IBM strategy targets BioIT

While the competitive game for top vendors at the technology level tends to revolve around things like UML, Java and Web services, another game goes on at the vertical levels. These are the realms where computer technology is applied to problems of specific industries.

Among the most interesting verticals in recent months has been Life Sciences. This includes parts of pharmaceutical and health sectors, as well as the emerging “BioIT” sectors of genomics, proteomics, protein engineering and other advanced areas. The area is interesting because the marriage of information processing and biological data has so much room to grow, and the industries involved could easily benefit from some old-style price reduction due to computerized automation of key processes.

With a combination of hardware, software and services, IBM has been prominent -- in fact, dominant -- in the area, and it is working to stay that way. Aspects of its Grid computing initiative are being fashioned to serve in so-called BioIT, and the company's hybrid XML-RDB data stager, code-named Xperanto, could improve its stature in this field as well.

Last week, the company contributed its implementation of the Life Sciences Identifier (LSID) Resolver software to open source. The software provides a common way to name and find biological data. [See A new BioIT resolver asks: Why can’t we share? .]

Developing such reference implementations keeps IBM in the forefront of a movement that seeks to drastically reduce the information integration costs of big pharmaceutical companies facing large R&D expenditures.

One reason Big Blue keeps moving is that it must be hearing footsteps. When Hewlett-Packard merged with Compaq last year, it gained a player that had garnered plenty of BioIT rack space during the course of the Human Genome Project. Moreover, HP’s lineage is strong in the lab and the clinic.

One of the big overlooked drivers in IBM’s purchase last year of services giant PriceCoopersWaterhouse [see News in review: IBM in 2002] was PCW’s plentiful stake in the pharmaceutical and related sectors. While IDC places IBM at the lead of the worldwide BioIT pack for 2001 with $1.36 billion in revenue, the combo of HP ($1.11B) and Compaq ($652 million), at least on paper, would surpass IBM, according to Debra Goldfarb, IDC Group VP for Worldwide Systems, Servers and Life Sciences. That edge still holds when you factor in PCW’s $349 million in BioIT revenues.

If Sun, Oracle or Accenture were to seek to improve their coffers by targeting this vertical, it would seem that they would have to look at merger options to keep up with those at the top of the ranks.

Related links
News in review: IBM in 2002
Special Report: Is openness enough for IBM?
DB2 tools spring from IBM Xperanto initiatives
Eli Lilly CIO talks R&D
Emerging technology: Grid computing
Data mining comes of age
IBM boosts OLAP analysis, mining


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About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.


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