I nearly jumped out of my seat when the IBM executive I was interviewing said "yes." (I hadn't expected such a succinct response on the important subject of IBM's enterprise branding; bear with me for the complete explanation.)
Global CIO's Bob Evans and I were talking with Rod Adkins [picture at right], the senior vice president who runs IBM's Systems and Technology Group. That operation is Big Blue's Big Kahuna, accounting for $19 billion in annual revenues and including IBM's chip, server, storage, and systems software businesses. Did I mention that Adkins is also responsible for IBM's global manufacturing, procurement and customer fulfillment operations?
All of this is by way of saying that, when Adkins speaks, one should listen. Except I wasn't paying complete attention, trying as I was to jot down notes while Adkins was answering Bob's and my questions. Adkins was walking us through the introduction of IBM's new x86-based eX5 server family. He mentioned that the servers were going to be positioned as part of the "Smarter systems for a smarter planet" solutions.
If that marketing phrase sounds vaguely familiar, it's probably because you've seen those blue-bordered commercials now playing in heavy rotation on cable television. Those are the ones which, when they come on, you can't immediately tell what company they're supposed to be associated with, though you quickly get the vague sense it's a technology firm. Then the kicker comes when a knowledge-worker type (so identified because he or she is dressed casually in a non-casual sort of way) delivers the tag line: "I'm an IBMer. Let's build a smarter planet."
When Adkins mentioned "Smarter systems" I enquired about the ongoing use of "dynamic infrastructure," which is the current positioning terminology for IBM's virtualization-enabled, agilely architected data center solutions.
Not so much going forward, was basically Adkins' reply. "Dynamic Infrastructure is a single dimension in terms of the things that we are doing in these platforms," he said. "It's just one of many attributes. Green computing in terms of energy optimization is an attribute. The dynamic capabilities, which you get through our Systems Director tool is an attribute. You're going to see less emphasis on that term [dynamic infrastructure] and more emphasis on 'Systems for a smarter planet.'"
That's when we got to "yes":
InformationWeek: Is this because dynamic infrastructure is no longer a good way to differentiate your offerings when many of your competitors are using terms which are so similar, whereas 'Smarter systems for a Smarter Planet' is a good catch phrase, it gives you 'green' positioning, and it puts some distance between you and your competitors?
Rod Adkins: Yes. I would say yes, and here's the reason why. What we're talking about in terms of "Smarter systems for a Smarter Planet" allows us to present a point of view that no one else in the industry can.