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A Centralized Business Analytics Environment Delivers Greater Value


illustration by Jurgen Ziewe

Over the course of two years, IBM’s Institute for Business Value and MIT’s Sloan Management Review jointly conducted a global survey of thousands of executive managers and analysts, and produced two reports detailing the latest developments in business analytics.

The first report, “Analytics: The New Path to Value,” establishes that senior business leaders worldwide have concerns about whether they’re maximizing the value of the information their enterprises have captured. These leaders recognize that, for too long, information systems have been geared to provide a rearview-mirror vision of performance; looking backwards to tell them what happened and why. But what those leaders want is a future view filled with insights that can spur growth through improved operational efficiency and better customer service. Ultimately, they want to use those insights obtained through analytics to drive innovation.

The second report, “Analytics: The Widening Divide,” found enterprises deploying business analytics significantly outperform those that don’t. In this report, IBM shares some insights on how enterprises can transform themselves from rearview-mirror-managed companies into forward-looking, highly competitive ones.

We have seen steady growth in business analytics over the past few years. But when business leaders turn to their IT departments to build an information systems environment that gives them this “future view,” they are often steered to UNIX* or x86 server solutions, the comfort zone of many IT departments. For enterprises with large databases seeking to provide authorized data access to large user populations, however, the IBM System z* mainframe is a better choice.

 

The Current Situation

Today, many enterprises view business analytics as a point solution to be used by a marketing department to get a better sense of customer requirements, or by financial analysts seeking to improve business performance. What executives at these enterprises need to grasp is that their marketing and finance departments aren’t the only ones that can benefit from analyzing the data their organizations have collected. Further, these executives fail to realize analytics can have a huge, positive effect on streamlining business process flows.

Most business analytics solutions are deployed on a departmental basis. As a result, data is siloed in databases where it can’t be accessed by the extended enterprise, which could benefit from it. Further, departments are deploying their own servers to analyze these databases—an approach that can be costly and inefficient because such servers are often underutilized and expensive to manage.

 

A Cost-Effective Choice

One way to get around the problems related to siloed environments, which lead to data fragmentation and limited user access, is to build an ecosystem that can manage large database environments while supporting thousands of users. This means using a large server environment that can be tightly coupled at high speed with a data farm. By using this kind of configuration, enterprises can build a centrally managed environment and eliminate major expenses associated with distributed systems and associated databases.

At present, two types of systems can support large, user populations and attach at high speed to back-end databases: scale-up UNIX servers and mainframes. Out of these choices, mainframes appear to be winning the battle of superior economics when compared to the high-end UNIX servers. Research conducted by Howard Rubin, founder of Rubin Worldwide, compared the IT infrastructure and associated costs for businesses in various industries. In each industry studied, the System z environment provided a savings of at least 20 percent over distributed computing environments. Rubin’s findings illustrate, in business terms, the value that System z technology can offer a company.

In each industry studied, the systems z environment provided a savings of at least 20 percent over distributed computing environments.

Joe Clabby is a 30-year veteran of the information technology industry with experience in sales, marketing and research/analysis. He currently focuses on consolidation, virtualization and provisioning of IT resources.


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