Friday, October 30, 2009

IOD2009 Day Three – Malcolm Gladwell

Today’s blog entry is a little late seeing as how this is Friday and IOD is over, but I’m writing about Wednesday morning’s keynote session highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell.

For those who do not know him, Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist and author best known as the author of the books The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005), and Outliers (2008). I’ve read all three of them and I highly recommend that you do, too. He also has a new book, What The Dog Saw, that I bought at the airport on the way home from IOD. I hope it is as good as the other three!

Gladwell’s books deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences. He spoke about some of these during his keynote session in a very entertaining and informative way. It was especially rewarding to hear him tie his messaging into the conference them of information-led transformation… and to hear him call all of the attendees mavens (read his books to understand that term).

Gladwell began his talk by noting the irony of hosting a conference dealing with information analytics in Las Vegas, of all places. You would think that the casinos might have an interest in that topic!

The major idea conveyed by Gladwell during his talk focused on change, and how it never occurs the way you think it will. He explained how radical changes happen much more quickly than we imagine. And he used a story about how the broadcast of a major prize fight transformed radio from a niche product to a transformative one.

He also talked about reframing as being necessary to elicit major changes. Prior to broadcasting the boxing match, radio was used to deliver news and classical music. But reframing it as a product for the delivery of real-time sports coverage – reframing its use – caused major transformation. Gladwell also highlighted Apple and the iPod. The iPod was not the first portable MP3 product, but it is the most successful. Because Apple simplified the interface and promoted it simply… that is, they reframed the issue!

I also enjoyed Gladwell’s story about how he purchased a laptop at CompUSA. Upon entering the store he was confronted with tables and tables of similar looking laptops and had no way to differentiate them. He tried the sales people but as anyone who ever went to CompUSA knows, they either couldn’t be found when you needed them or knew nothing about technology. So he called up his brother, who works in IT. He is not a well-known expert, but he is Malcolm’s maven – the guy he turns to for help. And he told him which laptop to purchase. Gladwell then went back to the CompUSA and he said he stood there pointing to the laptop his brother told him about. And about a half hour later the crack CompUSA salesman came to help him.

This story highlighted the concept of the maven. He also mentioned that if the executives were watching how he confidently pointed to the machine he wanted that it might have led them to erroneously believe that CompUSA needed less experienced… and, indeed, fewer sales people. Which might have led to their demise.

All in all, Gladwell was entertaining and informative – a very powerful combination.

The other highlight of the keynote session, for me at least, was that I was mentioned by name as the most prolific Twitter-er at the IOD conference. Now does that mean I was the most helpful or the most annoying… I’ll leave that to you all to decide.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IOD2009 Day Two

Day two of the IBM Information on Demand conference was just as informative and exciting as day one. The day kicked off with a general session titled "A New Kind of Intelligence for a Smarter Planet." The idea presented is that the world is changing. It is becoming more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent. Basically, as Steve Mills of IBM clarified, the ability to embed intelligence into millions of things will lead the transformation to an information led smarter planet. And that this information-led transformation will create opportunities for organizations to strategically gain control of information and create a new kind of intelligence.

Expanded intelligence begins with sensors and metering, which is doable today because price points have become reasonable now. There are 1 billion transistors per human, today. And an estimated 2 billion people will soon be on the Internet. At the same time, we are moving toward one trillion connected objects (video cameras, GPS devices, healthcare instruments, and even livestock). And there are hundreds of satellites orbiting the Earth, generating terabytes of data each and every day.

As we begin to intelligently interconnect these devices and analyze their streaming data, a transformative opportunity can results...

IBM brought up three customers to talk about how their organization were helping to transform to a smarter planet. The customers came from Cardinal Health, Statoil Hydro ASA (Norway), and the Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of the panel discussion:
  1. Security in the supply chain for food is absolutely critical and food safety is one of the most complex systems to deal with.
  2. The US imports 50pct of its food - from over 150 different countries.
  3. Every food supplier to US (domestic or foreign) must be registered with the FDA.
  4. And each supplier must complete forms as to the safety of its food. This can be difficult since suppliers range from large agri-businesses to small farms many of whom do not have a computer at all. So some records are probably kept on paper in shoe boxes.
  5. Supply chain security is very important in the health care (drugs) and oil industries too! In fact, it was discussed how each of these seemingly disparate industries face many similar challenges.
  6. Preventing problems requires understanding risk. And complexity requires collaboration in order to succeed becase nobody has enough resources to do it all alone.
  7. In some areas (such as remote parts of Norway) instrumentation is essential to even get the data because nobody wants to go there.
  8. Legacy systems often are rich sources of information (hey, that probably means mainframes!)
  9. Analytics are required for prevention of problems, but also aid in reaction to problems that actually occur too. No one prevents 100 percent of their problems.
After the panel IBM came back and wrapped it up. They mentioned how IBM was awarded the National Medal of Honor for their Blue Gene supercomputer for DNA sequencing. It was a very informative and entertaining general session.

I then attended the DB2 9.7 versus Oracle 11g Smackdown presentation. It was chock full of statistics on why IBM's DB2 is superior to Oracle in terms of cost. The presenter explained how DB2
outperforms Oracle on TPC-C benchmarks for the same test, on the same machine, at the same point in time. He cautioned folks to to read the small print details on all benchmark results... for example, if you are examining the cost of ownership double check to see whether the benchmark uses a term or full purchase license. Also, the cost of the database license depends a great deal on your ability to negotiate a discount (if the vendor will discount). And you also need to be aware of how the products are licensed. Some features are separately licensed for both DB2 and Oracle. The bottom line is that licensing can cause a more than 30 percentt swing in price performance results

But do people even believe these benchmarks any more? I don't think very many people put much stock in benchmark tests today.

The author frequently cited an independent study by ITG that compares the value proposition of DB2 9.7 versus Oracle Database 11g. You can read the study yourself at this link.

(Note to my regular z/OS readers: the previous discussion was all about DB2 LUW and not DB2 for z/OS).

I also got to attend a special briefing for bloggers on IBM's new stream computing solution, which I blogged about on my Data Management Today blog if you are interested.

And finally, I'll plug my Twitter feed again. You can follow my tweets at IOD this week (well, thru Wednesday) by following me on Twitter at

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, October 26, 2009

IBM IOD2009 Day One

It is Monday, October 26, 2009, and the annual IBM Information on Demand (IOD2009) conference is officially underway. Well, actually it kicked off with a bang on Sunday. The exhibition hall opened at 6:00 pm and the early goers traipsed through the vendor hall sharing stories, checking out the vnedor's wares, and looking for the latest tschotskes (the favorites seem to be a mini-book light being given out by SPSS and the nifty DB2 t-shirts being given out by SEGUS, Inc.).

But the event really does not get started (at least as far as I'm concerned) until the big Monday morning kickoff, which this year was emceed by Terry Fator (the ventriloquist impersonator who won America's Got Talent) last year. He did a very nice job, and his mimicry and ventriloquism skills are great... but I think ventriloquism works better in a more intimate setting.

Before Terry came on an IBMer shared several tidbits of data from research and from polls they have been taking at IOD. For example, did you know that 15 petabytes of data are created every day? Regarding the even, they shared that there are more overall attendees here than there were at last year's event (6,000+) and that the average distance folks traveled to attend #IOD2009 is 2500 miles. You can actually participate in the daily IOD polls at

In between the entertainment respites, we got to hear from several IBM folks, including Ambuj Goyal, Arvind Krishna, and Frank Kern. According to Mr. Goyal, IBM is building an information on demand software stack to deliver trusted information. This can solve a very real problem that organizations are experiencing today. You see, it seems that one in three business leaders frequently make critical decisions based on inaccurate or non-existing information. Business executives don't just need data, but trusted information that can be relied upon for analysis to make accurate business decisions.

Again, according to Goyal, he sees IBM's Information Agenda doing for trusted information what ERP did for enterprise resource processes. IBM will help move its customers from information projects to information-based architecture and operations, moving organizations from information on demand to information transformation.

Then Frank Kern hosted three IBM customers as he asked each of them to explain how they benefited from IBM's Information Management solutions. The representative from BlueCross BlueShield talked about their data warehouse with 54 millions records, which happens to be the largest healthcare data warehouse in the world. Their analytical data is made available thru a portal. Offering integrated healthcare details helps improve healthcare. And the Chevron representative spoke about how IBM has helped Chevron improve its supply chain operations using integrated information.

Arvind Krishna, GM of the Information Management group at IBM, told about IBM's on-going investments in research and development for IOD. So far, IBM has invested over $12 billion in R+D and acquisitions.

IBM also unveiled some announcements today at IOD including several new offerings to provide organizations with analytics capabilities to make better use of their archived information and improve business processes. These offerings are part of IBM's unified archiving strategy called IBM Smart Archive. Most intriguing to me is the preview of a SaaS offering called IBM Information Archive Cloud Services. The entire press release can be read here, if you're interested in the topic.

I also attended a presentation on DB2 X which was quite interesting, too. Delivered by Jeff Josten, there was much good news for mainframe DB2 folks including improved performance, temporal support, improved utility operations, hashed data and access paths, and more. I tweeted about this quite extensively on Twitter.

In fact, if you want to follow my tweets all week (well, thru Wednesday) be sure to follow me on Twitter at even when I'm not at a conference like IOD, I regularly tweet on DB2, database, and information management topics.

Labels: , , , ,