Scenes From IBM's Information On Demand Conference

Betting Big On BI

IBM's Information on Demand conference and the Business Analytics Forum "conference-within-a-conference" drew more than 10,000 attendees last week to the cavernous Mandalay Bay conference center in Las Vegas. That's up from 6,200 last year, an increase that even IBM executives seemed surprised at.

BI To Beat The Band

Attendees waiting to enter the Information on Demand Expo and opening night reception were serenaded by an all-drum marching band.

You Are Here

Conference attendees needed some business intelligence just to find their way around the sprawling expo show floor. More than 120 business partners, from Advent Global Solutions to Xopus BV, showed off their technology while attendees also checked out some 200 booths and pedestals with the latest IBM hardware, software and services.

An Insane Balancing Act

Expo attendees watched as a performer attempted to escape from a straight jacket while simultaneously riding a unicycle. The stunt was a metaphor for how precariously many companies operate today without the right information management and business intelligence practices and technology. For the record, the performer eventually escaped.

The Big 10

The highlight of the conference was the formal debut of Cognos 10, the newest release of IBM's flagship business intelligence system and the most significant release since IBM acquired Cognos in January 2008 for $4.9 billion.

With its new social networking, collaboration and mobile computing capabilities, Cognos 10 marks a significant step toward the oft-stated goal of IBM and other business intelligence software developers to bring business analytics to a wider audience of users, said Dave Laverty, vice president of marketing for information management.

Cognos 10 also offers expanded predictive analysis features based on technology from SPSS, a developer of advanced predictive analysis software IBM acquired for $1.2 billion in October 2009 And for the first time IBM is offering customers the option of deploying Cognos as a cloud computing application.

The Business Intelligence Imperative

"We believe we are at a very important inflection point relative to this whole idea of analyzing data and using data for strategic advantage," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software and Systems, at a press conference. Businesses, he said, "need to become more predictive [and] more forward-looking, they need to get more insight into where the world around them is going, the markets they serve [and] the customers they work with."

But Mills also had a word of caution for attendees. "You know that expression, 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'? Not true. What happens in Vegas goes on the Web and will live on for hundreds of years. Future members of your family will look back at some of the things you did that were digitally recorded and shake their heads in disgust."

Cognos 10 Advocates

No, these people weren't protesting for or against the numeral "10." They were promoting the debut of Cognos 10 with T-shirts and buttons.

Analytical Teaser

A representative from data warehouse appliance vendor Netezza gave IOD attendees a peek at the sophisticated technology behind the company's systems.

IBM is acquiring Netezza for $1.7 billion under a deal announced Sept. 20. That made the company's presence on the Expo show floor doubly interesting. While Netezza currently sells only direct to customers, it has big potential as a product for channel partners that sell IBM business intelligence systems.

A (Not So) Mobile Phone

One of the more eye-catching exhibits on the IOD Expo floor was this giant version of Apple's iPhone at Mellmo's booth. Mellmo's Roambi (as in "roam" and "BI," get it?) graphics and visualization application provides a way to interactively access data in a range of systems, including IBM Cognos.

Rather than presenting static reports, the Roambi server takes data from BI systems and operational applications such as and turns it into interactive visualizations such as charts and dashboards and delivers them to the Roambi application on iPhones and iPads.