IBM Exec: Hackathons Are The New Proofs Of Concept

A pair of IBM executives delivered a keynote Wednesday at NexGen Cloud suggesting channel partners seek out their local hackathons to learn new skills, especially those involving cognitive computing and agile application development.

Nancy Pearson, vice president of cognitive computing marketing, told attendees that Big Blue is infusing cloud platforms with cognition through its Watson platform.

Partners can leverage those technologies to deliver to customers applications that are smarter and more responsive to their business needs, she said.

[Related: IBM On The ’Syndrome’ Keeping Executives Up At Night]

Sponsored post

For partners interested in taking that journey, "the ecosystem is critical," Pearson said. "But it's really about unconventional partnerships."

It's time to "stop wasting energy" on the notion that there's a single cloud, or that one cloud fits all, Pearson said at the event sponsored by The Channel Company, CRN's parent.

Instead, partners should strive to understand the needs of their clients and pair them with the best infrastructure available to match expectations. In doing so, it's critical to maintain visibility and control over important resources, on-premises or not, she said.

That's the type of variety and flexibility that Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM offers the market -- from DevOps capabilities with BlueMix Platform-as-a-Service and the MobileFirst Platform; to an analytics portfolio that delivers business insights, to Internet of Things technologies, to Watson for infusing all those solutions with cognition.

Those are the solutions that will deliver growth to "our NexGen partners," who must learn to implement systems that outthink the competition, said Sandy Carter, general manager of the IBM cloud ecosystem.

Partners must also help their customers innovate by deploying agile development tools.

Cognitive computing is a strategy just about every channel business can adopt, and, according to market researcher IDC, half already include an element of cognition in their practice, Carter told attendees.

But those capabilities are beneficial only to companies that are collecting the right data for their industry -- an obvious prerequisite for cognition.

"I think all of us need to think about our mindset as a channel partner, think about how you are moving into the new world," Carter said.

That mindset should be of a digital business, because customers are looking to the channel for digital transformations, she said.

That's why Carter advises IT consultants to get involved with hackathons -- the products of those events serve as the new proofs of concept, and they offer great ways to learn about specific verticals while connecting with technical communities.

IBM also helps partners build on those skills through developerWorks, a collection of resources that puts many apps in the hands of the channel, she said.

John Mickus, a software engineer for electrical systems manufacturer WattStopper, which has its U.S. headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., came to NexGen to gain insight into how to solve a massive Internet of Things project desired by his company.

All electrical devices are becoming IP-enabled, he explained, and his company, part of a larger French parent, is figuring out how to create an IT infrastructure that can manage the massive amount of data coming from those connected electrical devices.

Mickus said he found the concept of hackathons intriguing as a means to advance the project.

"I heard of hackathons, but as proof of concept, that was interesting," he told CRN.

His company is currently in the market for a cloud provider, Mickus said, and he’s in the process of comparing eight providers, one of which is IBM SoftLayer.