IBM CEO: Analytics a Big Opportunity for the Future

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano offered partners a perspective on the future, and much of it revolves around the innovation that is possible through analytics.

If Sam Palmisano had just one word for partners, one word, it would probably be "analytics." And he should know.

"I don't bore myself anymore with market research," IBM's CEO told a packed auditorium of IBM channel partners at the IBM PartnerWorld conference in Orlando, Fla., this week. "The estimates will never be right."

Rather, Palmisano exhorted partners to innovate, and analytics is the most important way to do that. It also offers a huge opportunity ahead for helping customers to do that, too. Partners need to help customers build the infrastructure with IBM technology. That's the way to the future, he said.

"For the first time IT is going to do real things. Not inventory control and not payroll. IT will improve the quality of air and clean water systems," as well as the problems faced by so many cities today, he said.  "All financial analysts can do is to take the past to predict the future." But that's not the way ahead.

"As I say to my children in grad school, look beyond the obvious," he said.

Palmisano's remarks came after a successful year for IBM, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is enjoying the notoriety of having its supercomputer, Watson, compete on "Jeopardy!" this week, as well as ramping up the talk against competitors such as Oracle/Sun. IBM Senior Vice President Rod Adkins, head of the IBM Systems and Technology Group, said IBM had won 1,500 competitive migrations in just the last year. And Palmisano pointed to the success IBM has enjoyed even in the midst of a recession that devastated most IT vendors.

On the software side, Senior Vice President Robert LeBlanc touted IBM's many software acquisitions over the last three years in a strategic push to lead the field in analytics.

"The majority of data out there is not in structured databases," he said. "There's no such thing as that one database in the world that has all the information. Clients live in a world of federation. What we need to help clients with is to integrate and federate their information."

That's the kind of business intelligence that Palmisano said will lead to IBM's future success and partners' future success.

"2010 was a record year, 2009 was a record year. How? Why? To be truthful about it, the decisions we made about eight years ago got us to this point. We've had record years even in the difficult economic environment."

Part of what Palmisano was talking about was IBM's decision to sell the PC business back in 2004. While many wondered if it was a misstep, IBM knew that PCs had become a commodity, he said.

"In 2002 everybody in our industry was saying that it was just a bubble. We said the industry was going to change. It wasn't about the PC. It was about smartphones and RFID tags."

And now a great deal of the focus is going to the cloud, leading to IBM's announcement around cloud specialties today.

While the cloud may intimidate some VARs, Palmisano offered these words: "If you don't innovate and move to the future, you won't exist. … Business is tough, and competition is ruthless and tough. If you don't innovate and move to the future, you won't exist."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com