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IMPACT11: 'Business Agility' With IBM's Latest WebSphere Advancements

by Mike Bria on Apr 14, 2011 |

IBM's IMPACT 11 conference is underway this week hosting more than 8,000 business and IT leaders representing 60 countries, gathered to learn discuss how to "work smarter for better business outcomes". During the 4 day event, IBM revolves their unveiling of many new tools, products, solutions, and ideas around the one key message of enabling "Business Agility".

Day one kicked off with a packed 2 hour keynote, first showcasing IBM's incredibly unique 100 years of computing innovation and global business enablement, then tying this forward to the focus of the conference, IBM's current flagship innovation, the WebSphere suite of products. New unveilings and demonstrations within WebSphere around Cloud, Mobile, and more threaded the entire of the week.

WebSphere GM Marie Weick and others made the case for how today's rapidly changing business landscape demands "Business Agility"; she notes that over 80% of CEO's expect their business to become more complex in the upcoming few years, but less than half feel prepared. The talks go on to cover lightly IBM's latest WebSphere products and tools target enabling this agility, containing solutions for:

  • Application Server & Infrastructure needs (WebSphere's core AS)
  • SOA
  • Connectivity & Integration
  • Business Process Management
  • Business Strategy

A note that "power is not in the organization's applications themselves, but in the combination of the applications" lead to reinforcement messages that IBM's strategy continues to pivot on SOA and the enterprise.
Steve Mills kicked off day two's keynote, reflecting deeper on current state SOA and its role in the key "Business Agility" theme:

  • SOA is, in part, simply a label representing the result of 40 years of "good computer science", a maturation of the fundamental idea of modularity
  • 'Business Agility' requires "unlocking" your IT (and thus business') processes/assets/information, and that achieving this "unlocking" is what SOA is all about
  • Organizations are in the midst of re-hauling their infrastructures to stretch "horizontally" across the org's domains, and such an activity requires great care around the key areas of connectivity, process automation, security, and quality of service ("things actually work reliably"); things Mills notes IBM's WebSphere products are tailored to handle

This keynote also included an interesting Q&A with 2 leaders each from from Verizon and Nationwide Insurance. Verizon went into how in a matter of days they were able to meet the massive, "need immediately" IT needs that came about last fall when they were named the NFL's official mobile service provider, using IBM ESB and Message Broker products. Nationwide explained how, when their competitors were struggling during the recent economic downturn, they were able to thrive after re-architecting their infrastructure with products like IBM's ILOG Business Rules Management System.

IBM's ILOG VP Pier Haren on ILOG and its relevance to their agility theme: [paraphrased]

ILOG's BRMS enables 'change loops within the change loops'. In other words, giving the users the ability to change the system without requiring change [or deploy/release] to the software itself.
...
'Fuzzy Requirements' are among the more problematic aspects of SDLC; therefore, increasing the amount of user requirements that can be achieved without ever going through the SDLC in the first place ultimately enables greater business agility.

InfoQ was able to sit down with IBM's Application Infrastructure Middleware ("AIM") VP Bob Madey who gave a thought-provoking glimpse into the possible future of the mobility space, a market estimated by one report to grow to $25 billion by 2015 (up from $6.8 billion in 2010). In Madey's estimation, revenue generation in mobility will transition from "pay for network" to "pay for content". Enabling this, he continues, requires a richer-content/lower-latency experience that can't be supported with today's infrastructure, based on "multi-stop" request passing through slow copper-based networks. Attaining this may likely require solutions that enable a request fulfillment path that largely avoids this ill-equipped network; solutions requiring infrastructure that IBM is uniquely positioned to provide.

A few of the new products highlighted during the conference have been:

  • eXtreme Scale - provides distributed object caching essential for elastic scalability and next-generation cloud environments. It processes massive volumes of transactions with extreme efficiency and linear scalability.
  • Workload Deployer – allows companies to assemble customized cloud services with templates based on IBM best practices and features a wide range of IBM software, services and management capabilities
  • WebSphere Virtual Enterprise – provides the ability to consolidate servers and enhance the utilization of existing infrastructure
  • WebSphere DataPower XC10 Appliance – improves response time and lowers the risk of data loss via automatic replication, delivering high availability
  • CICS Transaction Server for z/OS – delivers a reliable environment for high value/high volume business transactions
  • WebSphere Extended Deployment Compute Grid – collaboratively shares resources between batch and on-line transactions, lowering IT costs
  • WebSphere Application Accelerator – gives global reach for critical application by utilizing the internet to speed applications to customers anywhere/anytime and provides application optimization service at the "edge of the network."

Of course, this report highlights only a taste of what has gone down at IMPACT, and what has to offer. For more information, check out IBM's Business Agility site and the IBM IMPACT 11 blog.

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