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IBM middleware leader Robert LeBlanc on systems of systems, Smarter Planet and Web applications

Last month at IBM Rational Innovate 2011 in Orlando, Fla., SearchSOA.com caught up with Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president, Middleware Software, IBM Software Group. This was on the eve of IBM's 100th birthday. It seemed like a good time to ask what was going with systems of systems – a major pre-occupation of IBM's Smarter Planet effort - and the integration middleware at the heart of that endeavor.

As new generations of systems become more complex, LeBlanc told us, the software and hardware sides of the house have to collaborate more and more.  Better collaboration between development and operations teams is also more crucial, he said. The pace of change is rapid, and the lines between departments are obscured.

''It is all starting to become a blur,'' he said. ''Today, it's much more a continuum than it is separate silos of activity.''

Meanwhile, the World Wide Web has created a profusion of log and other data, creating information at a dramatic clip. All these underlying trends are calling out for more and better integration middleware.

''If you look at the Web, it has just exploded the amount of information being generated – both structured and unstructured,'' said IBM's Le Blanc in a video interview. What is a Smarter Planet? It can vary across organizations. But, in Le Blanc's words, it is essentially about generating ''better outcomes'' for those organizations – certainly a theme for IBM, from its business calculator days through to now and also beyond.

Read the full transcript from this video below: 

IBM middleware leader Robert LeBlanc on systems of systems, Smarter Planet and Web applications

Jack Vaughan: This is Jack Vaughan, SearchSOA. I'm with Robert LeBlanc head of
IBM's Middleware Software group. Coming up on the 100th anniversary of IBM,
give us an idea of where we are with software today.

Robert LeBlanc: Thanks for having me. If you look at what's happening out
there, almost all of us have to interact with systems that are
built and generated by software. Your banking systems, your cars
or anything we touch is all around software. Software is
generating a lot of the innovation that's going on in the
industry, whether it's on the World Wide Web or the interaction
of cars or anything like that.

In our conference here in Rational, in Orlando, Florida, we're
sharing all of our best practices and our products and ideas
with clients. We've got over 3,000 people here at the conference
who are sharing ideas. The next generations of systems are
becoming much more complex. There's a lot of interaction between
software and hardware. You have to really enable teams to
collaborate and share information so that they can build the
next generation of systems.

We talked about the Smarter Planet. The Smarter Planet really
is, "How do I take information and how do I build systems that
can really generate a better business outcome?" Whether it's a
city trying to have better services like water, a government
trying to build a better tax system or banks trying to put their
products out on the web, you need all of that interaction of
software. What we try to do is help software programmers and
engineers become much more effective and productive and enable
them to integrate all of these systems together.

We're really building the next generation of system of systems,
where everything interacts. Everything is sharing information
and everything is becoming dependent on everything else. It's
becoming a lot more complex, and therefore the next generation
of programmers needs better tools and better ways to collaborate
to build better products.

Jack Vaughan: DevOps is much discussed lately. It's about connecting the two
domains, developers and operations. Tell us, what's your take?

Robert LeBlanc: Absolutely. I think in the old days we built everything in
towers. We built an application and then we handed it over to
the operations team and the operations team operated the
application. I think it's all starting to become a blur because
you want to share information. As you're running an application
you're gathering information. Wouldn't that information be great
if you could take it and then bring it back, and as you design
or re-design the next generation of product, use that
information to build a better product or a better service.

It's becoming much more of a continuum than it is separate silos
of activity. Therefore, bringing that together is becoming
really important for clients and enables them to build better
products and services. At the end of the day, that's what we're
all interested in and that's what they're interested in because
they have to serve their clientele.

Jack Vaughan: Web apps have grown so much. We're creating data like we've never
seen before on scales and levels we haven't. What do you see
happening as a result of this paradigm shift with the data on
the web?

Robert LeBlanc: If you look at the web, it has just exploded the amount of
information that is being generated. It's also made it much more
important to gather information, to analyze information. It's
actually opened up new opportunities and also created a new set
of challenges. From a middleware perspective, we want to help
clients deal with that information, both structured information
that you would typically see in a database, and also
unstructured information.

If you look at the impact the web has had on social media and
all the information that's being generated in things like blogs
and Twitter and Facebook, I want to take that information and I
want to combine it with the information I have about my products
and services that I might have in my company. I want to combine
it and get new insights.

If I can get new insights, I can build a new and different set
of products or I can go after new markets or I can react to
customer requirements that much faster. What we're trying to do
is enable clients to be able to take advantage of all of that
vast information, be able to process it, analyze it, and come up
with better business decisions.

Jack Vaughan: Robert, I appreciate your time today.

Robert LeBlanc: You're welcome.

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