IBM exec: Too much data creates problems

Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for software at IBM, thinks that the supercomputing-like capabilities of new hardware, coupled with improvements in software, are making it possible for companies to integrate and process data on an enormous scale. But the data management problems facing IT managers are also huge, Mills said in an interview with Computerworld. He talked about the company's planned US$1 billion investment in data management services, announced last week.

What's really new and different here? You haven't made data management a priority from the start?

We certainly haven't just discovered these opportunities. We have been investing for a number of years believing that this area was poised for a significant uptick in customer spend. We knew that the core issues related to quality of data, large quantities of data, the ability to deal with that data in real time and to be able to give answers back rapidly that were useful. We had a set of concepts behind the investments that we made. But beyond that, we've come to recognize that the size of the opportunity is dramatically greater than we had fully understood. That tends to happen when you perceive things to be true, then you get engaged and you start to really understand the magnitude of the problem. Combine that with the fact that the hardware performance capabilities have reached the level of maturity, and you can now attack problems of enormous scale that we couldn't attack before.

I think we're at a juncture here for this thing to really explode and take off, hence the billion dollars on the software side and another 10,000 practitioners on the services side.

What will come out of your $1 billion investment?

The dominant spending is going to be around the productization of solutions. The last five years have been spent accumulating technology. Concurrent with that, we were off doing these first-of-a-kind exercises with different businesses and governments to test out the capability and verify what we are able to do. This next phase will be hardening solutions for repeatability, along with some amount of technology extension. These are supercomputing-type problems. They have all the characteristics: huge amounts of data, lots of machine cycles to manipulate.

What will the tighter integration between the software group and the services division actually deliver to users?

In simple terms, it's more projects for more clients. If we can take what we've already done and repeat it and expand it out to more clients, it will improve our total capacity.

What can customers expect to see from IBM over the next year as part of this initiative?

Obviously, our investment is going to translate into a greater visibility of IBM coming to them with ideas. We hope in turn they are coming to us. We certainly are anticipating that this is going to drive double-digit growth for us.

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