AlphaBlox deal anchors IBM's BI strategy

IBM is trying to encourage desktop users to consider business intelligence-based technologies.

IBM is trying to encourage desktop users to consider business intelligence-based technologies.

It will introduce products and technologies that will marry the massive amounts of historical data corporations hold with real-time analytics.

This will enable them to more quickly and accurately monitor day-to-day data from, say, financial transactions, allowing them to compare and contrast that data with the data stored in databases.

This, in turn, should help corporate users to make faster, better-informed decisions and make best use of on-demand computing, according to IBM.

"BI in the past was all about capturing historical data, but we need to apply real-time analytics to it. This idea of pushing BI out to the masses is where we really have to get to as an industry," said Karen Parrish, IBM's vice-president in charge of BI.

IBM's recent acquisition of AlphaBlox, a company specialising in analytics software, should move this forward.

According to IDC, the overall opportunity for BI is more than $7bn (£3.7bn) worldwide for 2004, and expected double that by the end of 2006.

Corporate users would love to see IBM deliver technology that helps them put together mission-critical data in multiple data stores with web-based data arriving every day. But some fret about the cost of buying new software and services and support.

"If we think the newer IBM stuff is worth the bucks we'll buy into it. But we would be concerned with replacement and integration costs and whatever someone like [IBM] Global Services might charge to help us do that," said Russell St. George, a senior IT manager at a large US financial services company.
In response IBM officials say that one of the benefits of its efforts to maintain an open standards-based infrastructure is that its refocused BI initiative allows corporate IT shops to more easily build on their existing infrastructure without having to tear anything down.

"We are redefining BI. You will find that BI has been focused on a community of providers and not analytical reporting. Users have already invested a lot and so we have to help them leverage that infrastructure. No one wants to rip and replace, which is why we have a very open environment," Parrish said.

IBM will continue to drive analytics deep into DB2 as well as add capabilities that cater to vertical markets.

Over the next year IBM plans to streamline its BI-related offerings, simplifying the choices of corporate buyers, including a new bundle involving its Data Warehouse product.

"We have the Data Warehouse Edition [of DB2] which is really just a marketing bundle made up of all the things you need to build an enterprise data warehouse. We will evolve that to be a more integrated product with all those capabilities in an all-in-one package next year," Parrish said.

Masala, the code name for an upcoming technology to be stitched into DB2, will feature an enterprise search paradigm capable of crawling the web to find information an any given topic.

Masala integrates text mining with real-time analytics, according to Janet Perna, general manager of IBM's data management solutions group. IBM plans to issue a beta of Masala in the next couple of months, she said.

Ed Scannell and Tom Sullivan write for Inforworld

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