance of the data, it�s a story of being careful how you use it once you have it. Because the minute you start to measure something and have a statistic, it has a tendency to become fetishized, like a player�s batting average.
�Unfortunately, it wasn�t a key offensive statistic and it led players to be misunderstood.�
It�s like a marketing department only doing simple segmentation to identify customers for a direct mail offer. This analysis provides a somewhat superficial view of the customer and leads to one-to-some direct marketing (and lot of junk mail).
Basically, it perpetuates accepted wisdom that all customers (and baseball players for that matter) are created equal.
Change is Good; Don�t Be Scared to be an Innovator
For baseball teams (and businesses and government agencies), now comes the hard part � continually innovating to find new statistics that have hidden meaning.
Lewis says the low-hanging fruit has been plucked because it was relatively easy to assign statistical credit and blame to what happens on the baseball field.
However, if athletes weren�t so expensive nowadays no one would care about the ramifications of clean data and in-depth analysis.
Nor would the business world � except in today�s environment, where acquiring a new customer is that much more expensive than proactively keeping one.
�The business decisions become extremely important,� said Lewis. �It�s worth investing in complicated ways of evaluating them [players and customers] because if you find a slight edge it means saving millions of dollars.�
That is why those in the C-suite (and in many instances IT organizations) need to become more accepting to analytical techniques and not be afraid of what the data often reveals, or how it might change business processes.
In Beane�s case, he had to change if his ballclub was going to be competitive and survive. He challenged baseball�s traditionalists and angered the gods of conventional wisdom.
Sometimes the world isn�t flat.
Sometimes it�s white, round and has 208 stitches.
For more information:
Listento an audio interview of Michael Lewis discussing the movie and his upcoming session at the conference.
Reada recent IBM interview with the head of statistical analysis for the Chicago Cubs.
Registernow for IOD11 and BAForum; and start building your schedule.
Scott Laningham's latest video interview about Information On Demand has been making the rounds on Twitter, but in the spirit of oversharing, I've included it below. It's his interview with Eric Sall, VP of Product Marketing for IBM Information On Demand.
Scott and Todd will be interviewing IBM Champions, partners and executives from the floor of IBM's largest EXPO over the course of the conference, so keep an eye on our Livestream channel (or watch it through our IOD Social Media Aggregator) to see your friends, colleagues and, perhaps, yourself (in the on-demand version.
Yesterday (October 12) we published the first-ever Power Software Edition of the IBM Software Newsletter � a special issue �front-loaded� with Power Systems-related software news and content. You can read it on the web here.
We plan to publish two (2) of these Power Software Editions every year � and starting next month (November), we�ll be adding Power Systems-related content to our regular monthly issues � and offering additional Power content to subscribers who want it. Here�s all you have to do:
If you�re already an IBM Software Newsletter subscriber (thank you!), update your subscription to include the new �Software for Power Systems� interest category.
If you�re not a subscriber yet, subscribe today � and make sure you check the �Software for Power Systems� interest category when filling your subscriber profile.
Thanks � and watch for news about other special editions of the IBM Software Newsletter on the horizon!
Arthur makes the argument that digitization is creating a vast, automatic and invisible "second" economy that's driven entirely by data, systems and by systems of systems. It's also driving the biggest change to our world since the Industrial Revolution:
Every so often�every 60 years or so�a body of technology comes along and over several decades, quietly, almost unnoticeably, transforms the economy: it brings new social classes to the fore and creates a different world for business.
Can such a transformation�deep and slow and silent�be happening today?
We could look for one in the genetic technologies, or in nanotech, but their time hasn�t fully come. But I want to argue that something deep is going on with information technology, something that goes well beyond the use of computers, social media, and commerce on the Internet. Business processes that once took place among human beings are now being executed electronically. They are taking place in an unseen domain that is strictly digital. On the surface, this shift doesn�t seem particularly consequential�it�s almost something we take for granted. But I believe it is causing a revolution no less important and dramatic than that of the railroads. It is quietly creating a second economy, a digital one.
A Second Economy on a Smarter Planet?
As I read through the piece I was struck by how closely Arthur's Second Economy mirrors the attributes of a Smarter Planet - that is, one that's increasingly instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. Take, for example, the dramatic transformations we've seen in air travel:
Twenty years ago, if you went into an airport you would walk up to a counter and present paper tickets to a human being. That person would register you on a computer, notify the flight you�d arrived, and check your luggage in. All this was done by humans. Today, you walk into an airport and look for a machine. You put in a frequent-flier card or credit card, and it takes just three or four seconds to get back a boarding pass, receipt, and luggage tag.
What interests me is what happens in those three or four seconds. The moment the card goes in, you are starting a huge conversation conducted entirely among machines. Once your name is recognized, computers are checking your flight status with the airlines, your past travel history, your name with the TSA1 (and possibly also with the National Security Agency). They are checking your seat choice, your frequent-flier status, and your access to lounges.
This unseen, underground conversation is happening among multiple servers talking to other servers, talking to satellites that are talking to computers (possibly in London, where you�re going), and checking with passport control, with foreign immigration, with ongoing connecting flights. And to make sure the aircraft�s weight distribution is fine, the machines are also starting to adjust the passenger count and seating according to whether the fuselage is loaded more heavily at the front or back. [...]
Is this the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution? Well, without sticking my neck out too much, I believe so. In fact, I think it may well be the biggest change ever in the economy. It is a deep qualitative change that is bringing intelligent, automatic response to the economy. There�s no upper limit to this, no place where it has to end. [...] I think that for the rest of this century, barring wars and pestilence, a lot of the story will be the building out of this second economy, an unseen underground economy that basically is giving us intelligent reactions to what we do above the ground.
It's perhaps the paradox of an invisible economy that its will bring about effects that we can all see. As befits an economist and "pioneer in the science of complexity," Arthur doesn't shy away from examining the disruption these changes will bring to the job market and to the very nature of work. The second economy will bring about new kinds of work, while others will disappear completely:
Nowadays, fewer people are required behind the desk of an airline.
Much of the work is still physical�someone still has to take your luggage and put it on the belt�but much has vanished into the digital world of sensing, digital communication, and intelligent response.
Physical jobs are disappearing into the second economy, and I believe this effect is dwarfing the much more publicized effect of jobs disappearing to places like India and China.
Still, Arthur sees new opportunities for growth as well. The challenge in the coming years won't be to create prosperity, but rather to better distribute it:
The second economy will certainly be the engine of growth and the provider of prosperity for the rest of this century and beyond, but it may not provide jobs, so there may be prosperity without full access for many. This suggests to me that the main challenge of the economy is shifting from producing prosperity to distributing prosperity. [...] For centuries, wealth has traditionally been apportioned in the West through jobs, and jobs have always been forthcoming. When farm jobs disappeared, we still had manufacturing jobs, and when these disappeared we migrated to service jobs. With this digital transformation, this last repository of jobs is shrinking�fewer of us in the future may have white-collar business process jobs�and we face a problem.
What's your role?
As the architects of your organization's own information networks, I'd argue that you have a direct hand in building this second economy. You may have already been affected one way or another by the disruptions and transitions it's driving in the real world. As the largest conference in the IBM Software universe, I'd also argue that Information On Demand is the ideal forum to discuss these transitions. You'll come away with a better understanding of how they impact your organization, and you'll discover new ways to harness the technologies that drive it to drive better outcomes on all fronts.
What's the face of business today? Just 15 years ago, the answer to that question might have been �the retail presence� or, in a few rare cases, �the celebrity CEO.�
But today, the best and most common answer is, quite simply, the web.
Doubt my conclusion? Consider the numbers. Recent statistics suggest that there are now more than two billion Internet users worldwide -- and as new platforms emerge, that number is rapidly escalating. Cell phone subscriptions have topped five billion (and you can be sure that before long, every cell phone on Earth will be web-capable).
If you really want to engage your customers, you have to go wherever your customers are -- not just pull them in the direction you want them to go.
More, you have to provide a compelling, consistent experience for them, one that focuses on value as they define and perceive it, not as you do.
That means a lot more than just the company site (at least, the company site as it exists at most businesses today). It means leveraging the web as a whole to attract and interact with past, current and future customers. And it means connecting with them in a much broader sense than simply e-commerce. I'm talking about actually learning from them and using that information to serve them better, as well as empowering them to interact with each other.
Pursuing all those goals in parallel, though, will typically require more capabilities than organizations have at present. What's needed is a core platform that's smart enough, and flexible enough, to support business strategies, link customers, scale to unpredictable demand levels and expand over time to address new ideas going forward.
And I'm not alone in thinking that -- which is why leading IT providers are quickly introducing powerful new software solutions designed to deliver exactly those capabilities.
Compelling and differentiated. �Compelling� is often used in modern marketing simply to mean �good.� But in this case, the original definition applies as well: capable of beckoning, of bringing customers in. Toward that end, one key factor is personalization.
�Organizations can really differentiate themselves from the competition, and improve customer loyalty via an experience that is personalized to customer needs, to their behaviors, to their preferences, as well as the language of their choice,� said Carrier.
If you want an example of what she has in mind, consider Lufthansa Airlines -- an IBM customer. This organization has moved away from delivering a stock, one-size-fits-all web experience to an experience carefully tailored to each specific customer�and in every respect Carrier described.
�The first time you get there, it asks you for your country, your language; it's personalized for more than 80 countries and 12 languages,� she said. �If you log in, you can then see your information, [such as] your flights, your awards, all your content tailored to your preferences.�
Why is this crucial? It stands to reason that when sites understand customers better, they can serve customers better. And with better service, better business outcomes will emerge for organizations.
Mobile-aware. Another important form of personalization: the Lufthansa site is now device-and-mobile aware. It now recognizes which type of device a customer is using, then renders to that device a version of the site that has been tailored to the device's strengths and weaknesses
So, for instance, if the user happens to be on a smart phone -- typically characterized by both limited screen resolution and lower-bandwidth connection rates -- the Lufthansa site knows that and takes steps to compensate.
�You're not going to see a huge site that you need to scroll around with, that's hard to use,� said Carrier. �You'll get an experience optimized for the form factor of your phone.�
Socially infused. Beyond customer-by-customer personalization, though, another angle to consider is the social web. Sites that engage with customers, Web 2.0-style -- instead of simply selling to customers -- will almost by definition deliver a better customer experience.
You can think of this in terms of service management theory, if you like. Service management is all about aligning your products and services as closely as you can to what your customers need and want. But how can you do that if you don't know what they need and want
Socially aware sites answer that question by providing a microphone for customers to speak up.
�The social web has really been a great equalizer in terms of getting customers' voices to be heard,� said Carrier. �It could be as simple as allowing users to express their feedback by commenting or rating or participating in forums and communities on your site.�
Simple trumps pretty
Customers, just like water and electricity, will typically follow the path of least resistance. That means no site, however powerful or sophisticated it may be in theory, will satisfy customer needs if it's hard to use. Just as the GUI replaced the command line a generation ago, easy-to-use sites are rapidly replacing those that seem to customers to amount to a barrier of entry.
In my own experience, this principle is so powerful, it can even outweigh another -- that unusually good-looking sites attract more user attention and create more business value for organizations.
Carrier sees things in much the same terms.
�I've seen a large number of sites where they're absolutely beautiful, they're like completely flashy, and you go there and try to get something done, but it's so hard to navigate; it's really hard to get the task accomplished,� she said. �Organizations need to focus on ease of use and making sure that the actions people want to take when coming to your site are as easy [for them] to execute as possible.�
Open pudding, find proof
So what, exactly, has been the business outcome for organizations that have deployed customer-experience web solutions with the capabilities of the type Carrier cites from IBM Software -- solutions that �provide a foundation for very compelling, differentiated, socially infused, mobile-aware experiences�?
�There is a large county government located here in the US that basically needed to make it a lot easier for citizens and various associations to do business with the county without having to drive all the way into offices or fill out tons of paperwork,� said Carrier. �They built this really exceptional web experience and eliminated a bunch of information silos and presented information in a really nice, aggregated citizen's view instead.�
And what kind of bottom-line benefits are they getting?
�Well, just last year from January to April, they had 10 million visits and collected $468 million in revenue.�
About the author Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
Today's post comes from Perry Swenson, Market Manager, IBM Security.
As a company, IBM faces the same security threats and attacks that other organizations face in protecting its endpoints, infrastructure and data for over 425,000 employees. And of course, like other organizations, IBM continues to look for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Likewise, other organizations may also be seeing the number of nonstandard endpoints increase significantly, like IBM has through:
Partnering with other companies for joint development projects
Increasing the pace of acquisitions and divestitures
Increasing the percentage of workers connecting from or working in an unprotected infrastructure
Increased prevalence of non-Windows computing devices
So why not use your own products to address these challenges? IBM is doing just that. IBM has begun a worldwide internal deployment of IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager software, built on BigFix technology, initially to address challenges of patch management, security configuration and software distribution.
Some results from the internal IBM pilot deployment of the Tivoli Endpoint Manager solution included:
Improving patch availability to within 24 hours, compared to typically three to 14 days previously
Achieving 98 percent compliance with internal policies within 24 hours, compared to 92 percent compliance with internal policies within five days previously
Identifying that 35 percent of the pilot participants were missing at least one previous patch
David Merrill, Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM Chief Information Security Office has indicated that �Leveraging this solution internally will deliver an outstanding ROI while very rapidly transforming and strengthening IBM�s endpoint security.�
IBM had already deployed Tivoli Endpoint Manager to over 550,000 endpoints within six months, out of a total of 750,000 Windows, Mac, and Linux endpoints targeted by the end of 2011. This is the largest and fastest internal deployment within IBM�s history.
There's little I can add to the virtual ink that's been devoted to his passing. So instead I've compiled another list of articles from around the web. Feel free to scan, share or add your own views.
From the Financial Times Tech Hub,Chris Nuttall has compiled a list of responses from business and world leaders including Bill Gates, Larry Page, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama: "The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve�s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve�s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him. "
On HBR Blogs,Eddie Yoon writes a thank-you letter to Jobs: "Thank you for showing us that in all of what we do in business, that the mission can be more than just margin. For showing us that creation much more fun than just conquest. For showing us that the $3 billion you have paid out to developers via the App Store is what a real job creation program looks like. For showing us that pursuing artistry brings more lasting joy than just adulation. And for showing us that fractional thinking about just market share is more likely to limit your future, while an exponential mindset around category growth will expand your horizons."
Over on Quora, a growing number of contributors including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are answering the question "What are some great stories about Steve Jobs?" Here's the answer from Jarin Udom: "I read somewhere that the night before the iPod launch Steve Jobs was playing with one of the demo units and felt the headphone jack didn't feel solid enough when he plugged in the headphones. So he made the engineers stay up all night replacing the jacks on 100 demo units until they clicked right. I think about that every time I plug my headphones into my iPhone.
On the tech Culture blog Paleofuture, Matt Novakcompares Jobs not only to Thomas Edison, but also to Walt Disney: "Jobs was truly a futurist in the tradition of talented showmen and a storytellers like Walt Disney. It�s one thing to understand what the future might hold, as I believe both Jobs and Disney did, but it�s another thing entirely to be able to communicate that vision of the future with both passion and poise to a broad audience. Jobs, like Disney, brought into our homes that passion for innovation and a confidence in technology�s ability to improve our lives."
On the Silicon Valley blog, Chris O'Brien answers why people feel the loss of a stranger so deeply: "From the start, he had the remarkable insight that he should be building products for real people, not engineers or investors or himself. That sense of humanity set Apple apart in its early days, when the original Macs became a sensation. And he restored that sense of purpose when he returned from the wilderness in the mid-1990s. The clamshell powerbooks, then the iPod, the iPhone, and at last, the iPad, brought instant delight and surprise the very first moments you touched them. "It just works," he repeated, like a mantra, in his final years [...] He knew us and understood us, it seems, better than we understood ourselves [...]Yes, he was human and he had his flaws, both personally and professionally. But he showed us how to learn from our shortcomings, and to become better at the home and at the office."
On Mashable,Stephanie Haberman has created a photo slideshow of letters to Jobs. One anonymous entry reads: "You inspired me to care deeply about the things I make, people I spend my time with, and choices I make every day. I learned about thinking different and embracing it. Your innovations have changed me and our world. I hope we can continue your legacy by continuing to work in your likeness by being overwhelmingly passionate about what we do and caring about the people around us"
In "The Tao of Steve," Om Malik of GigaOm writes of the lessons he's learned from watching Jobs: "The idea of Steve led me to follow my heart, make tough choices, be brutally honest with myself (and sometimes annoying to people I love) and always remember that in the end, it is all about making your customers happy. There are simple ways to get along with everyone. There are easier ways to get things done. There are compromises. But to me Steve Jobs meant try harder, damn it, your customers (readers) expect better than that. Steve taught me to care about the little things, because in the end, little things matter."
And on Wired, Stephen Levy waxes both eloquent and philosophic: "The full legacy of Steve Jobs will not be sorted out for a very long time. When employees first talked about Jobs� �reality distortion field,� it was a pejorative � they were referring to the way that he got you to sign on to a false truth by the force of his conviction and charisma. But at a certain point the view of the world from Steve Jobs� brain ceased to become distorted. It became an instrument of self-fulfilling prophecy. As product after product emerged from Apple, each one breaking ground and changing our behavior, Steve Job�s reality field actually came into being. And we all live in it."
A few months back, the CTO of IBM�s WebSphere technologies was shopping for a washing machine. His family had a washing machine, but a disturbing string of higher-than-usual energy bills hinted at the impending need for a more energy-efficient model.
Cuomo suspected his daughter had something to do with it.
An IBM Fellow, Cuomo brought his considerable tech chops to bear on the buying process. He studied Energy Star ratings in detail. He engaged in lengthy conversations with sales reps about heating capabilities. He compared water use per minute across all makes and models, all in the hopes of trimming a few kilowatt hours off his burgeoning energy bill.
None of this impressed his wife.
�You�re missing the point,� she said.
�What do you mean?� he asked.
�Well,� she replied, �a more efficient machine might help us save a few dollars here and there. But it won�t solve the problem. We do too much laundry. We need to cut down.�
That�s when the light went on.
Cuomo realized it was a question of perspective. On his business agility bloggers briefing call yesterday, he admitted to taking a �narrow IT view� of the problem; his wife saw it in broad strokes. Yes, a more efficient washer would solve a short-term pain; but a lasting solution lie in changing behavior � specifically, curtailing his daughter�s new proclivity for using �permanent press.�
The same dynamic plays out in business, Cuomo explained, and often with similarly isolated or short-term gains: �Efficiency on its own is an important goal,� he said, �but driving lasting improvements in business outcomes demands a prescriptive, top-down approach. The more global your perspective is, the more potent your activities will be about driving effectiveness.�
It would be odd, if not downright heretical, in our age of persistent and pervasive disruption to make a case against greater business agility. Scan the headlines from any of your favorite business publications (or walk past the boarded-up windows of your local Borders and Blockbuster) and you�ll see what happens to business that don't adapt. CEOs repeatedly name the level of complexity and the pace of change as the key challenges in today�s business environment. According to McKinsey's Global Economic Conditions Snapshot for September, most executives think a double-dip recession will hit advanced economies over the next six months, and nearly three-quarters say there is at least some chance of the eurozone splintering within the next two years.
Sitting on the sidelines and hoping the storm will blow over isn�t much of a strategy. The question instead is, how do you deal with planned and unexpected change amidst all this marketplace complexity? What�s going to make that lasting difference?
Organizations can start by taking a systematic, strategic look at improving outcomes in three key areas:
Agility Levers for Innovation, Transformation and Growth
Today�s business agility announcement focuses on three core attributes � Agility Levers � that, together, enable organizations to not only stand up to whatever the market throws at them, but improve business outcomes through continued innovation and growth. Rather than see your organization succumb to complexity and change, Business Agility solutions from IBM help you transform them into competitive advantage. They're also the latest example of the seamless integration of the broad set of capabilities within the IBM Software portfolio, bringing together no fewer than 10 all told.
The Business Agility Levers � and their supporting capabilities � are as follows:
Better business decisions driven by analytics and business rules. Through Decision Management, Predictive Business Service Management and Business Planning and Alignment, you can better automate, govern and improve operational decision-making for better outcomes. You can make more profitable decisions with real-time detection of opportunities and risks, and increase decision accuracy by applying predictive analytics throughout your organization.
A smarter approach to process and integration. Through Business Process Management (BPM), Connectivity and Integration and Collaborative Development and Operations, you can enable business-led, collaborative transformation by linking execution to strategy; accelerate innovation with a collaborative, agile approach to software and service life cycle management. And gain insight across interconnected processes, applications, information and multiplatform systems.
Accelerated application, service and information delivery with SOA and extended reach into cloud and mobile. With IBM capabilities for Application Infrastructure and Messaging, Cloud and Virtualization Management, Security and Compliance and Enterprise Modernization, you can securely integrate information, applications and workloads between public and private clouds and traditional IT; automate service delivery to improve economics, reduce risk and accelerate innovation. Finally, you can streamline multiplatform development, deployment, and information delivery for mobile web and cloud.
Three client examples
Organizations around the world are already benefiting from IBM Business Agility solutions. Here�s a mere sampling from a very lengthy list:
Real-time, intelligent decision automation: Using IBM Decision management capabilities, Santiago Stock exchange improved real-time securities fraud surveillance by 100 percent.
Faster process change and integration: With Business process management and SOA, the City of Madrid reduced emergency response times by 25 percent.
Secure information delivery: With universal connectivity, U.S. retailer Stein Mart saves 500 labor hours worth of data recovery.
How to get agile
There�s no one way for you to increase your business agility. Like Cuomo�s washing machine dilemma, it demands a broad perspective on your biggest challenges and a deep understanding of your long-term goals. But that�s not to say you can�t have quick wins. In fact, they�re essential in building the momentum you�ll need to convince your colleagues and your C-suite to get started.
The beauty of today�s announcement and the IBM solutions is that we can work with you to implement an initial project, establish a broader program and build a roadmap to extend your successes across your organization. All you need to know is where you�re hurting the most.
For Cuomo, that pain was squarely in his pocketbook. He finally did replace the old machine, but says he �hasn�t found the right moment� for the conversation with his daughter.
Unfortunately, we can�t help with that.
Want to learn more about the power of Business Agility?
Today, IBM not only announced its intention to acquire Q1 Labs, but also to form a new division of Software Group called IBM Security Systems. There�s a press release you can read here that will cover why IBM went down this path and what we�re hoping to accomplish with the new acquisition and division. Given this announcement, as well as it being IBM�s centennial year, I also decided that this was an appropriate time to reflect on some things about technology and security.
When I first came to IBM a few years ago, I started off in cloud computing and on my first day someone spent about twenty minutes going through the basics of how computing had evolved over the years. Just as the internet had pushed human beings closer to one another, cloud was the next step in pushing computing resources closer together. Security, I was told, was the biggest roadblock in cloud adoption.
However, what I have come to realize in the few years since then, is that cloud is probably only the beginning of these new, more acute discussions and concerns around the relationship between security and openness/connectivity. I went to the THINK exhibit in NYC and I was struck by a few key things. Much of what we are working on now is not only changing the way we connect and compute (examples would be applying technology to social interaction and sharing resources in the cloud), but also adding to a growing list of things falling under the category of �what we compute.� We are applying technology to water, traffic, the grid, agriculture and perhaps most significantly, personalized medicine.
Yet, these innovations rely on the technology doing what we have programmed it to do. For those of you unfamiliar with what hackers do, hackers look at ways to make technology do things it wasn�t originally designed to do. In the recently released IBM X-Force Trend and Risk Report we called 2011 the �Year of the Security Breach.� So, computer criminals have been pretty successful recently at making software and systems do things that they aren�t supposed to do. In the context of more computing and connectivity, this rightfully raises some eyebrows.
As a result, security has, and will continue to become more important, because the impact of a breach, or of malware, or an insider threat, has the potential to become increasingly more significant. This is why IBM�s commitment to a vision of a Smarter Planet really isn�t complete without a focus on security, and thusly what makes today�s announcement both exciting and perhaps even predictable. We�ve been doing security for a long time, and the size of our portfolio certainly reflects that. The significance of today�s announcement really comes down to driving closer product integration and the belief that improved security will only become a more urgent requirement in years to come. The addition of Q1 Labs to the portfolio helps us to take information and events related to networks, applications, databases, users, servers, etc and develop meaningful intelligence about what is happening across disparate systems and environments. This combination of security and analytics seems a natural fit for IBM.
To me, it does not seem like much a stretch to suggest that our ability to realize the value of new computing models will come down to how proficient security capabilities and processes ultimately become. There is a lot more work to be done, and today what I am most optimistic about is that IBM is taking another important step forward.
Finally, I look forward to introducing some of my new colleagues to you all shortly.
*In the post I mentioned the THINK exhibit in NYC, and I�d encourage anyone in the area to check it out. It�s on 65th and Broadway. Here�s a video IBM produced as well as some pictures I took. The one suggestion I�d make is to try allotting enough time to stay for two sessions. You get 25 minutes at the end to interact with the screens and there is more than 25 minutes worth of content available. You certainly don�t have to stay, but I ran out of time on a few things I was interested in.
In November of 2010, IBM completed its acquisition of Netezza, a maker of data warehouse appliances -- integrated sets of servers, storage resources and software specifically designed for data warehousing. The acquisition raised a few eyebrows, but given the value IBM Software and its clients received, the buy looks to me to be a bargain... especially when you consider that at many organizations, data warehousing works less like magic, and more like a Magic Eight Ball.
Perhaps you�re not familiar with this classic children�s toy? Essentially, it was a source of quick but dubious wisdom. The idea behind it was simple: begin with a question, shake the eight ball, and get your answer.
So you could ask it things like: Who stole my cookies during recess?
Then the toy would deliver an answer that was usually both wonderfully vague and wholly unrelated to your question. Example: Signs point to maybe.
This is not an answer steeped in obvious business value. Still, it did have the virtue of arriving in five seconds flat.
And what the Magic Eight Ball lacked in predictive accuracy it made up for in management complexity -- which is to say, it had none. Unless you threw it violently against a wall, as my friend Steve did on two separate occasions in the third grade, the Magic Eight Ball would continue to function without maintenance. So it was both fast and trouble-free.
Unfortunately, that statement doesn�t always apply to today�s enterprise-class data warehousing and analytics architectures.
Too frequently, the architecture is simply too slow, too complex and much too difficult to develop from scratch. Even just keeping it running properly requires excessive time, effort and money. So you get higher operational costs, clumsier business agility and a less competitive and efficient response to market dynamics.
As a result, business leaders could be forgiven if, at times, they feel an urge similar to my childhood friend Steve's.
Transactions-based systems can't match architectures that are designed for analytics
How did this situation come about? Often, it stems from the fact that the data analysis architecture was never designed properly for data analysis in the first place. Instead, it was cobbled together from existing database systems, which were originally intended for a fundamentally different purpose (business transactions).
And while this jerry-rigged design may have worked reasonably well at first, its shortcomings have, over time, become increasingly exposed. In part, this is because both the need for quality analytics and the scope of the data being analyzed have grown to levels unimaginable when the system was originally implemented.
Recently I had an opportunity to speak with Michael Kearney, Senior Product Marketing Director for IBM Netezza, about these and related issues, and he confirmed my suspicions on this topic.
�Big data creates challenges and opportunities for the warehouse,� said Kearney. �Database systems designed to process transactions cannot perform at the scale of systems designed exclusively for advanced analytic processing -- and organizations can create value from their data by processing analytic algorithms.�
What, exactly, is meant by the phrase �designed exclusively for advanced analytic processing?�
In short, systems that were created with huge data volumes and advanced analytics in mind from day one. Instead of general-purpose systems that would be just as well suited as e-mail servers or web hosts, in other words, systems that really take into account what businesses want to achieve via data warehousing and analytics and make that happen. With incredible speed and efficiency.
So, for instance, imagine having this capability: A fleet of as many as a hundred different server blades, each of which has multiple processors, each of which has multiple processing cores. Together, these blades form a vast analytical engine that is both (a) load-balanced to handle unpredictable demand levels, and (b) optimized for performance via massive parallel processing technology.
To that, add even more intelligence in the form of query analysis and execution that is physically close to where data is stored, unlike older architectures that attempt to move data to the query.
Get the answers you need -- not just faster, but orders of magnitude faster
That doesn't sound like your father's data analytics architecture, does it? It's not.
It is, in fact, so much better than the traditional approach that many organizations find the difference almost shocking -- whole orders of magnitude faster than the transactions-based systems that are being replaced.
XO Communications has had a similar experience. Every day, this business telecommunications provider faces a situation typical to the telecom sector: razor-thin margins and the need to establish, in quantified terms, whether its operations and business strategies are actually making money or not.
Obviously, the faster that kind of determination can be made, the better. But the company's prior analytics architecture, which took some two months to finish a profitability analysis, wasn't exactly fast.
Thanks to XO's new architecture and IBM Software, all that has changed�dramatically. How dramatically?
�Netezza gave us the ability to determine profitability on a day-to-day basis,� said Danny Sangster, Senior Manager of Enterprise Business Intelligence at XO Communications.
Old system: two months delay. New system: immediate result. That's quite a change.
True data warehousing appliances deliver far more business value, yet require far less ongoing maintenance
Of course, some of that acceleration stems from the fact that the ongoing maintenance they used to have to perform is simply no longer required. �With Netezza, there are no indexes, no summary tables, no partitioning,� said Sangster. �Just load and go.�
And vastly reduced ongoing maintenance contributing to far superior performance isn't limited to XO Communications, either. Ideally, in fact, analytics architectures should be de facto turnkey appliances, requiring as little tuning or management as possible.
When they are, it frees time-challenged IT team members to attend to more critical tasks. It also accelerates the business's ability to implement new strategies to respond to customer interests or needs.
�Sure,� said Kearney. �Before Netezza disrupted the market with its appliances, operating a data warehouse required a team of administrators dedicated to the care and feeding of the data management system.�
�Care and feeding� I found an interesting phrase, suggesting as it does a high-maintenance beast likely to devour almost as much business value as it creates.
What kinds of results can organizations get by moving to a far more autonomous architecture?
Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.