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Big Data Bug Bites GE

It's calling Big Data the “next frontier” and promising untold riches to those who unlock its secrets

General Electric must have gotten the memo from McKinsey's research arm calling Big Data the "next frontier" and promising untold riches to those who unlock its secrets.

The company is going to pour a reported billion dollars over the next three years into a new global software headquarters that it's moving into San Ramone in San Francisco's East Bay where it will build the "Industrial Internet," a sub-category of the Internet of Things and create intelligent connect systems to harness Big Data.

It means to hire 400 more software architects, engineers, biz dev and user experience people, presumably folks who don't want to cross the bridge to Silicon Valley proper.

The center will be run by former Cisco VP Bill Ruh who joined GE in February as global technology director. He and his team will "connect and align" GE's existing ~5,000 software engineers developing widgetry for GE customers.

Ruh said in a canned statement that the goal "is to develop a new generation of intelligent systems that can predict and respond to changes. These digital offerings will harness and automatically analyze the petabytes of data that are generated by industrial equipment to help our customers get the most value from their assets. All of this activity will occur on the "Industrial Internet," a living network of intelligent machines and systems."

Ruh said, "At the San Ramon center, our architects and engineers will collaborate with our global experts from multiple industries to combine our decades of experience with infrastructure equipment and marry them with software solutions. We believe that our expertise across many industries will allow us and our customers to accelerate digital innovation and deliver unprecedented results."

GE CTO Mark Little imagines. "On any given day, one of our software experts could be working on a clean energy project, while at the same time contributing to a program that improves the delivery of health care." Evidently the techniques are the same.

GE can already monitor the health of locomotives on the rails and patients in hospitals. Now it wants to suck out the data and analyze it. In this GE might have to compete with such companies as IBM but GE presumably knows its own jet engines, wind turbines and refrigerators best. GE aims to elbow its way to the front of the line and presumably it will sell more of its wares in the process.

Design work on the new center is underway with construction starting later this year. Employees will begin moving in around the middle of next year.

GE has opened two large software operations over the past two years, an Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center near Detroit that employs nearly 1,000 GE IT folk who develop software for GE's internal operations and an Information Security Technology Center near Richmond, Virginia.

The company already sells upwards of $2.5 billion a year in software, representing about 1% of its total sales.

Wednesday it said it would buy rail management software house RMI on undisclosed terms.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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