Real-time business intelligence requires innovation, not integration

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Real-time business intelligence requires innovation, not integration

On September 21, 2010, Posted by , In Mike Pilcher, With No Comments

I gave my take on the IBM Netezza acquisition yesterday, but Steve Lohr’s post, *I.B.M.’s Hybrid Strategy in Business Intelligence*, on *the New York Times* blog caught my eye. In it, Lohr says:

>The real-time model of business intelligence, though, requires not just software, but a tight integration with hardware. I.B.M. has been working on this for years with tools tailored for high-speed processing of real-time data, like its System S technology for what is called “stream processing” — parsing data in streams rather than after it is stored in data bases.

If I may, as the teenagers in my house say, “no offense but…….” this statement is just plain inaccurate. “real-time model of business intelligence, though, requires not just software, but a tight integration with hardware”. This is wrong. What the real-time model for business intelligence needs is innovation, *not* integration.

I have worked in the software industry for over two decades and I love the business model. I fundamentally believe what Larry Ellison of Oracle used to opine (until he bought a hardware company): that software should be OPEN (anyone remember an Oracle Open World where he said that?)

Software working on multiple platforms is good for customers, as it forces the software industry to drive innovative solutions that work where and how the customer wants them to. I agree IBM has been working on tight integration between hardware and software. They make hardware.

If you make software, you should want it to work in as many environments as possible. It expands your market. You can sell to more customers. If you run on multiple environments, you need to have the best software in every environment. Would customers want the third-best? Openness drives innovation. Openness drives customer choice.

We saw technology vendor lock in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Do you have one of the following mainframes in your data centre: Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell, General Electric and RCA? I doubt it very much. Unix-based systems put paid to that with the portability of databases and applications. It opened up the data centre.

I wrote earlier about trying to squeeze the last piece of performance out of old technology by tying hardware and software ever tighter together. Does that sound like a good idea? Tying things tighter together to make them faster? Does Chevron make cars? If they did, how much would a gallon of gas cost?

What if someone releases a new chip architecture that is better, faster, cheaper? A new operating system? New disk storage? Squeezing the last drop of performance out of old technology is not what is required. Openness drives innovation. It forces us to be creative and produce the best software we can. Abstracted from memory, CPU, disk, the operating system, we create the best software we can.

Katherine Noyes of *PC Week* wrote a great article on this last week. She highlighted that Android-based tablets are better for business users than the Apple iPad precisely because they are based on Linux and their openness will drive innovation, reduce cost and increase flexibility over Apple’s closed system. The same is true here.

I have long loved the software industry. We innovate, we create, we make something that would have cost $1M for a customer to write themselves and then sell it for $100K to 30 people. We all win. It is a model where everyone should win. It doesn’t always work, the principle remains sound. Yes there have been software vendors that over-promised and under-delivered; tighter integration in the stack does not stop this. There have also been many software companies that have created the tools to drive business to new heights. Let’s be the best we can be, not the second best.

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