Moments of Insight

While IBM Data magazine dons a new look, IBM Insight 2014 showcases innovations to advance data management

Besides the change to standard time for many, November 2014 begins with a range of changes for the data management community in particular. For starters, readers of this article can see that IBM Data magazine has a new look and feel. It now offers a fresh engagement experience featuring a well-organized, easy-to-navigate design that remains device-responsive. And a new tagline accompanies the new logo—IBM Data magazine is now the forum for smarter business.

This defining statement marks another significant milestone in the publication’s 18-year history. The online-only publication expands reader access to the magazine’s social channels—including the recently rolled-out IBM Data magazine LinkedIn group—and the roster of content contributors from the IBM data management community and beyond. At the same time, IBM Data magazine streamlines its usefulness as a tool for researching and accessing its rich repository of information management content. Add to that the ongoing, weekly expansion of this library with timely thought-leadership, best-practices, and expository coverage of information management advancements.

In parallel with the launch of the redesigned IBM Data magazine site, IBM Insight 2014 shown its spotlight on the evolution of data technologies, many of which were showcased at last year’s IBM Information on Demand (IOD). Initially, this year’s event introduced its new name, and this change encapsulates the magnitude in which these technologies have transformed the way people work and organizations engage with customers and partners.

Rapid evolution

Last year’s IBM Data magazine recap of IOD highlighted recurring themes about data—particularly unstructured data and big data—and showed how data will one day become the asset businesses use to reshape processes, strategies, and commerce. And the continual collection of big data in organizations was also expected to increase the need for business analyst and data scientist expertise spanning virtually all industries.

This year’s event expanded greatly on those themes with its “seize the moment” tagline to represent the capability of making immediate business decisions based on insight derived from highly advanced analysis of near-real-time data to capitalize on ephemeral opportunities. Just how far innovative technologies such as IBM Watson™ cloud-based analytics, cognitive computing, and context-based processing have matured over the past 12 months was clearly evident at Insight 2014.

For example, last year’s event focused in part on Watson’s machine-learning capabilities that were expected to make great strides in areas such as healthcare. This year, attendees discovered that Watson is not only learning new languages, but its utilization of Internet of Things data, mobile data, and social data is emerging in multiple innovative integrations with other applications and services. Among them, some noteworthy technologies were introduced at Insight 2014’s general session and the keynotes for information management, big data and analytics, social media, and other technology areas.

One announcement was the release of IBM® dashDB, a data warehouse and analytics service integrated into the IBM Bluemix™ and Cloudant™ platforms. The dashDB service is built on IBM BLU Acceleration and IBM Netezza® in-database analytics technologies. It offers cloud-based delivery of a next-generation, columnar, in-memory database that is agile and extends existing infrastructure into the cloud. Judging from tweets and random conference attendee sentiment, this data warehousing transformation announcement was well received.

In past years at IOD, the message about big data largely had to do with its sheer volume, which was expected to continue—and definitely has continued—growing to epic proportions. And that notion was echoed frequently throughout the past year. Business analysts, in particular, have to spend significant amounts of time pulling data deemed relevant for gaining insight. The availability of that data tends to be for a minority of experts and data scientists within enterprises, and even then not all the data is usable. So-called dirty data can often lead to making poor business decisions.

Today, the perspective on data is rapidly morphing into data as the new intellectual property for organizations, and many are taking an advanced approach by building a data lake for storing all the raw data that comes into an organization. That repository includes the good data that is useful and the not-so-good data that may be extraneous for the needs of the business.

To help address these challenges, the IBM DataWorks™ data refinery technology was also announced at Insight 2014. This solution is designed to democratize data access for everyone in an organization. It helps ensure data is cleaned automatically to an appropriate level and then curates the data to make it available enterprise-wide to end users. It offers an end-user-centric design to find the data, retrieve it, and use it to share and collaborate with peers.

DataWorks is also integrated with the Bluemix platform, and can be integrated with dashDB. Right now, it gets organizations started with a set of high-priority data source services, and IBM plans to add hundreds of additional services in the coming year. DataWorks marks a shift in the way organizations can work with data and obtain insight rapidly for effective business decisions.

Enterprising engagement

Social media data is increasingly recognized as having unlimited value and virtually limitless utilization that enables organizations to engage with customers and partners. Given the emerging role of social data in business, the announcement of the IBM and Twitter partnership was a surprise for many at Insight 2014 and the greater business and IT community. This partnership enables organizations to know what the world is thinking at any moment in time about their products or services, and a rising number of important business decisions are expected to include Twitter data input.

The IBM-Twitter partnership represents a significant industry shift. In echoing the conference’s themes about changing the way businesses work, this collaboration jettisons traditional ways of making immediate, analytics-based business decisions through direct engagement with customers. As stated in more than one of the Insight 2014 keynotes, this new partnership offers organizations the capability to essentially measure the pulse of the planet when strategizing business outcomes.

Watson cloud-based analytics technology and Bluemix platform-as-a-service integration set the stage for this transformation. Advanced access to Twitter data through the IBM ExperienceOne portfolio of cloud-based and on-premises tools and services can significantly modify the way organizations enrich their client engagements.

Community participation

The data management community faces a tremendous amount of opportunity in this season of change. As Bob Picciano, senior vice president, Information and Analytics Group at IBM, said in the conference’s opening general session, over the past eight years “we’ve talked about the way in which data and analytics are transforming the world around us. Today is absolutely different. We are living in a distinct moment in time…in an economy based on insight.”

The editors at IBM Data magazine are quite enthusiastic about continuing to expand the repository of expert-provided information that will document the many technologies driving this new insight-based economy. And readers are invited to tell us how we are doing. In addition, please share your thoughts about the newly designed site and its content delivery, either through the publication’s social media channels at Twitter, Facebook, and Google+; in an email to; or the Contact Us page. Moreover, either join the IBM Data magazine LinkedIn group or use your existing membership in this group to offer your insights on IBM Data magazine, the content it offers, or any other topic the group is currently discussing.

If you’d like to propose a topic for a feature article and perhaps join the roster of IBM Data magazine contributors, please visit the Become a Contributor page for submission guidelines and contact information.

We look forward to engaging with you in the new IBM Data magazine format.