It is easy for a company to grab headlines by making big announcements or radically changing tack, and there is a danger that vendor conferences try and do that, not always with justification. At the recent Pulse 2012 conference in Las Vegas IBM did not radically change tack. In fact, ‘Consistent’ is one of the words that I would use if I had to sum up my overall impression of the event.

This is not to say that Danny Sabbah the general manager of Tivoli and his management team didn’t have anything new to say or add. On the contrary, what was announced showed recognition of the business transformations underway within many organizations and the need for infrastructures that are not only flexible and adaptable to changing environments, but can extend to all connecting points.  Security, flexibility and mobility are the driving aims of a customer audience faced with maximizing competing technology concerns.

The move towards managing and supporting the “infrastructure everywhere” concept IBM discussed at Pulse 2012 might even appear like a new angle of approach. In reality it is a reaffirmation of the core direction the Tivoli group has embarked on for some time now. The smarter computing announcements made during the event honed the vision for optimum leverage of smart infrastructure services, whilst the message of collaborative development and operations reinforced connected lifecycle management processes.

Familiar maxims that reassure

Consistent throughout IBM’s messaging at Pulse were three core maxims to drive customer and portfolio focus:  Visibility, Control and Automation. These are considered critical mechanisms for delivering the operational flexibility and cost efficiencies required of infrastructure and management services attuned to the major technology, social and workforce trends impacting organizations across the industry and market landscape.

Anyone who has been following the IBM Software Group’s direction in recent years, particularly those parts of the organization that address software delivery and lifecycle management, will recognize reoccurring themes of approach and focus. All of which adds a level of confidence in the long-term goals and execution aims around the Tivoli portfolio.

Looking at the topic focus of Pulse 2012, it was not surprising that Cloud computing, Mobile, Security and Smarter Physical Infrastructure services dominated. Nor did the need for greater collaboration between development and operations go unchecked. The insight from numerous C-level studies, as delivered by IBM’s Senior Vice President, Middleware Software Robert Le Blanc in his keynote address, highlight “recognition for transforming the economics of IT backed innovations along with the need for improving the speed of delivery and optimizing the agility of the business services and value chain”.

A client feedback panel on day two of the conference provided candid and pragmatic insights into the approaches adopted by customer groups for addressing the core technology trends and the strategies employed to resolve common challenges and issues. In fact, the customer support/references at Pulse 2012 (as it was at Pulse 2011) were noteworthy as some 85% of all conference sessions were directed from customer case studies.

Smart options for developers

As hard as it is to detail all the different focus areas of a conference, Pulse 2012 did well to serve solutions and portfolio directions in a number of core development areas.

For example, IT development and operational organizations will be reassured of the continued alignment, integration and interoperability between the Rational and Tivoli portfolios.  With the game changing nature of Cloud computing, putting in place the mechanism for development teams to take advantage of the fast provisioning of infrastructure services that the Cloud model enables is crucial. This is especially the case for a smooth and effective transition to Cloud delivery and consumption.

The announcement of the SmartCloud Continuous Delivery beta and the SmartCloud Provisioning product serve to apply a much needed collaborative developer and operations perspective to the Cloud computing model. Addressing agility across the application and service lifecycle is undoubtedly the essential goal for improving collaboration and interactions between development and operations.

Additionally, Pulse 2012 provided an opportunity to review the status of recent IBM acquisitions, such as Rational’s purchase of Green Hat and its end-to-end test simulation services. The integration of Green Hat into the Rational group continues to be on track with Peter Cole, Green Hat’s founder, stepping into the director role for the quality management team. The move to use Green Hat’s test simulation facilities to support continuous testing of environments that cannot be physically or easily made available highlights IBM’s focus on extending and evolving quality management facilities in-line with core application trends.

IBM’s Jazz platform continues to be unifying strategy and vision that serves to further the claim of “Rationalization” of the Tivoli portfolio. The profile of the interoperability framework of the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) was also given significant prominence in the development and operations collaboration services for both SmartCloud Continuous Delivery and Provisioning. Going forward customer audiences can expect to see more emphasis on methodologies for using tools on Jazz.

The mobile directive

The mobility announcements at Pulse 2012 showed a good start to what is clearly set to become a game changing platform and service for IBM and possibly the industry. There was consistent emphasis on the messaging around addressing future challenges and needs of businesses in a world that is ever more connected, social, and mobile.

IBM‘s long held enterprise mobility portfolio and strategy exposes its strength in managing data integration and back office communications and integration. The company’s recent acquisition of WorkLight adds the necessary credentials of a mobile application platform product that delivers cross platform capabilities for common service functions, as well as services optimized for native platform delivery. The end point management facilities demonstrated at Pulse 2012 clearly showed that IBM confidently understands mobility compliance and governance requirements along with enterprises’ needs for strong security and privacy. All of which played very well with an audience group that ranks confidence as a high priority and often too scarce commodity.

Mobility, however, is so much more than a technology strategy. Experience and engagement and user centricity are core components for deriving value from mobile platforms. Certainly there is nothing new to this point. In fact, one might even ask why it has taken IT organizations so long to understand or recognize something so obvious when it comes to addressing and serving customer needs and expectations. Game developers have long understood the tenets of user centricity. Even more so, they deliver when looking to support consistent experience and engagement across multiple platforms while serving a wide variety of devices platforms, form factors and processing capabilities. If gamers can do it successfully, why can’t enterprises?

IBM has been intelligent with its mobile technology efforts and acquisitions but must now show that it can deliver a smarter strategy for engaging the mobile community and helping enterprise organizations understand the importance of that approach.

Business connections and continuity

In the past, the important role technology plays towards driving productivity, agility, innovation, and growth within organizations has headlined many of the messages marketed by IBM Software’s various brand groups. The focus at Pulse 2012 saw a necessary and valuable emphasis on business context.

The driving beat for Pulse 2012 was “Business without limits”. This is certainly a rousing message that depicts the aspirations of many organizations in the face of ever increasing technological advances, data explosions, social collaborations, and communication connectivity. However, the company should take care that the notion of “without limits” does not devolve to “without focus”.

Tivoli’s Danny Sabbah continues with a strategy that has its hallmark from his leadership of the Rational portfolio. Shifting the focus of Rational beyond development to software delivery as a managed collaborative business process is no less different to the direction that he and his team want to take the Tivoli management and monitoring services and solutions.

Pulse 2012 also struck a good balance in maintaining the consistency of IBM’s driving technology themes, and the organizational and social transformations that are influencing and unifying the strategies and portfolio directions of the company’s Software Group.

The kind of “business as usual” message that was so common at IBM’s Pulse 2012, might not generate much in the way of headlines but it is the consistency of message and execution that ultimately helps to build confidence and customer engagements.