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Monday, February 4, 2013

IBM Slims Down Its Big Data Offerings

I.B.M. is cutting the price on its least-expensive Power server computers by 50 percent, to under $6,000. The pricing move is one of a series of hardware and software announcements on Tuesday intended as a strategic push more broadly into the fast-growing market for Big Data technology and to tailor offerings for smaller businesses.

The overall market for Big Data technology â€" hardware, software and services â€" is projected to increase to $23.7 billion by 2016, from $8.1 billion last year, according to IDC, a market research firm. Every major technology company including Oracle, EMC, Microsoft, SAP Hewlett-Packard and SAS Institute, as well as an entire generation of start-ups, is chasing the opportunity to supply the tools of advanced data analysis and discovery to business.

I.B.M.’s Power servers run the company’s Power microprocessors. These chips were originally designed for big computers using I.B.M.’s proprietary version of the Unix operating system, AIX. Over the years, the copany has developed specialized chips using the Power technology for other markets like video game consoles. The I.B.M. chips can be found in the game machines made by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.

The I.B.M. Power servers also run Linux, the open-source version of Unix. And Linux is the preferred operating system for much Big Data software, notably Hadoop, the foundation layer that manages many distributed, data analysis applications.

But the hardware challenge for I.B.M. is that most Hadoop software is running on industry-standard servers, powered by chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices.

The price cut helps make the case for Big Data computing on I.B.M. Power servers, which are designed to juggle many computing tasks efficiently and reliably, a potential advantage in the data-analysis market. “I.B.M. is bringing the actual price down to be very, very competitive,” said Jean S. Bozman, an analyst at IDC. “And they have to do it.”

The lower price is also a bid for! the small- and medium-size business market, as these companies seek to adopt Big Data computing. “This brings the entry point down quite a bit and opens the way for more businesses to use Power technology as a preferred environment,” said Steven A. Mills, senior vice president for software and hardware systems at I.B.M.

One small company looking at using the I.B.M. technology for advanced data analysis is Westside Produce, which harvests, packs and markets cantaloupes for growers in California. The company, with 15 full-time employees and many seasonal contract workers, already runs its accounting, inventory and operations-management software on an I.B.M. Power server.

But Justin K. Porter, director of technology at Westside Produce, said his company would like to be able to more closely track and analyze all kinds of data, including harvest practices, weather patterns, shipments, melon sizes, and prices paid by specific supermarket chains and distributors. The goal, he said, would be to fie-tune operations and marketing to trim waste and improve profits.

“It’s definitely something that we’re going to look into,” Mr. Porter said.