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Global CIO: IBM Leads IT Industry With Surge In Analytics & Hardware

The Year's Top Tech Stories: IBM proved reports of its hardware demise were simple-minded delusions and continued to expand its transformative analytics business. (#7 on our Top 10 list.)

In his prime, Muhammad Ali purred that he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, able to mesmerize opponents with grace and elegance or stun them with unprecedented speed and power.

And here in 2010, IBM has shown a similarly lethal blend as its Smarter Planet megatheme has paved the way for its flashy services and analytics prowess even as it has been simultaneously developing what might well be the industry's most-sophisticated hardware lineup, stretching from custom chips to servers and on up to some of the world's most powerful mainframes.

What some competitors tried desperately to portray as IBM's abandonment of the hardware market was in fact the company's decision to divest itself of commodity products—or as IBM puts it, products that can't carry their cost of capital—and pour that money instead into specialized hardware specifically designed to power the new generation of data-intensive businesses with insatiable appetites for predictive analytics and business intelligence accessible to all in real time.

Speed plus power: real-time customer insights and blazing new workload-optimized systems.

As I wrote last month in a column called Global CIO: As IBM Accelerates Analytics Business, Can Anyone Keep Up?: "It's not just the $14 billion IBM has invested in acquiring 24 analytics companies in the past four years. It's not just that revenue for IBM's Business Analytics and Optimization unit are expected to double over the next five years to $16 billion from this year's $9 billion.

"And the battle won't be won or lost on the fact that IBM in the past year has almost doubled to 7,000 its in-house roster of full-time business consultants specializing in applying analytics and optimization across multiple industries.

"Or on the fact that IBM has 200 mathematicians and 10,000 software developers devoted exclusively to expanding and refining IBM's extensive product line for this high-growth business.

"But when you put all those pieces together, and then add on top some of the customer testimonials IBM is compiling, it's clear that the game's going to get very tough out there for companies that don't have distinctly differentiated products, market segments, and solutions in the dynamic analytics market" (end of excerpt).

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On the hardware side, IBM's one of the only companies on Earth that have continued to pursue mainframe technology, and a small but significant slice of IBM's customers are rewarding that tenacity with big orders for the new mainframes that, quite simply, can do what no other computing machine.

In a column called Global CIO: IBM's Blazing New Mainframe Wins Raves From Citigroup, one of Citigroup's top IT executives discussed the advantages his company gleans from the new z196 system—here's an excerpt:

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