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IBM Migrates it’s “Big Data” Business Inland

Q1 / Winter 2013
Faculty and students partner at the IBM Client Center for Advanced Analytics in Columbus, Ohio.
Faculty and students partner at the IBM Client Center for Advanced Analytics in Columbus, Ohio.
As you walk down the airport concourse, the text message arriving on your smart phone informs you that the comfortable, yet worn, shoes you’re wearing have only 10 percent of their useful life left — and, by the way, the airport shoe store coming up on your right happens to have a pair in your size.

Welcome to the world of data everywhere. Chips in your shoes, a smart device in your pocket, GPS satellites, banks of computing power, and all the petabytes they generate are “big data.” How to manage it to generate a business advantage and useful action is today’s advanced analytics.

“I talked to a lot of people 10 years ago and they were screaming that they didn’t have enough information,” says IBM spokesman Scott Cook. “Now, you talk to those same people and they scream that they have too much! What they need now is the right information.”

Among the 50 or more analytics solution providers in the United States, IBM is one that’s making a large investment in the business of mining data in various forms from myriad sources. Cutting the ribbon in November on the new IBM Client Center for Advanced Analytics on the northwest side of Columbus, Ohio, Senior Vice President of IBM’s Software Solutions Group Mike Rhodin noted the center is expected to produce 500 jobs within three years. “I think if we’re wildly successful, it’ll keep growing. This is really the wave of what we here at IBM call the next era of computing.”

Gartner, Inc., the IT consulting and research group, concurs. “By 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs globally will be created to support big data, generating 1.9 million IT jobs in the United States,” said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner senior vice president and global head of research at Gartner’s recent IT conference in Orlando. Each IT job generates three more outside of IT, he says; therefore, the information economy could be responsible for six million U.S. jobs within two years.

That’s if employers and firms like IBM and Gartner can find the right people. Sondergaard thinks only a third of those IT jobs may be filled because of a shortage of qualified workers. Higher education must up its game, he says.

The IBM analytics center is in Columbus, in part, to take advantage of Ohio State University’s willingness to partner with IBM in developing cross-disciplinary curriculum to deliver a steady supply of computer engineers, statisticians, mathematicians, and designers to the new center. Christine Poon, dean of Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business, says the school will design “experiential learning” environments where students will work on real problems with IBM and their clients to find real solutions. In addition to the education assets, it was a ready pool of potential clients that enticed IBM, says Rhodin. “A group of local businesspeople got together with the Columbus 2020 organization and said, ‘We’ve got an idea; would you like to sit down and talk to us?’”

IBM’s location in Columbus heralds a trend noted by Chapman University Presidential Fellow Joel Kotkin — that tech growth is moving away from the coasts and happening in lower-density metro areas. As he notes in a recent Forbes article, “Ultimately, one of the main dynamics of the information age — that even sophisticated tasks can be done from anywhere — works against the dominion of single hegemonic industry centers.”

Kotkin is co-author of a February 2012 Sagamore Institute study on the Midwest’s re-birth that attributes a shift in migration from the coasts to factors “such as taxes and regulations. But perhaps most important may be the region’s greater affordability” — particularly housing prices which, for 30-something tech workers establishing families, are more attractive in the middle of the country than on the East or West coasts.

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