The month of June was another busy one at IBM with a flurry of announcements in hardware, software, services, acquisitions, and strategic alliances. The complete index of IBM Happenings (by year and month) is here. A major focus area in addition to a “smarter planet” is is Cloud Computing. IBM introduced the industry’s first set of commercial cloud services and integrated products for the enterprise. This is an important and strategic move for the company. It reminds me of some disruptive times during my IBM career (hard to believe it began 42 years ago).
Disruption is usually associated with a technological shift but I have observed that the disruption is preceded by and accompanied by a “dissatisfier”. We have seen this movie three times.
In the 1980’s the dissatisfier was departments in enterprises that were dissatisfied with how long it took for the IT department to introduce new applications that addressed departmental needs. Departments started using spreadsheets on PC’s, sometimes acquired by finding a way to bypass IT department approval. Then companies like Novell offered “server” PC’s that allowed the spreadsheets to be centralized and shared by all the PC’s. Departments sometimes did their own network wiring to install “local area networks“. The IT department lost control. IBM was not the director of this movie and concentrated on defending the mainframe turf instead of embracing the disruption. The company was in the audience.
The second movie was in the mid 1990’s. It was called the the World Wide Web — a breakthrough application of the Internet. The dissatisfier was that there were many thousands of physicists in the world who wanted to gain access to a huge amount of data being created from particle physics experiments at CERN in Switzerland. The data was created in many different formats and the people wanting to use the data had many different kinds of computers. Enter Tim Berners-Lee with a new document format called HTML and an Internet protocol called HTTP. The result was any computer with a “browser” that could read HTML could get the data they wanted including multi-media. It was a major disruptive change to how all things IT worked. IBM did not sit in the audience for this movie. While Microsoft and Netscape (illegally driven out of business by Microsoft) were fighting over who had the best browser, IBM was making major investments behind the scenes to insure that all of it’s hardware and software supported the Internet. In 1996 Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, introduced the term “e-Business“. The company developed a layer of middleware called Webshphere that allowed enterprises to link all their applications to the web. This movie made $billions. There is much more to the story than summarized in this short paragraph. Take a look at Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround by Lou Gerstner and Net Attitude by yours truly (now available to read free on the web).
The current movie is about Cloud Computing. IBM is planning for a repeat of the success it had with e-business. This time the dissatisfier is that IT applications have become too too costly and too difficult to use. A good example is Microsoft Office. I call it the “global IT tax”. GE decided to confront this by going to cloud computing with Zoho.com. While Google, Zoho, Microsoft, Amazon and countless others are waging “cloud wars” over the consumer, IBM is behind the scenes again this time building a range of cloud offerings for the enterprise — cloud tools for developers, public clouds to enable more efficient offerings for all of the enterprise’s constituencies, private clouds to replace intranets, and research clouds for academia. The offerings announced in June are the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for much more from IBM in the clouds.
Much as client-server computing and the Internet transformed how people interact with other people and with data, cloud computing will transform these things yet again. With every computer in the world connected to every other computer through various clouds the potential to deliver data and collaborate around it will dwarf today’s capabilities and at a lower unit cost. The data.gov project that Vivek Kundra talked about at the Wired Conference may be a model followed by enterprises. The idea is that when something happens — a transaction, a widget gets ordered or shipped or had a service issue or a patient sees a doctor or has a procedure, the data will be in the cloud for others (who are authorized) to see it on a real-time basis. This is going to be an exciting movie and we will all be able to watch it in the clouds. (See other stories on cloud computing here at patrickWeb).
Epilogue: IBM has received considerable recognition for leadership with the World Community Grid. The grid can run virtual chemistry experiments to determine which of the millions of small molecules can attach to the influenza virus and inhibit it from spreading. There is the potential to make the world a better place because of this project. If you want to donate your surplus computer time to some of the great causes IBM is working on, take a look at worldcommunitygrid.org. Also, see IBM Happenings for May for more on the influenza project.
List of Announcements for June 2009
IBM expands information software portfolio
IBM helps organizations transform software investments
IBM survey shows gap in green strategies
Microsoft Partners flock to IBM appliance
Companies choose Lotus software over Microsoft
IBM joins ITS America for traffic congestion challenge
IBM delivers new System z software
IBM opens Rail Innovation Center in China
IBM launches social networking community for partners
IBM honors 2009 Beacon Award winners
IBM launches intelligent security system at Chicago’s Navy Pier
InterContinental Hotels and IBM boost guest experience
IBM helps Saudi Arabia build smarter government
IBM readies cloud for business
IBM unleashes new symphony for Office users
IBM to invest $100 million to advance mobile services
IBM builds public safety system in South Korea
IBM unveils mobile applications for Wimbledon
IBM extends green reach through collaboration
IBM helps cities prepare for challenges of urbanization
IBM extends cloud service portfolio
IBM tops supercomputer list for 10th year
IBM survey tracks consumers’ food safety doubts