Top 100: IBM strategy puts focus on cloud, analytics, mobility

IBM's federal business is focusing on opportunities around cloud computing, analytics and mobility because that's where its customers want to go.

IBM has aligned its entire operation around emerging technology areas like cloud, analytics, security, engagement, mobility and health care, and that strategy has “translated brilliantly in the federal market,” according to Anne Altman, general manager for U.S. Federal, IBM.

Little wonder then that IBM moved forward on the 2015 Washington Technology Top 100 list of federal contractors, a performance that landed the company at No. 20, up four spots from 2014.

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“IBM is making big investments to serve government in the areas they say they need the most help,” Altman said. “As a result, we’ve been growing our portfolio in all of those areas and we’re thriving.”

A key area, not surprisingly, is health care, which IBM CEO Ginny Rometti has characterized as the company’s next “moon shot.”

“One of the biggest opportunities right now is in federal health care and we’re very, very committed to applying the innovation we’re creating to that sector,”Altman said.

Already, IBM has teamed up with Epic, a leading provider of electronic health records (EHRs), to pursue the Department of Defense’s Healthcare Management System Modernization Program (DHMSM). The $11 billion contract, which is expected to be awarded this summer, will support nearly 10 million service members and their families around the world and will be one of the largest transformational programs in the federal government’s history.

Earlier this year, IBM announced that it would establish Watson, the underlying technology of its data analytics software, as a Health Cloud that will provide a secure, open platform for health care providers, payers, researchers and other health and wellness organizations that want to access patient and medical data and analytics to achieve better outcomes. The HIPAA-enabled Watson Health Cloud will enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that affect health and wellness.

The Health Cloud will be the centerpiece of a new dedicated IBM business unit called IBM Watson Health.

Already, the Veterans Administration is using Watson’s cognitive computing capability to help improve health delivery for veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and Altman said she expects a number of other agencies will be utilizing the new health platform, including the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which “has a massive responsibility” for delivering health care.

To further bolster its health care capabilities, IBM this spring integrated into its Watson Health Division two advanced analytics firms: Cleveland-based Explorys, which provides a secure cloud-computing platform that pulls together clinical, financial and operational data elements to help physicians and other healthcare professionals identify patterns in disease, treatments and outcomes, and Dallas-based Phytel, which sells population health management software.

“Across the board, government is recognizing that they need sophisticated tools that provide the ability to extract insight at speed from all the data they’ve been collecting forever,” Altman said. “And we’re better positioned than ever to help them with that.

That’s one reason why late last year the U.S. Department of Energy chose IBM to develop and deliver the world’s most advanced data centric supercomputing systems at Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. IBM’s approach is to embed computer power everywhere data resides in the system, allowing for a convergence of analytics, modeling, visualization and simulation, and driving new insights at significantly faster speeds. The two contracts are valued at $325 million.

IBM also made new inroads into the federal cloud market. Last year, the company opened two dedicated federal cloud data centers in Ashburn, Va., and Dallas, Tex. Both centers utilize IBM’s SoftLayer cloud infrastructure-as-a service platform and are built to meet Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FEDRamp) requirements, Altman said.

This investment, coupled with IBM’s BlueMix platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering that enables the speedy and agile development of new born-on-the-cloud applications, caused IDC Marketscape to name IBM as a leader in U.S. government cloud IaaS space. The report stated that IBM is set up “to play a leading role in service of the ‘hybrid/mixed’ cloud requirements of government entities, which to date, have shied away from leveraging public cloud-only offerings.”

Altman expects that IBM will perform even better in the coming year. “We’re putting our cards on the table and making investments to serve the government in the direction they say they are moving,” she states. “We’re now in a position to apply our expertise and innovation to the government’s unique challenges and really take off.”