IBM has been a big player in information management for as long as anyone can remember. But when, in February 2006, it pledged to invest more than $1 billion over three years in building a software platform of management tools and services, it was clear it had some big new plans.
The strategy as outlined at IBM’s inaugural Information On-Demand conference held in Anaheim, Los Angeles in October 2006, is to create a common platform that stretches across its middleware and consulting divisions, and which focuses on the convergence of search, database and collaboration software. The goal of Information On-Demand is to enable customers to free up their data, regardless of format or structure and turn it into useful information and services.
This is a proposition that resonates well with many companies, many of which are struggling with the task of knitting together the vast sea of data residing in relational databases, content management systems, emails, blogs, podcasts, RFID chips, video clips and images. Solving this information problem is creating a booming software and services market estimated to be worth $69 billion globally by 2009.
Ambush Goyal, general manager at IBM Information Management Software, says that its new Information Server will help organisations “take back control of all their constituent parts” and by obtaining data from multiple sources, provide a way to deliver the right information in the right context.
The Information Server is designed to work alongside other IBM data integration tools, such as its master data management product, data integration suite and information integrator, giving all the tools and the data a common metadata framework, user interfaces and reporting structures via a service-orientated architecture.
Building a server that deals strictly with data-intensive issues is akin to the application servers that appeared in the mid 1990’s, according to Goyal. And he is certain that other vendors will be forced to follow suit. “I am willing to bet that down the road analysts will create a category like [we have for] application servers and they will start writing about information servers as a category,” he says.