IBM's startup guy: We're cracking new markets

Drew Clark expounds on IBM's prolific partnerships with vertical analytics startups -- and hints at new public cloud services from IBM

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Then when you see it on their server, it has all of those topological kind of rings and different colors and certain streaks of like red and green showing off unusual behavior. Then just like SecureWaters, they run that through a taxonomy of known issues, so they can make a judgment about whether they think it's maybe precancerous or cancerous and maybe you ought to go see a dermatologist or a doctor. They don't claim to be a medical device, they don't claim this is 100 percent accurate, but at least it gets you moving toward the doctor. And it's a $2 iPhone app.

Knorr: That's amazing. Well, it seems like your interests have broadened from the core IT stuff.

Clark: Our customers have broadened what they mean by IT. We still have a warm fuzzy spot for the data center, of course. But increasingly our customers are moving toward the edge, and their needs are moving into all kinds of previously what were known as vertical spaces.

Knorr: As you say, the common thread here is analytics, right?

Clark: That's what ties it all together. You and I have been talking about startups for a long time. There was a lot of talk about 10 years ago about sensors. A lot of startups got started building smart appliances and smart sensor devices, but a lot of that got commoditized pretty quickly. Then they moved up the food chain to data and said -- well, the real value is in the data. It never really was in the sensors.

What we're seeing now is that it's really analytics. That it isn't just the data anymore, it's bringing the value from the data and being able to use that analysis to make better decisions to do smarter things.

Knorr: And value in some cases you didn't know was there, right?

Clark: Exactly. Right.

Knorr: Because you're talking about all of these vertical areas where it takes domain expertise to be able to make sense of the data, the data visualization component becomes very important.

Clark: Right, exactly. Visualization is a very powerful way to help make sense of data and we consider that an important part of our analytics strategy. In our Smarter Cities area, we've got something we call the IOC (Integrated Operations Center). It's a dashboard for a city.

Imagine you have a city ... where you have all of these stove-piped operations. You have police, fire, water, transportation, and they're all kind of verticals. Of course, the tragedy of most cities is that there is no real connection. They kind of exist by themselves, and we as citizens can't understand this, but that's just the way it's kind of grown up.

What we do with Smarter Cities is -- I like to call it City as a Platform. If you think about it, it makes sense. This is an app platform model. So the police can go and build some systems here and fire can build some systems. And guess what? Entrepreneurs are coming in and literally building out this kind of infrastructure. It's essentially leveraging and channeling the enthusiasm of a lot of entrepreneurs. I mean, Angry Birds is a fun game, but what if you could take some of those people, those talented programmers, and get them working on helping us do a better job of managing transportation or responding to emergencies or helping us sort out the terrible parking situation?

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