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How IBM Has Bought its Way to Big Data Credibility
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June 8, 2016 News

IBM is a company in massive transition. They are managing a seismic shift in from being the leader in the metal inside the datacenter to becoming a cloud based datacenter provider. The transformation has been significant with swathes of their traditional hardware business sold off to Lenovo and at the same time transforming their business behind SoftLayer or IBM Cloud.

In the last 18 months we have also seen IBM getting vocal about Watson’s machine learning platform that is joined at the hip with the Big Data revolution. The sheer investment in Watson (which we suspect will take some time to recoup) alone is evidence that IBM have been taking a long term view on the Big Data Revolution.

Somewhat hidden in the big headlines, is how IBM have been building skills experience and IP in Big Data for the best part of a decade. Back in 2011, they announced what at the time were far sighted and very ambitious plans to start educating and training people in Data Science in a project which eventually became known as the Big Data University.

The really interesting part to me about their strategy has been the acquisition trail. Just since 2010 alone, IBM has acquired 16 Big Data or Analytics related companies, most recently spending $2.6 billion to acquire Truven Health Analytics to incorporate into their Watson platform.

Here is a full list of all IBM’s Big Data and Analytics Acquisitions since 2010

February 18, 2016 Truven Health Analytics cloud-based healthcare data, analytics and insights
January 15, 2016 Iris Analytics Real time transaction fraud detection
November 6, 2015 Cleversafe Object-based storage software
October 28, 2015 The Weather Company Weather data sources and analytics.
April 13, 2015 Explorys Healthcare analytics
March 4, 2015 AlchemyAPI Natural language processing, big data
December 19, 2013 Aspera Inc Data Transfer Technology
October 1, 2013 The Now Factory Mobile Networks Big Data Analytics
December 19, 2012 StoredIQ Big Data Analysis
September 24, 2012 Butterfly Software Ltd. Data Analysis and Migration Software
May 2, 2012 Tealeaf Technology Customer Experience Analytics Software
December 15, 2011 Emptoris Supply Chain Analytics
December 8, 2011 DemandTec Cloud-based Retail Analytics
August 31, 2011 i2 Limited Intelligence Analytics
September 20, 2010 Netezza Data warehousing and analytics
June 15, 2010 Coremetrics Web Analytics

What do we glean from this? Clearly IBM have had a consistent strategy to build their Big Data and Analytics capability.

However more than that, a company like IBM is often masked by its old and traditional image.

We get excited by the creative individuals in the vibrant startup scene, and can be fooled into thinking that all the creativity is coming from the startup culture, not old dinosaurs like IBM. The reality is that IBM has bought into this creativity through these acquisitions. Bigger than the technology and the IP, what they have inherited are the individuals who are NOT IBMers but innovators in the Big Data space who are now under the IBM umbrella.
Peeling back the layers of the onion can be a difficult thing to do especially in a company of the size of IBM. Even employees within IBM struggle to understand the depth and breadth of skills and technology within their own organization.

Working with IBM is not for everyone that’s for sure, but as you short list companies that may be able to help you on your own Big Data strategy – tapping into the pedigree that IBM has built has to be considered.

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