PUNE, INDIA: Research can easily turn into an orphaned corner in any giant organization, specially in the world of breakneck speed of acquisitions and ideas being lapped up from another’s plate with a ferocious appetite. How hungry can a seemingly petite R&D arm be when the business and competitive buffet is too huge to ignore?
We discover this force at IBM in an interesting conversation with Anindya Neogi, senior technical staff member, Master Inventor, IBM. He leads various technology incubations and cross-unit projects within IBM, is also active in technical vitality programs and intellectual property development. Better known as a Master Inventor at IBM and Member of the IBM Academy of Technology, Neogi unravels some myths and mysteries around the garage force.
Today as we stand on an interesting cusp in the enterprise industry where IP lawsuits and litigious patent landscape is just too amusing to ignore, how do you define the future of research function?
We are doing research with a different point of view. We publish a lot of our work and protect only the core ones. For the sake of community, we collaborate a lot and often participate in the open source wave. But it’s a mix of both kinds of research with us. It is a methodical exercise.
CIOL: Is research quintessentially fun or is it risky given its hit-and-trial flavour?
Neogi: At IBM actually, there are proper processes around research so minimum wastage happens here. Problems are carefully selected and resources or experts spend their time very wisely.
CIOL: Recently many patents have passed hands between IBM and Google. What is the commercial potential of R&D inherently in that case?
Neogi: A lot of research that we go and patent has good licensing value so even if it does not go in IBM’s pipeline we can sell it. It can either be navigated into products or into a licensing value. There’s also the avenue of open source projects as I mentioned.
CIOL: Another notable pattern recently among major enterprise vendors is a torrent of technologies or products exploding out of their research vortex in the area of analytics. Why this sudden line-up?
Neogi: There are tons of data being collected and what people demand from the environment is availability. But as increasing complexity or scale or performance demands from IT or changes in infrastructure happen, the scenario becomes acute. You need to throw good analytics into it. This is about real-time data and the typical historical data warehousing applications. So there is a trend towards high-processing, real-time, scale-, and complexity-oriented platforms. That way new analytical problems are being solved.
CIOL: What keeps you and your team busy in terms of current pipeline?
Neogi: In the last few years a lot of IBM activity has happened in the area of data analytics only. So we are building a lot of applications around various platforms and problem-scenarios. The analytics market is no doubt a huge one and is projected to grow fast and wide.
Our focus in India for example is in the space of service management, how to manage virtual environments and wastage issues, reduction of virtual workloads, or building systems like an IBM or Google infrastructure for users and for questions that have still not come up. There are many dimensions of analytics — high-volume, unstructured, real-time and a lot of those that have not been drilled into yet.
CIOL: So how is it reflecting in IBM’s product portfolio?
Neogi: We have many analytics products that we use for building analytics content for various client use cases -- for e,g, BigInsights for Big Data analytics, InfoSphere Streams for real-time distributed processing of streaming data, ILOG for policy-based optimization, SPSS for various text analytics, data mining, modeling, and statistical algorithms, Netezza for pushing analytics close to warehouse data for high performance within an appliance form factor, Cognos portfolio for ad-hoc reporting and OLAP.
CIOL: Any examples in action?
Neogi: One of the airports in India has used IBM SWG solutions on data management and integration to be able to measure passenger, cargo and aircraft operational activity is critical for the proper management of an airport’s passenger and cargo facilities — including security, parking, and concessions — and for planning for future expansion and growth.
They have implemented a management information system (MIS) that automates data extraction and synchronization from multiple systems to produce predefined, scheduled reports and KPIs. The information is then used for facilities management — keeping elevators running, improving parking facilities, etc. and for drill down analysis along many dimensions.
For example, the management can analyze how much of the revenue at certain Duty-free shops is from people traveling to a particular region, or find out which airlines have consistently late arrivals or departures, and then levy an extra charge to those airlines."