IBM is known for its cognitive computing platform, Watson, and its work on the Jeopardy game show. However, IBM’s Mac Devine explained at the 2016 Structure Conference on Tuesday, that IBM’s efforts in cognitive computing, big data, and IoT go beyond mere fun and games, and have real impact in the data center.

Part of this is driven by what Devine called the “move from data centers to centers of data.” People have traditionally used the data center as a large data repository, upon which they can then use data science and analysis. But, he said, IBM wants to extend that and leverage new technologies to create a “cognitive loop,” where they can generate more insights at the edge and in real time.

Watson is IBM’s brand through which they provide some of those cognitive insights. Currently, IBM Watson has 12 primary industry verticals for which they provide insights and services.

SEE: IBM Watson: The smart person’s guide

The traditional legacy client-server model was a North-South data pattern, but a smarter connected world moves to an East-West data pattern as more servers and machines continue to communicate with each other, Devine said. Additionally, he noted, communication needs to increasingly be done in real time or near real time.

When you look at business today, Devine said that there is a lot of subjectivity that creates blind spots where certain industry segments have their data segmented from their backend systems. Cognitive solutions need to help remove the blind spots, so all businesses can get rid of their subjectivity and get better insights from their data.

In the past, Devine said, data was like gold–only for the privileged few. Now, he said, data should be treated more like oil, where its value comes from its use, and it being leveraged to solve problems.

However, there is a unique skill set needed to accomplish this shift. According to Devine, IBM’s interest in the university system was to see how they could blend the engineering and computing skills needed for the cognitive future. Especially around IoT, which blends engineering and computer science in multiple ways.

Technologies like IoT, big data, and cognitive computing will also change the management structure of the data center, Devine said. It prompts the need for things like autonomous management, as there are billions of data points brought about from connected devices, and it scales beyond the capability of human managers.

All of these changes lead to one truth that may be scary for some in IT. According to Devine, IT leaders must become more comfortable with technology making decisions without human intervention.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. IBM’s cognitive prowess isn’t just for fun and games, it is being used heavily in the data center as well.
  2. IBM’s Mac Devine said that data centers are moving to “centers of data,” and we need more insights at the edge and in real time.
  3. IT leaders must be ready for technology to be making decisions without human intervention.

More from the 2016 Structure Conference