This week Supply Chain Matters is attending the IBM Impact 2011 conference in Las Vegas along with 8000+ other attendees.  This IBM customer conference was designed to focus on IBM’s middleware and integration technologies which include WebSphere, Cloud and SmarterCommerce offerings. Our attendance is by invitation of Infosys Technologies, one of the Gold sponsors of this conference event.

We begin our first commentary with some general observations.  We were pleasantly surprised to see the large number of attendees at this conference, which IBM indicated was 31 percent higher than last year’s conference.  This is perhaps an indication that corporate attention and consequent IT budgets are beginning to loosen-up and that planning for a new phase of technology investments may well be on the rise.

This morning’s conference kickoff opened with a live band, complete with multiple moving stages, along with the comedy of Larry Miller.  I must admit that it has been quite a few years since I’ve witnessed a technology conference opening with such flair. Kudos to IBM for bringing back panache and embedded entertainment to a conference.

The kickoff speakers set the tone for an appropriate theme of optimizing for growth and business delivery results.  One important key piece of data noted IBM’s recent CEO key business issues survey which found that nearly 80 percent of CEO’s expect business complexity to increase, but only half feel that their business is prepared to deal with this challenge.  This so-termed ‘complexity gap’ is what IBM feels will motivate a more rapid pace of business transformation.  This same finding was also emphasized in the Smarter Commerce session held this afternoon, which will be touched upon in our second commentary.

A number of new product announcements were made, among them being:

IBM Business Process Manager, a new unified Business Process Management (BPM) platform that provides customers visibility into key business operations.

IBM webSphere Application Server (WAS) 8, upgraded to speed the development of applications and services.

IBM WebSphere ESB Registry Edition, to accelerate the adoption of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) adoption.

IBM WebSphere Application Accelerator, deployed in conjunction with Akami.

IBM Workload Deployer, to help customers setup private clouds at a much more rapid rate.

There were a host of other product and service announcements which we will not get into in this initial commentary.

The most interesting perspective in reflecting on the morning keynote is that IBM has invested over $60 billion in the acquisition of 16 companies that returns IBM to being a software and business process solutions provider.  That now includes smarter commerce, distributed order management and supply chain capabilities.  IBM is now positioning to inform and motivate customers to take advantage of the new portfolio.  The remainder of our commentaries will reflect on the supply chain related aspects of these capabilities.

Bob Ferrari