LAS VEGASIBM Corp. is making the pitch for big data and analytics to a largely receptive audience at its Information on Demand conference this week. And the business and IT professionals with deep investments in IBM software and hardware in attendance are probably as receptive as audience as Big Blue is going to find.

A number of IBM executives urged companies to adopt a data culture within their organizations. To borrow a phrase, companies were encouraged to become one with the data. Becoming more data-centric and data savvy, said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice-president of middleware software in IBM’s software group, will allow organizations to become more client-centric.

“You have to be insight driven. Embrace the data, don’t fight the data,” said LeBlanc. “It’s really valuable and will give you insight into business and clients you’ve never had before. And it will allow you to forge deeper relationships.”

He points to research that 75 per cent of market growth leaders citied value from analytics as a key growth driver.

“If you want to be an outperformer, you’re really going to have to do it with big data and analytics,” said LeBlanc.

And it does need to be both big data and analytics said Wes Hunt, vice-president of customer analytics at insurance company Nationwide. Since 2008, Hunt has been overseeing a focused analytic agenda based on understanding and measuring critical moments in the customer journey.

“Big data without analytics is an extraordinary tax on an organization, and analytics without big data will likely lead to the wrong conclusion,” said Hunt. “So we made a commitment to invest in both.”

Hunt said Nationwide’s investment in big data and analytics has led to improved customer retention and lower cost of service, and a 360 degree view of the customer that is available to customer service agents at all points of contact. Most importantly, he said they’ve seen substantial gains in customer satisfaction.

IBM made a number of big data and analytics-related product announcements on the opening day of Information on Demand. Among them was the launch of IBM SmartCloud Analytics – Predictive Insights, which is designed to help IT organizations improve network performance in an automated fashion. Shifting through terabytes of IT operations data in real time, the software’s cognitive computing capabilities learn about an organization’s IT systems and can respond to network changes and fix configuration problems.

“It’s an on premise product that you can buy and deploy easily,” said Deepak Advani, general manager, cloud and smarter infrastructure with IBM. “The biggest issue deploying predictive analytics is the lack of data scientists to build models but with this you don’t need a lot; you just need to aim it at the variable you’re trying to optimize. It’s very appropriate for the midmarket as well…the more data you have, the more valuable this tool becomes.”

Also announced was a new version of SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center that brings machine learning and analytics to storage. The offering automates complex storage tiering decisions, including cloud storage, learning key usage patterns over time and adjusting storage policies accordingly.

IBM is expanding its BLU Acceleration Portfolio for leveraging big data and analytics with an early access preview of BLU Acceleration for Cloud, which offers IBM’s solutions powered by a BLU Acceleration on-memory database and business analytics technologies for cloud-based data warehousing.

It also launched InfoSphere Data Privacy for Hadoop, which allows clients to anonymize data in Hadoop, NoSQL and relational systems to prevent unauthorized access to confidential information.

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