Whether you follow tech industry stalwart IBM (NYSE:IBM) closely or not, it is no secret that 2015 has not been a great one for recent investors. Even before the Greek fiasco hit world markets like a ton of bricks, IBM shares were meandering. As of this writing, year-to-date shareholders have little to show for their faith in IBM other than its stellar 3% plus dividend yield.
One of the highest dividend yields in the tech industry is nothing to sneeze at, of course, but driving share price growth is what mid to long-term IBM investors are in search of, and the news gets much better for those with some patience. Like others of its ilk, including sometimes partner and competitor Microsoft, IBM is transforming itself from the hardware and associated solutions that were once its mainstay to a focus on new technologies.
Primarily because of the transition to cloud technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT), the future of technology is data, and it is here that IBM shines.
A world in transition
The advent of cloud-related technologies -- in other words, the ability to amass and host data independently of a company's legacy systems, in conjunction with the fast-growing IoT market -- is putting demands on businesses that many simply cannot manage. IoT is essentially connecting the world around us, including our cars, cities, and homes, to ostensibly make our lives safer, more efficient, and when all is said and done, easier.
The offshoot of IoT, along with the unprecedented tracking of Internet usage via mobile and desktop devices, is that the sheer volume of information -- or "big data" -- already available is mind-boggling. And according to research company IDC, we are just scratching the surface. Over the next five years, spending on big data and associated analytics will grow three times faster than legacy systems. That, combined with an expected annual growth rate of 30% each of the next five years thanks to IoT, equates to a world of opportunity for big data analytics solution providers like IBM.
And it gets better. As fast as big data is expected to grow, according to research compiled by eMarketer, it is already a source of concern among many chief information officers (CIOs). Too much data, quality issues, and outdated infrastructure are cited as roadblocks to fully utilizing all that information, let alone the reams of data coming in the future.
The apprehension surrounding big data should be music to the ears of IBM fans, because the company has ideally aligned itself as one of, if not the, big data leader.
Going all in
It was about a year and a half ago that IBM made a commitment to big data analytics when it announced its $1 billion investment to open a couple of related business units to fully utilize its cognitive computing wonder, Watson. As the aforementioned estimates confirm, it is one thing to amass all of that information and another thing altogether to fully utilize it to generate actionable results. As it turns out, the Watson initiative was just one in a series of steps to grow its big data sales.
Microsoft recognized early on that hosting data on the cloud is fine, but revenue growth will come from implementing its suite of software solutions. In three short years, software solutions will generate nearly 60% of all cloud workloads, while infrastructure (hosting) will drop to just 28%. That same concept applies to cloud-based big data, and that is where IBM shines thanks to Watson and its suite of analytic solutions.
As IBM made clear when it announced yet another major investment in the future -- this time $3 billion to fund an IoT unit -- it sees significant overlap in the cloud, IoT, and big data markets. IoT will generate huge amounts of information hosted in the cloud, but it will be the implementation of software solutions and cognitive analytics that will differentiate the haves and have-nots -- not to mention help the world's CIOs sleep better at night.
The cumulative $4 billion commitment CEO Ginni Rometty has made in its transition to big data and related solutions, let alone realigning divisions and personnel to make the change as efficient as possible and inking strategic alliances, is what makes IBM such a compelling investment opportunity for growth and income investors -- particularly those willing and able to exercise some patience.