Tibco Now: Connected everything, augmented intelligence

Published on the 19/05/2016 | Written by Donovan Jackson

augmented intelligence

Optimisation is out, innovation is back as Tibco ramps up focus on solutions for digital transformation…

Efficiency. Yes, efficiency is pretty important, but more important still is innovation – and, with the opening of its Tibco Now conference taking place in Las Vegas, the company declared that, with the fourth industrial revolution raging around us, innovation has shot back up the agenda, surpassing optimisation, for businesses of every kind. That’s thanks to, you guessed it, digital transformation.

Tibco is one of those companies which, in A/NZ at least, quietly gets on with whatever it is that it gets on with. Most will recognise it as an integration company, if not the integration company. After all, it’s roots lie in the development of the information bus – yes, it’s the ‘The Information Bus Company’ – and its work in the data centre connecting enterprise applications. But Tibco today is a lot more than that.

CEO Murray Rode, who has been with the company since 1995, said Tibco is looking to sharpen its focus and ‘tune its innovation engine for what’s most valuable to customers’ as the fourth industrial revolution takes hold. “That revolution, best described as a confluence of technologies, is changing the way the world, society and business works. It is a transformative combination of advances and we [as individuals] are at the centre of that change.”

Rode said integration and data are fundamental to the fourth industrial revolution; seamless interconnection is required, as is the necessity to move (APIs) and understand (analytics) a lot of information to predict what comes next, while automating responses (complex events processing and business process orchestration). “Real time is the new norm. It’s no longer enough to just operate more efficiently, it is now necessary to deliver a richer customer experience.”

Being that the last conference the company hosted was 18 months ago, it has a lot to share. It went private at the end of 2014 and it has made two major acquisitions, of Jaspersoft and Mashery, which have expanded its reach and capabilities in analytics and API management. Tibco’s product portfolio, too, continues to grow organically, with new solutions announced at the conference adding to an already considerable  list.

But what the company has done as it mulled over the sharpening of its focus in the intervening months since being bought out by Vista Equity Partners, is to simplify itself, guided by three core principles: cloud first, ease of use, and industrialisation. It has also neatly aligned its portfolios into two streams: augmented intelligence on the one hand, and interconnect everything on the other.

Augmented intelligence
Scared witless by the rise of the machines? Settle down; increasing our intelligence is what advanced analytics and insights is all about, not replacing people (Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author, futurist and keynote speaker pointed out that technology hasn’t cost jobs; 65 percent of American jobs today didn’t exist 20 years ago).

Tibco’s Mark Palmer, analytics VP, pointed out that visual graphics, such as those generated by analytics software, can amplify human understanding. He pointed to the Steve Jobs observation that ‘computers are a bicycle for the mind’, that is, they greatly improve personal efficiency in the same way that a bike makes moving easier. “With analytics, you can go from being a good CMO to a great one, a good engineer to a great one.” You get the idea.

Augmented intelligence is a term preferred by Tibco as this is just exactly what analytics does (in much the same way that augmented reality adds to the perception of the environment). It leaves room for the gut feel which remains an entirely valid decision-making process, but does the ‘heavy lifting’ to make people more efficient. And augmenting intelligence it is something we do every day already, using Google and any one of millions of apps which help get things done.

Interconnect everything
Not much stands still in the tech industry and it’s no different when it comes to integration. Tibco earned its stripes in the data centre but it is making a big play for the edge, too.

That’s evident in several of its product announcements made at the conference: Cloud Integration, a platform for the cloud to create, integrate, and publish APIs; BusinessWorks (its flagship integration product) Container Edition which now supports multiple cloud environments; and Simplr, a service which automates interactions between cloud applications.

Even further out on the edge – all the way to Internet of Things sensors – the company also announced an open source ‘ultra-lightweight’ integration solution called Project Flogo, which puts integration and data processing capabilities directly onto tiny connected IoT devices. Flogo has an average installed footprint, the company said, up to 50 times lighter than other solutions.

Simple, not stupid
The runaway success of Pixar movies can in part be attributed to their wide appeal to audiences young and old. Matt Quinn, Tibco CTO describes the nuances of those movies in straightforward terms: “Pixar doesn’t treat its audience as idiots. That’s a principle we’ve applied as we’ve worked towards simplification of the business itself, and in our each of our products and technologies.”

Beyond the guiding principles and two streams, that also means the company has focused on the UI to make the easy things simple. “But you also need to understand that you cannot get rid of exceptionalism in products. So, we needed to and did make [business intelligence application] Spotfire more accessible to the novice, but we also made it just as relevant to the advanced data scientist.”

Note, stressed Quinn, that new users are not ‘idiots’, they merely lack experience and/or training. Staying with the Spotfire example, it provides recommendations and assistance to get started rapidly – and, by demonstrating its efficacy, it draws the user in. “We haven’t hidden or removed the complexity, we’ve just made things easier to use, so at first blush, you can get results.”

To the future
With its sharpened focus and strengthened portfolio, Tibco is making all the right noises about growing its reach and influence. CEO Murray Rode told iStart that integration and the related fields of intelligence and API management (a natural evolution for a company which has worked with data since day dot) present “A massive amount of opportunity, so long as we evolve the integration services we provide.”

That’s why, explained Rode, the company conference is focused around the cloud, containers and embedded (Flogo) integration. “The kinds of things people are integrating are changing; right now, it is about integrating cloud services and hybrid infrastructures, it is moving into the IoT. The form factor of our technology has to keep morphing with the applications and sources of data that people are using. I don’t think we will run out of runway on that.”

He added to that: “This is why we like this two-part positioning. Interconnect everything speaks to the future; and the more data you bring together, the better the raw material you have for analytics.”

Donovan Jackson is attending Tibco Now as the guest of Tibco.

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