IBM focuses on systems of insight
Interview with Hans Peter Vibe, CTO, IBM.
IBM's strategic focus for Denmark in 2015 can be broken down into two old IT chestnuts and a completely new concept. The three areas all share in common that they have the potential to speed up business development across industries.
When, in 2013, a top IBM executive was to tell the world what IBM would be focusing on in the future, he said Big Data, cloud computing and systems of engagement. When Best Practice around two years later asked Hans Peter Vibe, CTO/Technical Leader at IBM Danmark, what his headlines are for 2015, he repeated the message from 2013, adding that since then IBM has continued to build on the concept of systems of engagement, expanding it with systems of record, to arrive at systems of insight. Confusing? No worries, because later in this article we let Hans Peter Vibe explain what lies behind the various system concepts, and why IBM is staking so much on them.
Analytics has enormous value
First of all, he explains why Big Data is and remains one of the hottest concepts, not just in the IT industry in general, but also for IBM.
"Big Data is very much about analytics," he begins. "We focus on how we can transform companies and entire industries with the help of greater insights into their data. This might, for instance, be an analysis tool for a haulage contractor. With a good analysis tool, he will suddenly be able to see, for example, which of his drivers cover the most and the least distance to the litre. He can optimise the drivers' routes and be notified automatically when an engine needs servicing – before it breaks down. This analytics philosophy can be applied to the wind power industry, the aviation industry, etc. Anything that can be foreseen, to prevent production disruptions, has enormous value," says Hans Peter Vibe.
Hans Peter Vibe explains how IBM has various analytics platforms that are all expected to have more users in 2015. They include SPSS Predictive Analytics, which is software to help companies predict what is likely to happen, so they can take better decisions, resolve problems and improve results. IBM also has more traditional Business Intelligence software in Cognos. "And then we have Watson," says Hans Peter Vibe.
Watson belongs in the cognitive analytics category, he explains. The Watson system can understand linguistic relations, and what language means in various different contexts. It can be used in research environments, for example, that operate with various different hypotheses, with a wish to match the hypotheses with all the literature available in a given area. No human brain can read all this, but Watson can.
"In some cases, research processes can be reduced from half-years to a few months," says Hans Peter Vibe. "Analytics will continue to grow at IBM in 2015. For instance in the financial sector, so that banks can make their investments on a more informed basis."
Faster time to market
The second major focus area for IBM in 2015 is cloud computing. Hans Peter Vibe explains how IBM is focusing strongly on the PaaS product, Bluemix.
"IBM Bluemix should be seen as a very large toolbox to build, handle and operate apps for web, mobile devices and Big Data, for instance. The solution's functionality includes Java, mobile backend development and application monitoring, as well as open source. The point is that a lot of time is saved in the development phase compared to a traditional process, and this time saving helps to speed up the time to market. It's no exaggeration to say that the infrastructure and middleware for a fairly complex system can be built up in the course of a few hours. In a typical large company this can take half a year," says Hans Peter Vibe, mentioning how for a developer it can also be good to be familiar with the Software Defined Environment (SDE) concept, if you do not already know it.
"In an SDE, you can provision a complete environment; not just the infrastructure, but also database servers, application servers, message-tool servers, push-servers for mobile, etc. – as a fully automated process."
Another key Cloud concept in the IBM world is IBM DevOps. This is a platform that integrates and eliminates the classical divide between development and operation by automating infrastructure and workflows.
"The principle of the DevOps concept is that you get feedback on everything, i.e. from test-loops, physical servers, etc. All this feedback is gathered, so that you can quickly make the necessary changes and get the code into the market," says Hans Peter Vibe.
He explains how one derived effect of automating the installation of infrastructure and platform components is that many of the current operations teams in the data centre gain a new role.
"Often, the consultant has to help companies through the transition phase by developing applications in new, more agile ways. This is an advisory role that the consultants need to play, in order for them to continue to add value. They also need to be really on top of the new technologies in the market. Automated testing is one of the things we will be focusing on in 2015. The more you can automate your development loop and test systems, the faster the time to market."
Systems of insight
This brings us to the last of the three overall focus areas for IBM in 2015: the many system concepts.
"We apply a concept called systems of record," says Hans Peter Vibe. "Systems of record are basically all of the traditional transaction data stored in a data centre. Then there are systems of engagement, which are all of the data gathered concerning the individual users and their shared network interaction. In 2015, we will be linking up systems of record with systems of engagement to find new relations in the meeting between the historical data and the more dynamic behavioural data. We call this overlap systems of insight," Hans Peter Vibe concludes.
"Systems of insight will revolutionise the industry."
Apple and IBM in app collaboration
As most of you will know, in the summer of 2014 IBM and Apple set up a partnership agreement to deliver a whole new type of business app. The first apps are now in the market, within the following areas:
Aircraft industry – The Passenger app enables airline staff to quickly re-book passengers who are already on a flight, but are certain to miss their connecting flight. The app transforms anxious moments into new opportunities for the airline to win customers' loyalty.
Insurance industry – The Retention app helps insurance professionals to keep track of their busy working days – prioritising and completing tasks on time and handling routine assignments on the most effective basis – to improve the service that customers experience and also attract new customers.
Telecom industry – The Expert Tech app enables technical personnel to be better prepared for meetings, while also giving a more accurate analysis of any problems arising, thereby reducing technicians' superfluous time spent at the customer.