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Q&A: IBM Global Business Services CTO Talks Cloud

IBM Fellow and Global Business Services CTO Kerrie Holley, who helped shape SOA, shares his thoughts on cloud trends, the future of IT, and more.

InformationWeek: What can technology do for companies today that you'd say is really surprising?

Holley: Well, I would say we can do some enormous things. We can actually look and triangulate feeds. They're public, from social media. We can actually look at data in the actual stores in terms of behavior, and we can look at competing data across a marketplace and be able to actually advise a store on what they ought to be able to do differently. Something as simple as telling a retailer, "Hey, did you know that by doing returns, even though someone bought the item online, if you allow them to return it at the store, it results in X amount of dollars more sales for you per transaction?" That's a small insight, but it's a very profitable insight.

Or in the City of San Francisco, "Did you know that 70% of your traffic gridlock is because people are searching for parking, and well, what if we were able to take that window of time of search down by five seconds, do you understand the impact it would have on your city traffic?" I mean I think that's another powerful insight. So there are a zillion of these insights that we can do with analytics that requires not only the technology but the people to actually go out and discover these patterns that they would have never thought of before.

I think a new era is upon us. This new era clearly leverages the Internet but I think this new era ... I mean we've called it smarter computing ... everyone has a different name for it. But that's not so much what matters. What matters is, are we correct? Will we see a spend increase in terms of the percentage of gross domestic product? Will we see a spend increase over IT?

I think we will. I think what that indicates is that businesses are going to believe that they can actually gain more performance by spending more on IT, but it's not going to be on the traditional things. It's not going to be on building better warehousing systems or better management systems.

It's going to be on this fusion that we see between as we call it, "the world getting smarter." But it's going to come from leveraging business and IT applications. It's going to be out of leveraging stuff out of the social media. It's going to be out of leveraging things we actually see, physical sensors and robotics and GPS, and geospatial data.

The pay-as-you go nature of the cloud makes ROI calculation seem easy. It’s not. Also in the new, all-digital Cloud Calculations InformationWeek supplement: Why infrastructure-as-a-service is a bad deal. (Free registration required.)

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