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General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt Wednesday made sure the technology industry knows where the $150 billion conglomerate is placing its big data business bet.
GE said it is taking a 10-percent stake in the new EMC-VMware-backed Pivotal big data business applications and services venture. And Immelt himself declared the investment a "leading edge" bet that could drive billions of dollars in profitability for the fifth largest company in the U.S. and its customers.
Appearing in a videotaped address as part of the formal announcement of GE's $105-million investment in Pivotal, Immelt touted the partnership as a driver in GE's bid to bring "industrial internet" capabilities to the vast array of GE business products and services.
Pivotal and GE, Fairfield, Conn., in fact, said they aim to enter into a "broad research and development and commercial agreement aimed at accelerating GE's ability to create new analytic services and solutions for its customers."
GE said it will use the software platform powered by Pivotal not only in its Global Software Center but also across its businesses. That means putting sensors in a wide range of GE products and services, collecting data and using it to remake businesses, driving dramatic productivity gains and savings.
"We want to be on the leading edge [of big data]," said Immelt. "We see Pivotal as going to be an important partner on that [with] your ability to help us manage a lot of this data [in] real time and be able to transform and put it to use on behalf of our employees and our customers."
The GE investment and business agreement, which are expected to be finalized in the second quarter, were the big surprise in the formal launch of Pivotal, which also committed to a fourth-quarter release of Pivotal 1.0, a complete, "next-generation enterprise platform as a service."
Pivotal is focused on providing a new platform for businesses to quickly construct and deploy big data business applications in the mold of consumer Internet companies like e-commerce behemoth Amazon and search engine giant Google. "Some people think Amazon is going to conquer the world," said one top executive for a national solution provider working with Amazon, EMC and VMware. "But there are some weaknesses in their strategy. When you get into high-end production workloads, companies are going to need a more sophisticated approach like Pivotal."
Amazon has a long-standing policy of not commenting on competitors.
Immelt, for his part, said he sees "smart machines, big data and analytics and mobile workforces" as critical to GE's success in the future. "[We see] those coming together for airlines and utilities and oil and gas companies to drive great applications, like no unplanned downtime, asset optimization and enterprise optimization and just very small changes in our products' performance and our customers' performance [that] will drive billions of dollars in profitability, great improvements in on-time delivery and consumer and patient experience," he said.
GE's Global Software Center, based in San Ramon, Calif., which now has some 425 developers working on industrial Internet big data services, plans to use Pivotal's technologies "as a standard source for delivering data analytics and cloud architecture." The GE Software Center of Excellence launched nine new services last year and plans to launch 20 new services this year.