When it comes to deep insight on customer engagements and expectations, and the ability of the IT industry to meet those needs, few people in this business can match the expertise of IBM group executive Steve Mills.
And in a recent Q&A interview with TheDeal.com, Mills shared some of that wisdom via a range of opinions and insights covering how IBM evaluates and manages acquisitions, the power of analytics, and the additional responsibility Mills took on six months ago when the longtime head of IBM's software business also assumed responsibility for all of the company's hardware as well.
Among the topics TheDeal.com asked Mills about was Oracle, and Mills offered some compelling opinions on the complex relationship and marketplace dynamics that exist between these two companies that are simultaneously long-term strategic partners and also ferocious competitors.
I'll offer a sampling of Mills' thoughts on Oracle and Larry Ellison, and then move on to other bits of wisdom and insight from the article.
(For some deeper analysis of Mills's outlooks and strategic perspectives, please see our column from six months ago called Global CIO: IBM Top Product Exec Discusses Strategy, Systems, And Oracle.)
The perspectives are particularly germane because IBM and Oracle battle head to head for CIOs' hearts and wallets in everything from databases to middleware to large systems and, more recently, workload-optimized systems, and each of those categories are becoming more strategically vital in today's information-driven world.
These are the two most-influential enterprise IT companies in the world and their approaches, their products, and their strategies do indeed matter.
And while Steve Mills, as one of IBM's top executives, is surely subjective on the matter, his perspectives are nonetheless valuable because they illuminate how the companies think and where they're headed.
Asked in the Deal.com interview about Oracle and Ellison, Mills's response included these remarks:
On Oracle and Larry Ellison: "Customers want better time-to-value. Nothing Oracle delivers is fast to deliver. It takes weeks to install an Exadata box [Oracle's database server product]. This 'all-in-one' idea that shows up in Larry's ideas and ads in reality requires a lot of labor. We are a primary provider of that labor to that market; we have a huge services business that revolves around the technologies that Oracle creates." And for more on why Mills thinks Exadata requires expensive and lengthy installations, you can read the whole Q&A here.
On Netezza and data warehousing: "One of the reasons we acquired Netezza, we recognized that customers have built hundreds of thousands of data marts and data warehouses, not necessarily having procured the data consistently. Netezza has a very nice model for a prepackaged data warehouse that improves consistency. We saw a lot of power in that." (For a deep analysis of IBM's strategy with Netezza, please check out our column from earlier this week called Global CIO: IBM's Most Disruptive Acquisition In 2010 Is Netezza.)
The power of measuring real-time public sentiment: "Public sentiment can be measured and captured almost in real time. If you're a retailer or consumer packaged-goods company, you think a lot about what people think about a product you are putting out or planning to put out."
The value of Twitter-stream analyses: "Tweets are unstructured, but I need to understand what is in a tweet and apply value to the adverbs and adjectives and nouns and create a rating structure on relative sentiment on any particular topic."
On IBM's extensive acquisition list in analytics: "We are the company that invented the disk drive and the database. We run the world's largest private enterprise math department at IBM Research. But for as much as we develop, we can't seem to get it all fast enough."
On what's difficult about acquisitions : "I worry more about integrations and how we will leverage an acquisition. The easy part of buying companies is buying; the hard part is creating a value equation better than what the company could have done on its own."
On IBM putting all hardware under his control: "Sam Palmisano asked me to take this one, recognizing that, looking ahead, we need to continue enhancing hardware design. Customers don't see [hardware and software] as separate technologies."
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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