Bringing the simplicity of the app store to enterprise IT and analytics

Big Data Platform Sales and Engineering, IBM

In July 2014, Apple and IBM announced an exclusive partnership to co-develop enterprise mobile apps. One of the key results of this partnership—and of course the ubiquity of the iPhone—is that enterprise IT began tackling an important iPhone learning: simplicity is key.

When you have more PhD mathematicians than anyone else, the result is superior enterprise technologies with an endless amount of knobs, distributions, flavors and options. It’s complex.

Along comes the app store. You pick the app, you pay for it and it installs itself. Things usually work, the cloud is at your fingertips and you get immediate return on investment, unless, of course, the app is an addictive game that keeps asking you to pay for little extras.

Why isn’t enterprise IT like this?

Why, then, is deploying an analytics architecture in government so challenging? And how do we solve it?

Cloud is a big answer. When someone else does the heavy lifting, things seem pretty easy. If you don’t have to worry about infrastructure (such as networking, storage, floor space and security) that’s great. Need more servers? Just put in your credit card number.

But what about the enterprise applications that I run my agency on? Transactional systems, data warehouse, business intelligence (BI), web development—with each I have to do all the same work, just on someone else’s hardware. I’d argue that this approach isn’t enough.

Consider the IBM Bluemix platform. Not only is it a web-based app development platform, but you can also think of it as an IBM version of the enterprise IT app store. Put in your credit card and voilà—you have a fully functional, fully managed database as a service in the cloud. Many organizations are standing up Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark clusters to manage some of their analytics workloads. Hadoop is great, but it’s challenging because of piece parts that don’t always cooperate, very large network footprints and no uniformity in the tools and distributions. Why not deliver all that as a service?

IBM does just that: we now offer enterprise Hadoop as a service and Spark as a service.

Bluemix delivers a long list of capabilities such as BI, databases, ETL (extract, transform and load) processing, geospatial analytics, IBM Watson Cognitive Computing, NoSQL, predictive analytics and even non-IBM technologies such as Elasticsearch, MongoDB, MySQL, Postgres, RethinkDB and Redis. We call it Open for Data.

What does Open for Data mean for government agencies?

When you don’t have to focus on coordinating multiple technologies and data systems, you can focus on turning that data into decisions and actions that have an impact for your agency. Once your technological ducks are in a row, you begin to see the benefit. Governments can become more efficient and more accountable than ever before. Public service departments can improve their allocation of limited resources and quantify the outcomes of budgetary decisions. Data can even help motivate and equip critical employees in the wake of required spending cuts. With simplified data systems, government organizations can see these results even sooner.

Things don’t need to be complicated anymore. We shouldn’t need to spend nine months setting up a data mart, paying for it the entire time and not getting any value in return. Bluemix offers a good step in the right direction.

Learn more about developing technologies that can help simplify analytics for the federal government sector at the Government Analytics Forum: 5 May 2016, at the W hotel in Washington, D.C. Here, IBM brings together experts in analytics-driven government and cybersecurity for a half day of learning and networking.

Register today for this event