Analytics on an enterprise scale

Harnessing IBM Business Analytics and data warehousing on System z technologies to drive multi-million dollar benefits

Published on 08-May-2012

Validated on 12 Nov 2013

"On average it takes about six months and $250,000 to get a new analytics environment up and running with development, test and production environments. With our System z private cloud architecture, we can generally deploy solutions in a couple of days, and at about 10 percent of that cost." - Larry Yarter, Chief Architect, Blue Insight Business Analytics Competency Center, IBM

IBM BA & DW Cloud Computing

Computer Services

Deployment country:
United States

BA - Business Analytics, Business Integration, BA - Business Intelligence, Business Performance Transformation, Cloud Computing


First launched in 2009, Blue Insight is IBM’s strategic analytics initiative, which now delivers business intelligence and data warehousing services to more than 390 teams and nearly 200,000 end-users across IBM’s global organization and Business Partner community.

Business need:
Blue Insight is IBM’s strategic analytics platform, designed to empower hundreds of thousands of IBM employees with access to sophisticated business intelligence and predictive analytics via a single cost-effective private cloud architecture. Making this vision a reality involved the usual technical and process issues of centralization, but also social and philosophical ones: how could the Blue Insight team convince users that a centralized private cloud solution was the right way forward for IBM’s business to achieve its 2015 roadmap?

Blue Insight uses a suite of IBM Business Analytics and Information Management software running on the IBM® System z® platform, which delivers the highest possible levels of performance, availability, security and scalability. As a result, Blue Insight’s flexible core analytics services place no limits on adoption or sophistication of end-users’ analyses; this versatility, combined with top-level executive support, is helping to drive adoption throughout the enterprise.

Generates new insights that drive real business value. For example, one analytical tool for small deals management has helped IBM Software Group achieve an eight percent increase in revenue by allocating leads to sales channels more effectively. Delivers $25 million savings over five years by eliminating existing departmental analytics systems, reducing hardware, software, facilities and human resources costs. Enables further savings through ongoing cost avoidance. Each time a new project adopts Blue Insight instead of building a departmental solution, IBM saves approximately $250,000.

Case Study

First launched in 2009, Blue Insight is IBM’s strategic analytics initiative, which now delivers business intelligence and data warehousing services to more than 390 teams and nearly 200,000 end-users across IBM’s global organization and Business Partner community.

As a centralized service based on a private cloud architecture running on the IBM System z platform, Blue Insight is the antithesis of traditional business analytics deployments, which are often departmentally based systems designed to address specific needs for individual lines of business. The key to Blue Insight’s success is its ability to provide business users with the same flexibility and support for creative analyses, while also releasing massive economies of scale that minimize costs for the business.

Larry Yarter, Chief Architect at Blue Insight’s Business Analytics Competency Center (BACC), comments: “In some ways, the technical challenges are the easy part. We use the System z platform, which we believe offers the highest availability and performance of any commercial server, and we run the latest IBM Cognos®, SPSS® and Information Management software to provide the data management and analytics platform. Unlike a distributed approach to analytics, we can easily bring new projects on board and scale up to meet the needs of more users. So the business gets excellent performance and near-total availability, and can regard analytics as an always-on, real-time service.

“The advantages of the platform are what help us solve the difficult part, which is to convince all the potential user groups that Blue Insight will give them the same flexibility and enable the same creativity as the departmental business intelligence systems that they have developed for themselves.

“We have been able to show that our strategy is right not only for IBM as a whole but also for each user group individually, because we draw a clear distinction between the well-defined services that we provide and the almost unlimited range of solutions that they can build on top of those services. We contribute the infrastructure, the software and the service level guarantees; they provide the data and the creative analyses that enable them to gain insight from it. Effectively, they still get all the flexibility of building their own solution, but we can give them the commodity services faster, more reliably, and at a cost of around 20 cents on the dollar. The key is allowing the business to focus on business problems without the burden of setting up infrastructure that doesn’t add value to the solution.”

Driving adoption

To drive adoption of the new platform, the BACC team initially focused on bringing on board users who were most enthusiastic about the prospect of centralized analytics. With the success of these initial projects, word spread across IBM about the value that Blue Insight could deliver, and increasing numbers of user groups began asking to join the initiative. At the same time, high-level support from IBM’s senior executives made a significant contribution to raising awareness of the platform’s strategic intent and persuading different parts of the business to move from their existing platforms. The executive team supplied communications resources to get the message out across IBM’s entire worldwide, multi-brand, multi-channel business.

In just two years, Blue Insight has grown to support nearly 200,000 users and more than 390 different projects. Drawing information from over 250 sources across the business, its analytics tools generate more than 30,000 reports every day. But how does a company go about building a business analytics environment on this scale?

A closer look at the technology

Blue Insight offers services for data warehousing and analytics, all based on the IBM System z architecture. The services include IBM Information Server and IBM InfoSphere® Warehouse, with InfoSphere DataStage® and QualityStage® to handle extract, transform and load (ETL) from the source systems. All data is analyzed using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence for Linux on System z, which generates the reports and distributes them to the appropriate users, or publishes them on the IBM intranet.

Thanks to the scalability of both the System z platform and the software itself, just two production instances of Cognos are able to support the entire community of nearly 200,000 users, which includes both IBM employees and members of the IBM Business Partner community. During the early stages of architecture design, the team decided to separate the instance of Cognos Business Intelligence used internally by IBMers from the externally facing instance which is accessed by IBM Business Partners. This ensured the highest possible level of security for IBM’s internal data and enabled close control of what information would be made available to Business Partners. The IBM Global Technology Services team has subsequently leveraged the work done on the Business Partner instance to create a template that will help to accelerate analytics deployments for other IBM customers.

The Blue Insight team has also introduced IBM SPSS Statistics and SPSS Modeler to provide predictive analytics capabilities as a service from the same System z private cloud. This will help users not only analyze trends in current and historical data, but also harness sophisticated predictive models to assess future performance. As with the Cognos solution, the possibilities are virtually limitless; Blue Insight will provide the Software as a Service (SaaS) capability, and the business users will use the platform to build their own solutions to deliver business value.

IBM’s next move is to use the IBM DB2® Analytics Accelerator – an analytics appliance that integrates directly with IBM DB2 for z/OS® and provides a dedicated engine based on Netezza technologies, which is tuned specifically for analytical processing. The solution provides lower-cost analytics for DB2 on z/OS, and can increase performance by orders of magnitude.

For user groups that have particularly high performance requirements, this could be an ideal solution. It can also deliver savings, especially for teams that have spent time and resources “pulling data” from DB2 on z/OS to a distributed platform. This becomes unnecessary with the DB2 Analytics Accelerator, which makes it possible to prepare schemas in z/OS and provision them to the appliance for direct analytics access, with no impact on z/OS processing.

“The point to remember about Blue Insight is that we’re not making these technology decisions just because we’re IBM and we own all the hardware already,” explains Larry Yarter. “We chose System z because we believe it is genuinely the best platform for enterprise-scale analytics, and because we want to prove to our customers that it is a commercially viable option.

“To take an example: a few years ago, most businesses considered analytics as a peripheral service; if a report wasn’t ready on time, or a system was down for a few hours, it wasn’t considered a big problem. Today, enterprises recognize that analytics is the key to effective operations and competitive advantage. Users need information instantly, at the click of a mouse, 24/7. If you need to meet these kinds of performance and availability demands, System z is absolutely the best platform available. And it’s not just for large enterprises: the scalability of System z allows for service programs to start at an affordable size and scale, with growing economic advantage coming with each additional user.”

He adds: “From a commercial perspective, solutions like the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator build an even stronger case for System z. It’s an ideal solution for companies that have most of their transactional data on System z and want to introduce or enhance their data warehousing and analytics capabilities. Previously they might have chosen to offload their data onto an AIX® platform for these tasks, but with the Accelerator it’s not necessary: everything can stay on the System z without incurring increased licensing costs, and query response time can be dramatically improved.”

Reaping the benefits

As departments have moved onto Blue Insight, they have begun to decommission their old analytics systems, which is projected to save approximately $25 million over five years through reduced hardware, software, facilities and human resources costs. Equally, for teams that did not have an analytics solution before they adopted Blue Insight, there are significant benefits in terms of cost avoidance.

“If you go about it the traditional way, setting up an infrastructure to deliver analytics services as part of each project is a complex task,” explains Larry Yarter. “You have to get budget approval, purchase servers, find space for them in a data center, power, cool and maintain them. And that’s before you even think about the software. On average it takes about six months and $250,000 to get a new analytics environment up and running with development, test and production environments. With our System z private cloud architecture, we can generally deploy solutions in a couple of days, and at about 10 percent of that cost.”

In the long term, the real value of Blue Insight for IBM will be the insight it offers into the company’s operations, which provides a basis for better decision-making and improved performance and efficiency.

One impressive example is a project that uses Blue Insight to analyze small deals management within IBM Software Group. By analyzing data on potential sales opportunities, IBM is able to improve the efficiency of its allocation of leads to sales channels. Smaller deals are passed on to IBM Business Partners who have the relevant skills and resources to close the deals, enabling IBM’s own sales teams to focus on enterprise-level clients. As a result of this more effective use of sales resources, Software Group has seen an eight percent increase in small deals revenue – making a major contribution to IBM’s 2015 growth targets.

Larry Yarter comments: “The evolution and maturity of Blue Insight are reflected in the way the program’s objectives are set. At first it was all about savings; now it’s about growth. Increasingly, we are focusing not on the infrastructure itself, but on how we can best utilize the infrastructure to support the kinds of innovative analyses and insights that will continue to grow IBM’s business going forward.”

About data warehousing on IBM System z

As organizations re-evaluate their current data warehousing strategies, they must remove the barriers that isolate their information. The right data warehousing solution will enable a unified view of business information across organizational boundaries. To address this requirement, many organizations are choosing IBM System z as the platform for their data warehousing needs. IBM data warehousing software on System z provides a comprehensive portfolio of solutions designed to reduce data movement, improve query response times, provide near-real-time access to critical business information and minimize complexity through the deployment of transactional and warehouse data on a single platform. For more information on data warehousing on IBM system z please visit

About IBM Business Analytics

IBM Business Analytics software delivers actionable insights decision-makers need to achieve better business performance. IBM offers a comprehensive, unified portfolio of business intelligence, predictive and advanced analytics, financial performance and strategy management, governance, risk and compliance and analytic applications.

With IBM software, companies can spot trends, patterns and anomalies, compare “what if” scenarios, predict potential threats and opportunities, identify and manage key business risks and plan, budget and forecast resources. With these deep analytic capabilities our customers around the world can better understand, anticipate and shape business outcomes. For more information on Business Analytics please visit

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Power Systems, System z: zEnterprise 196 (z196)

DB2 for z/OS, InfoSphere Information Server, InfoSphere DataStage, InfoSphere QualityStage, InfoSphere Warehouse, Cognos Business Intelligence, z/VM, Linux, z/OS

Operating system:
Linux, z/OS and OS/390, z/VM

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012. IBM Corporation, Software Group, Route 100, Somers, NY 10589. Produced in the United States of America. May 2012. IBM, the IBM logo, Cognos, DataStage, DB2, InfoSphere, QualityStage, SPSS, zEnterprise, z/OS and z/VM are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Statements regarding IBM’s future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated.