“You never know who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out” - Warren Buffet
IBM gets it! Why don’t others? With $22 billion in annual software sales they certainly qualify as the 2000 pound gorilla – but they don’t act that way. They didn’t get to that level by being arrogant (like another large gorilla?) – quite to the contrary.
- They strongly support the analyst community
- They have no secrets – they show us their roadmap, tell us what they have in the works, confess their concerns, listen and encourage other views
- Unlike some embedded vendors, they see analysts/editors as a respected strength to their business
- They subscribe to the best market intelligence and they study it and use it
I was recently at their Software Analyst Connect meeting as one of 100 invited analysts and the only guy who covers the broad embedded market (they do have a strong embedded component in Rational and their larger software business certainly supports embedded needs). Steve Mills, IBM’s number 2 guy (he reports directly to Sam P) was once again in attendance and available. Think of it – the genius who runs IBM’s $22 billion software division not only makes himself available, but brought more than a dozen of his VPs, IBM Fellows, Distinguished Engineers, etc. Casually dressed, friendly and likely to be spotted at the Sushi Bar, Steve is more than willing to engage in discussion or debate. Although he confesses to stealing from his people the best slides for his presentations, he is eager to make sure that we meet with whatever expert we need to engage.
This is a smaller IBM venue than what I annually attend in Orlando (over 2500 developers). The meetings go off like clockwork and events are managed professionally. They hire the best and support them. Diane Flis’ group is superb – the support staff that makes sure that I can meet who I need to speak with (one-on-one if I choose) and supports me all year is the best in the business. Linda Voyles, Silvia Galgano, Carol Gibbins, Teressa Jimenez, and Claudia McQuade were not only available, but frequently sought me out to make sure that I had the information I needed and that I was aware of presentations in which I might be interested.
Diane’s dedication to supporting us is very important to the IBM philosophy. Some embedded vendors are very good at working with analysts – conversely and unfortunately some embedded CEOs don’t look upon us as a virtue – but as an obstacle.
Steve Mills outlined the IBM software roadmap – and it has tremendous implications for the embedded world. His markets (at least those that want to survive) are moving away from the inefficiencies and associated cost of their businesses and industries to software solutions that not only have long term financial benefits, but have total payback of their investments within a year.
What does Steve Mills and his team know that you may not?
First, IBM focuses on solutions – not isolated tool or software sales. Their sales teams are focused on long term ROI as well as short term payback. Annual EMF surveys of embedded developers demonstrate that change for the sake of change is no longer a virtue. EMF data shows that the willingness of customers to change vendors is based on long term ROI and we have shown that the willingness to change processes and tool sets can be predicted from the gap between what developers say they use and what they perceive to be a best practice.
IBM recognizes that businesses today are confronted by unparalleled rates of change that create tremendous challenges. Companies need to differentiate products, react to on-going market shifts, efficiently streamline support of deployed products and exploit globalization.
What does IBM see that helps to size the potential embedded market?
- Our world is becoming instrumented: there are 30 billion RFID tags in use and over a billion cell phones
- Our world is becoming interconnected: 2 billion people on the web and a trillion connected objects
- All things are becoming intelligent. There are 15 petabytes of new information generated daily
These are building blocks for what IBM calls a smarter planet. As our cell phones adopt 4G capabilities, think of the plethora of embedded devices that can connect to higher level databases through IT systems and Cloud-based computing. News specific to one’s needs can be automatically captured and delivered in realtime to hand-based or home-based systems. The same holds true for entertainment, banking, external monitoring of utilities, weather updates, automotive planning and assistance, police/emergency access, personal pharmaceutical updates and drug interaction alerts – just to name a few applications that are within our reach and are based on interactivity of embedded devices matched with enterprise data sources.
Add to this the fact that we have extensive infrastructures built into energy delivery (National Grid), telecom/datacom facilities, traffic control systems, warehouse and supply systems, etc.
What characterizes these infrastructures is that it would cost trillions of dollars to replace them – this won’t happen given the cost of each and the disruption that would be created. They are further characterized as being systems and systems-within-systems and therefore address a different level of embedded requirements than RTOSes, software tool sets, embedded databases, and communication protocols. Such systems technologies lend themselves to Model Driven Development (MDD) usually based upon the Unified Modeling Language (UML), and currently used in not only advanced systems developments, but more now in complex embedded product developments.
These infrastructures do lend themselves to innovative software developments, using established technologies that make these systems more intelligent and easier to deploy and maintain. The efficiency that such software development brings to these older technologies is that businesses see very short term payback of their investments by reducing the cost of support teams and having longer time periods before required maintenance,
This is the future of embedded computing and a peek at the growth potential of our industry. Interestingly, IBM doesn’t own it alone. Their IT, enterprise and MDD capabilities are designed to make use of other embedded products.
Just a final note: the conference was held at the beautiful Hilton Hotel in Stamford Connecticut which had wonderful accommodations – BUT can’t figure out how to deploy wireless access. Their rooms only have Ethernet connections (only half work) and their open spaces seem to provide the quality usually found with two tin cans tied together.
I suggest that Hilton try to get IBM to buy them. Steve, are you interested? They have a really nice Sushi Bar.