IBM SVP discusses success behind integrated systems trend

One such area where IBM is really putting integrated systems and solutions to work is big data analytics.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Understanding the design and architecture behind sophisticated, integrated systems is "critical" nowadays, according to Steven Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's Software and Systems unit.

See also: IBM eyes new systems with 'integrated expertise' built in

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet 2012 conference on Wednesday morning, Mills explained the forces behind IBM's success with the integrated systems trend. That includes building everything from the chip up to the system then to the solutions and services around it.

"It's clearly an advantage for various classes of work," Mills said, pointing out that there are customers who run simplistic workloads and others who are interested in more sophisticated, complex workloads and a higher-end quality of service.

Mills stated that IBM is "very much focused on the higher-end, sophisticated systems and capabilities," solutions that are optimized around specific workload types that can handle high-performance, high-transaction and high-stress rates.

"These attributes of design are critical," Mills argued, asserting that IBM understands the underlying architectures (i.e. maximizing silicon performance, etc.) better than its competitors.

"You could go with the procurement guy about an Intel server than will never run more than 10 percent load, or you can deal with a system that is 60 to 80 percent loaded running mission-critical work," Mills said plainly.

One such area where IBM is really putting these solutions to work is big data analytics.

"This is a big space. People can slice it up and focus on the areas they'd like to focus in on," Mills said, explaining that this includes everything from running an Excel spreadsheet to running complicated, scientific projects based on unstructured data.

There are several enablers at place here, many of which weren't available five to 10 years ago.

Yet, Mills quickly labeled "big data" as a popular buzzword of the moment in IT. He reminded the keynote audience that before there was "big data," companies (including IBM) were working with text-based systems for data-mining back starting in the late 1970s.

However, he admitted that the "reality is you can't implement without a range of technologies."

A big factor is simply that the costs of hardware and storages are coming down, Mills pointed out. Simultaneously, there is an "outcome-based motivator in place."

"There has always been a belief that information technology holds the key to getting better insight into the markets you're serving," Mills said. "It's more than just 'I can download Hadoop and understand a big pile of stuff.'"

One of the big expected outcomes from understanding big data is that it can lead to better business decisions -- notably understanding consumer reactions.

But one area that Mills remained hesitant to make any predictions was IBM's immediate roadmap.

"It feels more risky to forecast the next quarter than the next three years out," Mills admitted.

Mills said that IBM is well aware, particularly in emerging markets, about how the spending rates of IT will increase and what customers want to do.

Nevertheless, buzzwords like "big data" and "the cloud" might have the potential to throw off predictions and patterns.

"The short term issues are always what you have to make work for you, and we have to live with the realities and external forces we can't predict and control," Mills said.


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