Donnie Berkholz's Story of Data

IBM Pulse 2012: Tivoli gets the bleeding edge of tech

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I went to IBM’s Pulse conference in Las Vegas last week, which centers around its Tivoli organization. Tivoli is focused on the systems/operations side of things: think cloud and DevOps all the way up to high-level business- and government-directed initiatives like Smarter Cities and Smarter Planet. Check out James’s excellent post on the history behind IBM and Tivoli for some broader context.

My biggest take-home was this: IBM’s people really get it. They understand trends that are happening at the frontlines of tech today in startups and in open-source development. IBM is way out in front on enabling DevOps in big enterprises, and the teams working on DevOps inside Tivoli as well as Rational (which builds tools for developers) are outstanding. A lot of my experience with enterprises is that they’re slow-moving and often lagging trends by years, to the point where it’s nearly laughable, but in this case IBM is definitely a front-runner.

How many enterprise software conferences have you seen where DevOps isn’t just mentioned in passing but has a whole track of its own? Not just that, but many of the talks were immensely popular — I’m told that was a major change since last year, and presumably this was a combination of the broader perception of DevOps’s importance as well as some internal shifts in who’s building what.

On the cloud front, they’re starting to consolidate everything under a Smart Cloud umbrella. This is a great move from my point of view as a newcomer, as I’ve found it immensely confusing to get a grip on what they’re doing. Tivoli still has farther to go on this front, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction. The mere existence of the 10s (100s?) of IBM products needed to set up a “Smart Cloud” is problematic; if anything, the most complex it should be is a hierarchy of different levels, not filling a shopping basket with a myriad of products.

I was also quite impressed by some work out of IBM Research on managing mobile devices in the enterprise. My colleague Tom’s touched on this in the context of extending battery life. But it just so happens that I independently found it interesting enough to spend a good hour talking to John Ponzo and a couple of his coworkers. The idea of app-level security rather than device-level seems like a great fit with overarching IT trends like Bring Your Own Device, so your company only needs to lock down and inspect the apps it cares about, not all your personal ones too.

Other than that, the most interesting mobile news came out of the Worklight acquisition. Worklight is an enterprise suite for building mobile apps, based on the now-famous PhoneGap. It adds things like Eclipse plugins, a server for push notifications, analytics, etc. IBM just announced its acquisition at the end of January, and everyone at Pulse couldn’t wait to start building their mobile apps with it. That’s just another sign of Tivoli being on the leading edge.

I’m hoping to dive into more depth later on some of these topics, but those are my initial thoughts coming out of my first Pulse.

Disclosure: IBM is a client and covered my hotel stay at Pulse.



  1. Thank you for your kind words Donnie. Yes, there are a lot of very smart people at IBM thinking and talking about DevOps.  I have really enjoyed working with Bill Higgins recently, and am looking forward to a continuation of this set of convos.
    As you know, the session that Bill and Dan did went to capacity and they had to turn people away.

    So my question and interest is this.  How does DevOps factor in when we talk about Agile development and nimble responses?  Would you say that it is an aspect of that set of convos or would you position it differently?


    1. Brenny, it’s absolutely a factor of that set of convos. It’s about carrying agile methods a couple of steps further into the app lifecycle, not just development but also build, test & deployment.

      So it’s not just the ability to develop in a more predictable & reliable fashion (i.e. agile). It’s about the ability to respond to real-world issues faster, then transport that response from what’s running on deployed servers back to the devs, who can quickly cycle through a fix & get it pushed out to production. Iterate through real-world issues, not just through the code.

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  4. Interesting comments around leading in DevOps space, look at as an alternative

  5. […] While some of DevOps’ rise can rightly be credited to a startup ethos and the evangelism of companies like Puppet Labs, it also gets a boost from IBM, ostensibly the most fuddy-duddy company on the planet. RedMonk analyst Donnie Berkholtz notes: […]

  6. […] While some of DevOps’ rise can rightly be credited to a startup ethos and the evangelism of companies like Puppet Labs, it also gets a boost from IBM, ostensibly the most fuddy-duddy company on the planet. RedMonk analyst Donnie Berkholtz notes: […]

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