IBM meshes data analysis, management offerings

Product announced at first Information on Demand conference

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Heralded by a seven-piece band and the rock-concert-like trappings of flames, smoke and strobe lights, IBM opened its first Information on Demand (IOD) conference at 8 a.m. Monday and announced a new product, the IBM Information Server, that integrates many of its data products.

The IBM Information Server, which will be available next month, is intended to be a one-stop shop for companies seeking tools for dealing with such data-intensive issues as business intelligence. Priced at $125,000 and up depending on the number of product modules, it uses many existing products and capabilities available from IBM's information integration and server lines, including offerings from its WebSphere line such as Information Analyzer, QualityStage, DataStage and Federation Server.

But IBM officials said this server represents a new architectural approach that provides common metadata, user interfaces, reporting and logging access information in a service-oriented architecture.

Before Information Server, said Ambuj Goyal, IBM's general manager of information management, users would have to make specific calls to another source to obtain information. But this product will allow users to "get information from multiple sources, reconciled and bidirectional," he said.

Frank Brooks, the chief data architect at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Inc., has been using many of IBM's data management tools, and he said the Information Server product struck him as an umbrella offering. He said it's an approach that's needed because "the problems are getting far too complex" for any one tool.

Managing data used to be a matter of just taking data on a relational database and running a report, Brooks said. "Now," he added, "it's not just internal data, it's external and it's also content," which includes material such as e-mail -- anything that's not in a relational database.

Brooks said IBM has been good about working with third-party tool vendors on the use of their products with its product sets. "I think they realize that they can't provide every possible solution," he said. The Chattanooga-based health care provider, for instance, is using a tool developed by ClearForest Corp. for analyzing unstructured data.

The IBM Information Server works with third-party tools, but IBM officials said those tools won't have the same ability to leverage the integration and analysis capabilities of its integrated offering.

The Information on Demand conference, which drew about 5,000 attendees, combines IBM DB2 technical and content management conferences into a broader-themed symposium. It's a combination that made sense to David Williams, a DB2 administrator at the Georgia Department of Labor, who said his agency is implementing DB2 content management systems for imagery to provide access to document images, among other capabilities.

Kristie Steinmetz, an application programmer at Dairyland Power Cooperative in LaCrosse, Wis., said she attended the conference to learn what plans IBM had for FileNet Corp., a company that it acquired for $1.6 billion. Her company uses products from both companies. The FileNet deal was completed last week.

One longtime DB2 user, Scott Walton, an application database administrator at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. in Indianapolis, said the rock 'n' roll opening could have been toned down. "Everybody here is sold on DB2, or they wouldn't be here," he said. "We don't need a pep rally on IBM products."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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