IBM Discusses Smarter Planet Plan

IBM’s $740 million purchase of MRO Software in 2006 wasn’t the highest profile acquisition the company has made.

However, the asset management software company has found a home within IBM’s greater software universe, and is a key part of Big Blue’s “Smarter Planet” initiative, which essentially is about the ability to build greater intelligence into products and facilities.

That was the message IBM officials—including Al Zollar, general manager of IBM’s Tivoli Software business—gave at their annual meeting of Maximo software customers on 16 June.

“We’re going to keep innovating [on the Maximo product line],” Zollar said.

The meeting of users of Maximo software—which IBM acquired with its MRO purchase—is something that MRO had run before the acquisition, and something that IBM has continued. IBM officials use them as a way to both give the users a glimpse at the road map and also to get input from them to help guide the road map.

Zollar said IBM is using all of its software tools—from Rational and Tivoli to Telelogic and MRO—to build high-tech intelligence into assets in such areas as IT, facilities, transportation, health care and infrastructure. By doing so, challenges faced throughout the world can be eased.

“The whole idea is about information that allows for smarter outcomes,” Zollar said.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, chairman emeritus of the IBM Academy of Technology, said the need for greater intelligence and enhanced abilities to analyse data is growing. He pointed to the huge amounts of data being generated in real time, and the rapidly growing numbers of mobile devices that will soon run into the trillions. There’s also the growing demand for computational power, storage and bandwidth to manage and analyse the data coming in.

“We are getting real-time information from everything out there,” Wladawsky-Berger said. “That is very new. We never had that before. … It may sound like science fiction, but this is really nothing new. Take the damn information and do something with it, wit the tools that we have, and figure out what’s going on. When you find out what going on with this, you get intelligence.”

Using technology to put intelligence into products for such assets as infrastructures and buildings is gaining momentum as businesses look to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. Cisco Systems is using its networking expertise for Smart Grid efforts to help utilities put intelligence into their energy delivery infrastructures.

In addition, the bulk of Schneider Electric’s day-long event June 5 focused on plans to make buildings such as offices, data centres and factories more efficient through the use of intelligent sensors and other technologies.

At IBM’s Maximo event, customers spoke of how they’re using the software to make their businesses more efficient.

Amtrak is using IBM’s Maximo software to manage the assets along its Northeast corridor, where the railroad company not only operates the fastest trains in the nation, but also owns the tracks. Amtrak officials use Maximo to monitor and manage such assets as the tracks, electric substations and relays, said Bill Broughton, director of EAM (enterprise asset management) for the railroad.

Amtrak also has plans to expand the software’s use. Amtrak is working on a pilot program in which track inspectors are given Apple iPhones that can use the Maximo software to enable more real-time flow of information from the field, Broughton said. In addition, Amtrak also is using kiosks powered by Maximo for employee attendance management.

“That’s one of the things about Maximo,” he said. “We can customize it.”

Jim Bogan, senior vice president of services for Rolls Royce, said his company is using the software to enable businesses to monitor the operations of the Rolls Royce engines in planes. For example, Rolls Royce has created an operations center based on Maximo that collects data from the engines being used by customers who sign up for the services. Three times during the flight—at takeoff, while cruising and when landing—sensors in the engines will transmit data to the operations center, where it can be read and the planes alerted if there are any problems.

Dave Bartlett, vice president of Tivoli industry solutions, outlined a number of new features that IBM is looking to put into Maximo—both in the 6.0 and 7.1 versions—this year and next. Bartlett said customers were pushing for greater mobility capabilities in Maximo, which IBM will offer in its Maximo Everyplace feature.

It’s the Everyplace feature that AMtrak is using in its pilot programme with the iPhone, he said. Users will be able to access their Maximo applications through browsers on their wireless devices. It’s due for general release in the fall.

“People want to access Maximo anywhere, at any time with any device,” Bartlett said.

Another feature is called Asset Management Scheduler, which offers a graphical map and charts to make it easier for businesses to schedule workloads.

In addition, IBM is bringing together Maximo capabilities with its Optim data management software. Maximo Archiving with Optim Data Growth will enable users to take the information collected by the Maximo software and manage it, including archiving it or purging it. This feature will be in release 6.0 this year, and 7.1 in 2010, Bartlett said.

IBM also is bringing Tivoli monitoring capabilities and frameworks to Maximo, and is integrating Cognos reporting functions for better analysis of the data collected by Maximo.

Jeffrey Burt

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

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