IBM has assumed the role in Ottawa once held by Nortel, becoming the city's largest private-sector employer with 4,000 workers.

Ottawa is a key research centre for the global technology leader, plus senior management in the business analytics division is based here. And it's growing: IBM's staff here has swelled about 40% in 15 months. Consolidation of office space into three locations is now underway.

IBM has acquired six Ottawa companies, the biggest a $5-billion takeover of the former Cognos three years ago. At the time IBM said it would double Cognos sales to $2 billion by 2010. IBM won't reveal exact sales numbers but the analytics division increased sales last quarter by 19% to $7 billion.

Rob Ashe former Cognos CEO was in line for $40 million in bonuses if Cognos hit unnamed targets.

"IBM is betting big on analytics and projects sales in the global division to hit $16 billion by 2015," says Rob White, director of Ottawa's IBM labs - the company's fifth-largest software research lab.

"A majority of analytics software R&D is done in Ottawa," says White. "The team touches on more than 30 software products" Last year IBM pumped $6 billion into R&D.

IBM promotes flexible work conditions and many employees work from home, though like another tech giant, Cisco, IBM staff performance is constantly reviewed and each year those at the bottom of the ratings chart are let go, keeping a heavy pressure on staff to deliver.

As for the future, White says: "We don't predict the future, though our software helps our clients predict future trends."

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