IBM promises a one-stop analytics shop with AI-powered big data platform

It can ingest data faster than any other data platform, IBM said

IBM Watson artifical intelligence cognitive computing
IBM's Watson offices on Astor Place, New York City, on July 12, 2016. Credit: Marc Ferranti

Big data is in many ways still a wild frontier, requiring wily smarts and road-tested persistence on the part of those hoping to find insight in all the petabytes. On Tuesday, IBM announced a new platform it hopes will make things easier.

Dubbed Project DataWorks, the new cloud-based platform is the first to integrate all types of data and bring AI to the table for analytics, IBM said.

Project DataWorks is available on IBM's Bluemix cloud platform and aims to foster collaboration among the many types of people who need to work with data. Tapping technologies including Apache Spark, IBM Watson Analytics and the IBM Data Science Experience launched in June, the new offering is designed to give users self-service access to data and models while ensuring governance and rapid-iteration capabilities.

Project DataWorks can ingest data faster than any other data platform, from 50 to hundreds of Gbps, deriving from sources including enterprise databases, the internet of things (IoT) and social media, according to IBM.  What the company calls "cognitive" capabilities such as those found in its Watson artificial intelligence software, meanwhile, can help pave a speedier path to new insights, it says.

"Analytics is no longer something in isolation for IT to solve," said Derek Schoettle, general manager of cloud data services for IBM Analytics, in an interview. "In the world we're entering, it's a team sport where data professionals all want to be able to operate on a platform that lets them collaborate securely in a governed manner."

Users can open any data set in Watson Analytics for answers to questions phrased in natural language, such as "what drives this product line?" Whereas often a data scientist might have to go through hundreds of fields manually to find the answer, Watson Analytics allows them to do it near instantaneously, IBM said.

More than 3,000 developers are working on the Project DataWorks platform, Schoettle said. Some 500,000 users have been trained on the platform, and more than a million business analysts are using it through Watson Analytics.

Available now, the software can be purchased through a pay-as-you-go plan starting at US$75 per month for 20GB. Enterprise pricing is also available.

"Broadly speaking, this brings two things to the table that weren't there before," said Gene Leganza, a vice president and research director with Forrester Research.

First is "a really comprehensive cloud-based platform that brings together all the elements you'd need to drive data innovation," Leganza said. "It's data management, it's analytics, it's Watson, it's collaboration across different roles, and it's a method to get started. It's really comprehensive, and the fact that it's cloud-based means everyone has access."

The platform's AI-based capabilities, meanwhile, can help users "drive to the next level of innovation with data," he said.

Overall, it's "an enterprise architect's dream" because it could put an end to the ongoing need to integrate diverse products into a functioning whole, Leganza said.

Competition in the analytics market has been largely segmented according to specific technologies, agreed Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT.

"If Project DataWorks delivers what IBM intends," King said, "It could change the way that organizations approach and gain value from analyzing their data assets."

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