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Afternoon – IBM Software Analyst Connect 2009

After this morning’s more technical sessions, the afternoon of the IBM analyst event this year reinforced the non-technology driven speaking-agenda that IBM has been going on about over the past year, that being “Smart Planet.” That phrase has has come to wrap two things:

  • The Internet of Things realized in an industrial form – sensors, RFIDs, masses of data and meta-data encrusting every box in your business process diagram and figuring out what to do with all that crust.
  • Industry frameworks – while IBM software will say it doesn’t do applications, what it’s doing here is moving the discussion of software away from a technological one into vertical specific uses of that technology, like waste water management. Here, you can take any type of industry and slap “smart” in front of it, and you’ve got the idea, e.g., Smart Water.

When IBM first foisted this framing on us analysts, it drove us all mad: we don’t like following business as a technology in itself, we just like technology. What IBM’s trying to do is make businesses more programmable, essentially, by injecting enough IT as possible into every part of it. Then, assuming a business is properly “instrumented,” you just roll out changes to the technology to change the business. That’s the metaphor at least, and it’s driving towards IBM hoping to create a new market for its assets.

Peppered through-out this high-level stuff are glimpses of what the new, underlying technology is and some cases of how customers are using this new technology. It can be frustrating, for example, to sit through a Tivoli talk and just get to actual products, services, and new features therein in the last part of the talk.

In that context, here are some highlights for the afternoon here:

General Session – Steve Mills

The context above was mostly drawn out here, with some interesting technology/innovation bullet points:

  • If you’ve seen the usual “what IBM (software) is doing now” overview, there wasn’t much different. The point of all this Smart Planet framing is that “it opens the door to line of business people, not just IT people,” as Steve Mills put it.
  • There’s a certain business process fed by new analytics, Big Data, and internet of things potentials: instrumenting everything in the business process, collecting data from that instrumentation, then analyzing and making business decisions (things to change or not change to make more money, with a whole lot of business modeling and high-performance, as near as possible real-time processing. You know, dry-cleaned cyberpunk, man.
  • IBM’s client strategy is a mixture of Eclipse on the desktop and then Ajax on the web. There was a mention of a (browser?) plugin as a way to do more traditional desktop GUI tasks with a web app (mostly synchronized web stuff), but I think I’m reading too much into it to think it’s some sort of Gears/HTML 5 dream. As far as Ajax, dojo seems to still be the leader for IBM.
  • James on this UI stuff: “Steve Mills just laid out the IBM Client architecture strategy. it didn’t actually say Eclipse RCP or OSGi on the slide.”
  • When it comes to cloud, Steve Mills was one of the early dismissive guys – he had Larry beat by a solid year or two! He played up to this schtick and then bludgeoned the analysts with one of the most in-depths decompositions of cloud stacks (for IaaS and PaaS) I’ve seen. As he said, there’s an IBM PaaS platform and practices floating around, namely the one that drives Lotus Live. He didn’t say as much, but the implication of all those architecture diagram burgers (I’d hope) was that IBM was productizing it somehow. I’ll see if I can get a copy of the diagrams: they were beefy.
  • Indeed, the two phrase Mills used here were “Common Cloud Services Platform” (the PaaS stuff) and “Common Cloud Management Platform” (the stuff used to build and manage cloud-driven infrastructure).
  • “Prima donnas vs. knuckle-draggers” – skirting around the background here – and planned for a breakout session sometime during this event – is paying attention to the developer/operations workflow, collaboration, or whatever you want to call the process. Rational and Tivoli have been talking about this issue of late, and it’ll be great to see how it compares to the meat-cloud discussion going on now.
  • Finally, as many analysts Twittered, of HP buying 3Com, Mills said he doesn’t like buying down-market, implying that 3Com was…down-market.

Service Management, Tivoli, and Smart Planet

Al Zollar’s Tivoli talk has reflected the business vs. technology split IBM’s been dealing with. Tivoli talks start out speaking about non-IT networks that Tivoli is helping manage – energy, water, etc. – and then quickly wraps up with some new technology highlights:

  • The Smart Planet cases highlighted Tivoli being used outside of the data center for waste water system maintenance, a more classic IT story with storage virtualization for INTTRA, using Tivoli to automate recovery actions for banking compliance, and securing smart meter networks. Point being that these are instances of Tivoli managing businesses, not just managing IT.
  • Scaling back to good, old-fashioned IT management, Zollar hit up the “we’ve got everything” angle for Tivoli IT Management. This is, of course, the Big 4 sale: the sum is more (important) than its parts.
  • Finally, Zollar went over some different deployment and packaging options for the Tivoli stack like the two appliances (for applications and service management) as well as Tivoli Live.

That whole dev/ops thing

The Future We Want

The last session of the day was co-hosted by Rational and Tivoli GMs Danny Sabbah and Al Zollar on the topic of getting development and operations to be more friendly with each other. There were several good wall of confusion slides to make the point about the prima donnas (dev) and knuckle-draggers (ops) thinking poorly of each other. And while there was no one product or even set of practices that IBM seems to be going to market with at the moment, the promise was that they were working on it.

Much of the emphasis revolved around “meta-data” and policy enforcement. The idea being to have more feedback and enforcement between development and operations with respect to what the production system would/must look like. Danna Garder raised the idea of PaaSes having enough constraints that there’s not really much of dev/ops hand-off. Indeed, slicing in virtualization, automation, and the sort of melding of the developer and operations role you hear at places like Velocity is the dream of all this dev/ops business.

Our own James Governor forcefully suggested that the problem was simply companies wanting to development on the cheap. He kept quoting Deutsche Bank wanting to pay £300 a day for a developer as not being enough to get top quality development. The issue being that if the Ration/Tivoli offering was promising cheap costs, then the result would still be cheap. The discussion here merged into the usual “the top percentages best practices don’t apply to the lower percentage” discussion that you get involved in during software deliver productivity blue skying: whatever rockin’ stuff Google is doing isn’t going to work at Boring Giant Company, Inc.

At this point, the discussion for IBM is about potentials vs. shipping product. Interestingly, Zollar said that their customer base is not actively asking for this tighter dev/ops integration: “the marketplace is not pulling this out of us.” Which gets to the pacing IBM takes with concepts like these. We’ll have to check in next year and see what’s happened. It’s a tough nut to crack without being too disruptive.

Disclosure: IBM is a client and paid T&E.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] Day one afternoon wrap-up – Steve Mills keynote, Tivoli overview, dev/ops. […]