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IBM Betting Big on Business Analytics

The business analytics market is worth $105 billion, according to research from IBM and analyst firms Gartner and IDC. Although he was unwilling to break out IBM's specific numbers, Mills said that the market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7% to 8%.

"In the face of an IT industry, that's not seen as growing this year; business analytics is a huge opportunity," he said. "It's already a high-growth, fast-moving area."

Other companies playing in the business analytics space include Oracle (ORCL - Get Report), Sybase (SY) and Teradata (TDC - Get Report), which recently unveiled a business analytics offering for cloud computing. Aimed at both public clouds such as Amazon's (AMZN - Get Report) EC2 service, and private clouds serving firms' internal customers, Teradata is touting its technology as a quick means of crunching complex cloud-based data.

Competition is clearly intensifying. True to form, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has taken a swipe at both IBM and Teradata, recently wielding the company's latest Exadata device as a cudgel. Not to be outdone, Teradata has been trash-talking its rivals' high-performance credentials in recent news reports.

"Tech companies tend to do a lot of chest beating," sniffed Mills, adding that IBM has spent $12 billion on business analytics over the last decade. "We see a lot of opportunity for share gain and growth going into the future."

IBM has the largest private sector math department in the world supporting its business analytics strategy, according to Mills, who said that the tech bellwether has a full roadmap.

"Some of the most interesting things that we're working on relate to complex event-based activities," he explained. "Today's hospitals are filled with all kinds of monitoring equipment, but can you bring all that information together?"

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