About 30 years ago, perhaps on this very day, I was sitting in front of an Apple II working on a VisiCalc spreadsheet. At the time, I don’t think I even knew who Steve Jobs was. I wasn’t in the software industry yet. I was working for a public accounting firm. The Apple II sat in a corner of the office “typing pool.” For those of you who don’t know what a typing pool was, there was no swimming involved – it was a group of full-time employees with dedicated equipment who did all the typing and word processing tasks of the office.
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Last week I attended the IBM Big Data Symposium at the Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. The event was held in the auditorium where the recent Jeopardy shows featuring the computer called Watson took place and which still features the set used for the show – a fitting environment for IBM to put on another sort of “show” involving fast processing of lots of data. The same technology featured prominently in IBM’s big-data message, and the event was an orchestrated presentation more like a TV show than a news conference. Although it announced very little news at the event, IBM did make one very important statement: The company will not produce its own distribution of Hadoop, the open source distributed computing technology that enables organizations to process very large amounts of data quickly. Instead it will rely on and throw its weight behind the Apache Hadoop project – a stark contrast to EMC’s decision to do exactly that, announced earlier in the week. As an indication of IBM’s approach, Anant Jhingran, vice president and CTO for information management, commented, “We have got to avoid forking. It’s a death knell for emerging capabilities.”
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