IBM revealed the availability of its Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance today. The appliance empowers retailers to analyze petabytes of data about customer interactions regarding their products across multiple segments and points of interaction. Retailers can use the Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance to obtain a 360 degree picture of customer behavior spanning the internet, mobile and purchases in brick and mortar stores. Based on the premise that 70 percent of a customer’s initial interactions with a product take place online, IBM partnered with Aginity to develop actionable analytics that assist retailers to understand and predict customer behavior by aggregating data from multiple channels. Leslie Weber, CIO of Bass Pro Shops, testified that the appliance had enabled the retailer to analyze data from “retail stores, boat dealerships, Internet and catalog sales, wholesale and hospitality,” thereby enabling it to “deliver more targeted promotions, circulars and catalogs to create a better shopping experience.” The Netezza Customer Intelligence Appliance is a SQL based Big Data product designed to deliver analytics on structured data. IBM is still in the process of integrating Netezza with its BigInsights, Hadoop-based appliance for analyzing structured and unstructured data.
On Monday, IBM announced the release of the Infosphere BigInsights application for analyzing massive volumes of structured and unstructured data on its SmartCloud environment. The SmartCloud release of IBM’s BigInsights application means that IBM beat competitors Oracle and Microsoft in the race to deploy an enterprise grade, cloud based Big Data analytics platform. Over the past month, Oracle and Microsoft have revealed plans to release cloud based Big Data applications that leverage Apache Hadoop, although in the case of both companies, plans for a live release are scheduled for 2012. BigInsights was previously accessed via the IBM Smart Business Development and Test Cloud environment that served as the testing ground for IBM’s SmartCloud which was deployed in April 2011.
IBM developed its Big Data analytics platform because organizations across a number of verticals are drowning in the sea of unstructured data such as Facebook and Twitter feeds, internet searches, log files and emails. IBM’s press release quantified the size of the emerging big data space as follows:
Organizations of all sizes are struggling to keep up with the rate and pace of big data and use it in a meaningful way to improve products, services, or the customer experience. Every day, people create the equivalent of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions, and social networks; so much that 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in the past two years. Every month people send one billion Tweets and post 30 billion messages on Facebook. Meanwhile, more than 1 trillion mobile devices are in use today and mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016.
IBM customers in the banking, insurance and communications verticals are currently using BigInsights to more effectively understand trends from web analytics, social media feeds, text messages and other forms of unstructured data. The availability of BigInsights via IBM’s SmartCloud is likely to accelerate enterprise adoption of the product given enterprise familiarity with the SmartCloud offering and recent publicity about its October 12 upgrade. The deployment of BigInsights on SmartCloud also gives IBM early traction in the Big Data space, with competition from Amazon Elastic MapReduce from Amazon Web Services, EMC, Teradata and HP. Granted, Oracle and Microsoft are set to join the Big Data party soon, but IBM should have at least six months to consolidate its market positioning ahead of its West coast based competitors. The enterprise version of BigInsights is priced at 60 cents per cluster per hour whereas the basic version is free.
Key features of enterprise level IBM Infosphere BigInsights include the following:
• Advanced text analytics to mine massive amounts of textual data
• A spreadsheet-like interface called BigSheets that allows users to create and deploy analytics without writing code
• Web-based management console
• Jaql, a query language for querying structured and unstructured data through an interface that resembles SQL
In tandem with the release of BigInsights on the SmartCloud, IBM announced the availability of IBM Cognos Mobile on the iPad and iPhone. iPad users can now leverage Cognos to run analytics on data and obtain access to a suite of visually rich dashboards. The combination of Cognos on the iPad and BigInsights clearly indicates that portability of access to data analytics constitutes a key component of IBM’s big data strategy. The big question now concerns how Oracle and Microsoft will differentiate themselves from BigInsights in their respective, forthcoming Big Data offerings.