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IBM channels stadium rock at its new Interconnect conference

Joab Jackson | Feb. 25, 2015
InterConnect is an amalgamation of three formerly separate conferences: Pulse (which was for mobile development), Innovate (for development more broadly) and Impact (for cloud computing).

For the opening of its largest user conference in recent memory, IBM wanted to show attendees the power of cloud computing and the Internet of Things. So it asked everyone in the MGM Grand auditorium to don a plastic wristband with an embedded chip and some LED lights.

As the master of ceremonies recited various statistics -- "41 percent of CIOs say the cloud is transforming their businesses!" -- a corresponding percentage of wristbands lit up, filling the darkened arena in Las Vegas with a twinkle of green and red dots, turning the audience into a "human bar chart," as the MC put it.

It was a flashy move for the normally conservative company, one that showed IBM willing to take a some chances as it tries to expand in the world of cloud computing.

Interconnect marks a number of firsts for IBM, including the first iteration of the conference itself. IBM has historically held smaller conferences built around individual technology areas, rather than big-tent events more akin to Oracle OpenWorld. The event in Las Vegas this week has attracted 21,000 attendees, according to IBM, over 40 percent of whom haven't been to an IBM conference before.

InterConnect is an amalgamation of three formerly separate conferences: Pulse (which was for mobile development), Innovate (for development more broadly) and Impact (for cloud computing). IBM rented a full sized arena at the MGM Grand, a voluminous space that usually hosts acts like Fleetwood Mac and Barbra Streisand.

Interconnect also introduced clients to Robert LeBlanc, IBM's new vice president for cloud operations,

The cloud, and by extension LeBlanc, is vitally important for IBM, which has posted successively lower revenue for the past 11 quarters. IBM is making cloud computing a core element of its service portfolio, and it claims its cloud business grew 60 percent last year and brought in $7 billion revenue.

LeBlanc worked hard to convince customers that moving to the cloud is the way to go. "If you don't believe your industry is changing then you'd better step back and look what your competitors are doing," he said.

"It's much more fun to be the disruptor than the disrupted," he said, urging the audience to think about how the cloud, data analysis, mobile computing and the Internet of Things could transform their businesses.

"LeBlanc delivered exactly what IBM needs in terms of explicating the company's vision," said Charles King, principal analyst for the analyst firm Pund-IT. "Far from the gauzy, amorphous claims that some other cloud vendors rely on, IBM is focusing instead on workable solutions and repeatable results."

IBM brought a number of customers on stage to talk about how the cloud is improving their operations. Airbus is using an IBM service to get a better handle on the data coming from its aircraft, said Pascal Eymery[cq], a vice president with the aircraft maker.

 

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