New York Times, By STEVE LOHR, September 20, 2010, 12:32 pm
I.B.M.'s announcement Monday that it is buying Netezza for $1.7 billion highlights how much the fast-growing field of business intelligence is increasingly both a hardware and a software technology.
Netezza, based in Marlborough, Mass., makes computer appliances that combine hardware and software for business analytics. The term "business analytics," of course, is the branding upgrade that has been given to business intelligence.
Whatever. Both terms, in English, refer to using computing to pluck useful answers and business insights from the explosion of data that is being created by the Web, sensors, e-mail, purchase transactions, call center reports and other sources.
Until recently, business intelligence had been seen as mainly a software technology. Data was stored in data bases, and the clever business intelligence software was sent in to probe the data bases for answers.
Today, that approach is often too slow for fast-paced decision-making in business - and science too. The traditional model is a rear view mirror. Increasingly, business want real-time answers and smart predictions about everything from buying trends to weather patterns to medical therapies.
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 in rather than after it is stored in data bases.