IBM and Its Predictive Analytics Push

September 12, 2012

I prefer to examine the plumbing of search and content processing systems. What is becoming increasingly obvious to me is that many of the “new” business intelligence and eDiscovery vendors are licensing technology and putting a different user interface on what is a collection of components.

Slap on visualization and some game-like controls and you have “big data analytics.” Swizzle around the decades-old technology from Oracle, and you still find the Oracle database system. Probe the Hadoop vendors, and you find fancy dancing away from the batch orientation of the NoSQL data management framework. Check out the indexing subsystems and you find third parties which a handful of customers who license their technology to a “wrapper company.”

The phrase “wrapper company” and the product approach of “wrapper bundles” is now described in some clever marketing lingo. The notion of federation, real time, and distributed data are woven into systems which predict, permit discovery, and allow users to find answers to questions the user did not know to ask.

Everything sounds so “beyond search.” I think many of the licensees and prospects react to the visualizations in the demos and the promise that a business professional can use these systems without knowing about the underlying data, programming, or statistical methods is what sells. Who wants to pay for a person to babysit a system and write custom reports? Chop that headcount because the modern systems are “smart.”

Next generation analytics systems are, like enterprise search, comprised of many moving parts. For most professionals, the “moving parts” are of little interest and even less frequently scrutinized. Users want answers or information without having to do much more than glance at a visual display. The ideal system says, “Hello, Dave, here’s what you need to know right now.”

The IBM Ad

I noted an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, on September 10, 2012 on page A20. The advertiser was IBM. The full page ad featured the headline, “We Used to Schedule Repairs.” The idea is that smart software monitors complex systems and proactively find, repairs, and notifies before a system fails.

Sounds fantastic.

The ad asserts:

Fixing what will break next, first. Managing [the client’s] infrastructure proactively rather than reactively has helped the utility reduce its customer calls by 36 percent.”

The argument concludes:

Replacing intuition with analytics. No one knows your organization’s millions of moving parts better than you. But now with IBM predictive maintenance, you can spend less time and fewer resources repairing things either too early to too late, and more time focusing your attention on what happens next.”

The ad points me to this IBM page:

image

Snappy visualizations, the phrase “smarter analytics,” and a video round out the supplemental information.

Observations

Three observations:

  1. IBM has the resources to launch a major promotion of its predictive analytics capabilities. The footprint of IBM in this concept space may boost interest in analytics. However, smaller firms will have to be able to differentiate themselves and offer the type of benefits and customer references IBM employs.
  2. The approach of the copy in the ad is to make predictive analytics synonymous with smart management and cost effective systems. Many of the analytics companies struggle to articulate a clear value proposition like this.
  3. The notion of making a smarter information technology department fits into IBM’s broader message of a smarter planet, city, government, etc. Big ideas like this are certainly easier to grasp than the nitty gritty, weaknesses, and costs of computationally canned methods.

For smaller analytics vendors, it is game on.

Stephen E Arnold, September 12, 2012

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