IBM Unveils Business Intelligence Push

If there is a problem with information technology in the enterprise today, it may be that there is too much information and too little enabling technology to make sense of it all. In late September, IBM Corp. took steps to address this perception by unveiling a new business intelligence (BI) initiative that is being spearheaded by a number of product-related announcements and a $30 million marketing campaign. This move is important to IBM. Big Blue has ordained business intelligence as the next wave of e-business.

According to IBM, business intelligence -- which the computer giant defines as the gathering, management and analysis of raw corporate data -- is the fastest growing segment of the enterprise IT sector, with an annual growth of over 50 percent.

"The opportunity now is for companies to bring together this influx of data, then analyze that data and then personalize both services and products, ultimately getting to the marketer's dream of one-to-one marketing," says Ben Barnes, general manager of IBM’s global business intelligence solutions group. "The fact that IBM has designated BI as the next wave of its high-profile e-business campaign means that it recognizes BI as a very lucrative and major market opportunity.''

IBM’s initiative is composed of a number of offerings, including a new program -- dubbed Fast Start -- that IBM is positioning for small and medium-sized businesses. According to IBM, Fast Start is tailored for helping smaller businesses leverage information to build and manage relationships with customers.

IBM’s Global Services division will provide several new business intelligence service-related offerings geared toward specific vertical markets, such as BI Services for Telecommunications Companies, BI Services for Insurance Companies and BI Services for Retailers. IBM says the new offerings are based on its own intellectual capital and methodologies.

In addition to services, IBM unveiled a series of new product offerings for its flagship DB2 database, including version 6.1 of its data-mining tool -- DB2 Intelligent Miner for Data -- that the company says can help nonspecialized users extract business intelligence from raw enterprise data. Big Blue also took the wraps off of a customer relationship marketing data-mining tool -- DB2 Intelligent Miner for Relationship Marketing -- and a re-emphasized the latest version of DB2’s OLAP engine -- DB2 OLAP Server version 1.1 -- that now supports multidimensional reporting and analysis. The OLAP engine is based on Hyperion Essbase from Hyperion Solutions Corp. (www.hyperion.com).

And in a nod to NCR Corp.’s (www.ncr.com) terabyte-scale database, Teradata, IBM announced DB2 DataJoiner version 2.1.1, a technology that provides access to Teradata and 55 other data sources.

In the business intelligence standards arena, IBM announced that it will join Hyperion, NCR, Oracle Corp. and Unisys Corp. in submitting a proposal for a common warehouse metadata interchange (CWMI) specification to the Object Management Group. The hope is that CWMI will provide a standard format for enterprise warehouse environments.