Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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Continuing this week's theme on Cloud Computing, Dynamic Infrastructure and Data Center Networking, IBM unveiled details of an advanced computing system that will be able to compete with humans on Jeopardy!, America’s favorite quiz television show. Additionally, officials from Jeopardy! announced plans to produce a human vs. machine competition on the renowned show.
For nearly two years, IBM scientists have been working on a highly advanced Question Answering (QA) system, codenamed "Watson" after IBM's first president, [Thomas J. Watson]. The scientists believe that the computing system will be able to understand complex questions and answer with enough precision and speed to compete on Jeopardy!Produced by Sony Pictures Television, the trivia questions on Jeopardy! cover a broad range of topics, such as history, literature, politics, film, pop culture, and science. It poses a grand challenge for a computing system due to the variety of subject matter, the speed at which contestants must provide accurate responses, and because the clues given to contestants involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities at which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. Watson will incorporate massively parallel analytical capabilities and, just like human competitors, Watson will not be connected to the Internet or have any other outside assistance.
If this all sounds familiar, you might remember some of the events that have led up to this:
In 1984, the movie ["The Terminator"] introduced the concept of [Skynet], a fictional computer system developed by the militarythat becomes self-aware from its advanced artificial intelligence.
In 1997, an IBM computer called Deep Blue defeated World Chess Champion [Garry Kasparov] in a famous battle of human versus machine. To compete at chess, IBM built an extremely fast computer that could calculate 200 million chess moves per second based on a fixed problem. IBM’s Watson system, on the other hand, is seeking to solve an open-ended problem that requires an entirely new approach – mainly through dynamic, intelligent software – to even come close to competing with the human mind. Despite their massive computational capabilities, today’s computers cannot consistently analyze and comprehend sentences, much less understand cryptic clues and find answers in the same way the human brain can.
In 2005, Ray Kurzweil wrote [The Singularity is Near] referring to the wonders that artificial intelligence will bring to humanity.
The research underlying Watson is expected to elevate computer intelligence and human-to-computer communication to unprecedented levels. IBM intends to apply the unique technological capabilities being developed for Watson to help clients across a wide variety of industries answer business questions quickly and accurately.
It's Tuesday, which means IBM announcements, and today IBM made some major announcementsthat support a [Dynamic Infrastructure]! I hinted at this yesterday, choosing the week's theme to be all about Cloud Computing and Alternative Sourcing. I will briefly highlight today's announcements related to storage here, and try to go into more detail over the next few weeks.
Ethernet switches and routers
In support of Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage, IBM is now back in theEthernet networking business. This is part of storage as protocols likeiSCSI, CIFS and NFS are gaining prominence. Extending IBM's existing OEMrelationship with Brocade, there are four series:
[c-series] - "c" for Compact, these are 1U high fixed port switches
[g-series] - "g" for Pay-as-you-Grow using IronStack stacking technology to allow up to 8 switches to be glommed, glued, er.. "gathered" together as a single virtual chassis.
[m-series] - "m" for Multiprotocol Label Switching [MPLS] which supports routing between LAN and WAN networks over OC12 and OC48 lines.
[s-series] - "s" for slots, the B08S has eight slots, and the B16S has sixteen slots, supporting up to 384 ports. These models support Power-over-Ethernet [PoE] that simplifies attaching Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephones and IP-based surveillance cameras.
IBM announced it will strengthen its partnership with Juniper Networks, and continues to consider Cisco a strategic partner as well. To help customer position themselves for Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage,IBM also launches some new services:
The IBM [DS5000] now supports self-encrypting disk drives, known also as "full-disk encryption" or FDE, for added security, and 8Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) ports for added performance. The DS5300 model in particular now supports up to 448 disk drives for added scalability.
Comprehensive Data Protection Solution
IBM's [Data Protection Solution] shows off IBM's awesome synergy between servers, storage and software. Combining System x servers, Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack software, and DS5000, DS4000 or DS3000 series disk systems. The solution is designed to both Windows-based servers and their applications, offering bare metal restores, and application–level protection for Oracle, SQL, Exchange and SAP.
Tivoli Storage Productivity Center
Last February, IBM previewed the renaming of TotalStorage Productivity Center to its new name,Tivoli Storage Productivity Center. Today, IBM announces [Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v4.1]. Some key changes include:
Productivity Center for Fabric has been merged into Productivity Center for Disk
Productivity Center for Replication is now integrated, but remains separately licensed
Productivity Center can now feed input to IBM's Novus Storage Enterprise Resource Planner [SERP]
TS7650 ProtecTIER Data Deduplication IP-based replication
IBM previews IP-based replication which allows the TS7650 appliance or TS7650G gateway to sendvirtual tape data over to a remote location. This is instead of having the underlying disk systemsperform the replication on its behalf. Having the TS7650 do the replication is preferred, as itcan maintain virtual cartridge integrity, when a virtual tape is unmounted the replication can beginat that point.
This week's theme is alternative sourcing through Cloud Computing.
I thoughtI would start off the week interviewing an owner at a Small or Medium-sized Business [SMB] that recently adopted this approach.
Meet Fred, one of the new co-owners of my singles activities club, TucsonFun and Adventures, known affectionately as [TFA]. TFA recentlyadopted a new "Software-as-a-Service" [SaaS] for the company's Web site.
While the experience is still fresh in his mind, I thought this would be a goodopportunity to illustrate some of the concepts of alternative sourcing through Cloud Computing byusing a local example.
Give me some background on the company. How long has it been around? How many employees?
TFA has been in business since 1997, and has six employees, including an office manager, event planners and event coordinators.
How critical is "Web presence" to the business?
It's very important in several ways.First, the TFA staff plans 25 events per month, and our hundreds of members register for these events mostly through the Web site. Second, we have it connected to our bank accounts, so that it can process credit cards to collect the funds for renewals and event registrations.Third, it serves as a way to communicate upcoming events to our members, especially trips, so they can save the date on their own calendars. And fourth, the Web site serves as a "landing page"for all of our radio spots, newspaper ads, and other marketing efforts.
TFA had a Web site before, and now you have helped launch this new Web site. What motivated this change?
Our members were complaining about our 1999-era Web site. The pages were written in HTML, ASP (Active Service Page) and SQL (Structured Query Language) connected to a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 database. It was mostly text-based, with the only animation being text scrolling horizontally across the screen. The Web hostingprovider offered reliable access, but was located in New York state on East Coast time. If a member signed up for an event after 9pm or 10pm here in Tucson, it was marked as the next date, which could change the price of the event, or indicate the deadline was missed.If there were any changes to the pages or logic needed, or new columns required in the database, it gotexpensive. The TFA employees don't know how to program in ASP or SQL, so we hadto hire outside professionals each time.
Does this new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Web site address these problems you were trying to solve?
Yes. The new Web site is hosted by [Memberize] which provides a hosted membership management application. The TFA staff can nowmanage its membership, plan events, and communicate them with graphics, videos,and links to maps. They don't need to know ASP or SQL programming, because a built-in[WYSIWYG] editor is simple enough for anyone with standard word-processing skills. The database allowed the optionto add customized fields for each member we have in our club.
Was it difficult to switch over?
Not at all. Memberize gave us a 60-day free trial, and we needed all that time totransfer over our membership records, customize the style of the overall templatefor all pages, and then copy over the content from our old Web site. Wehad to transfer over our e-commerce service over, and contact GoDaddy to transfer the domain. The employee training required was fairly minimal.Cost-wise, it was only a few hundred dollars one-time setup fee, and then we pay a monthly fee,based on a tiered pricing structure based on the count of our active members.
How has the reaction been from your membership?
I've gotten a lot of positive feedback. The learning curve was minimal. Ourmembers found the new Web site intuitive and interactive. For example, thecalendar of events can be shown in a single month-at-a-glance format, with greendots showing the events you are signed up for.
And from your perspective, Fred, is the new Web site easy to administer?
Yes, I can now easily generate standard reports, and create my own ad-hoc reports as needed. This wasn't possible with the old system unless I hired an ASP programmer.
Hopefully, this provides some insight on how even the smallest SMB enterprises can adopt a Dynamic Infrastructure through alternative sourcing. Cloud Computing takes many forms, including Software-as-a-Service managed offerings.
A fat boss and his thin female employee stand at the shore.
"Ms. Benakis, I don't want to forget the emotion of the vastness of the ocean. Draft amemo regarding this for me to sign next Monday."
-- "Yes, Mr. Morton"
"And date it as today."
-- "Yes, Mr. Morton"
On the flight home, I met Chris, a software engineer working for a small 60-person outsourcing firm in Costa Rica. He was from Vancouver, Canada but now lives in Costa Rica to avoid dealing with snow. He flies back to Canada several times per year to visit his friends and family.The irony is not lost on me that most of the tourists I met this week flew hundreds or thousands of miles to get here. The Freakonomics blog post [Did Celebrating Earth Day Make You Pollute More?] points to David Disalvo's article [Riding the Self-Regulation See Saw] and Ryan Sager'sarticle [The Al Gore’s Giant Fraggin’ Mansion Effect]. Both of these analyze environmentally moral behaviour.
The real question is whether the Earth Day lessons we learned this week from Costa Rica can apply to countries like the United States that aren't entirely focused on agriculture and tourism. Perhaps so, as Costa Rica is also home of a large [Intel plant in Heredia] that also providesa significant portion of Costa Rica's GDP.
Alternative sources of energy, including geo-thermal and hydro-electric, can provide a majorityof needs of a country. Advances in technology to take advantage of these can be carried over to other countries.
Separating our recyclables, and other efforts, are not just unique to Costa Rica. The best practices developed here can be passed on to other countries as well.
As Costa Rica experiments with green incentives to help modify human behaviour, the ones thatseem most effective can be borrowed and re-used in other locations.
Hopefully, we've all learned something this week, and perhaps can act to reduce our energy consumption and environmental impact, throughout the year, not just on Earth Day. Let's strive to make this a Smarter Planet!
Continuing this week's theme on Earth Day, I am in San José, the capital of Costa Rica.
Despite all the talk I heard about how great Costa Rica was, ranked 5th in the world as one of thegreenest countries, I had a hard time breathing the air in San José.Here's a picture I took from my hotel in Escazú, which overlooks the city.
I have been to the [Top 5 smogiest cities in the world] --Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Cairo, New Dehli, and Shanghai-- and can say that San Jose,Costa Rica is nowhere near as bad as any of those, and more on par with cities in the United States, like Pittsburgh or Los Angeles.
Having a single government official in charge of both energy and environment means they can set pricesand provide incentives in one to benefit the other. Here are two examples:
Only 5 percent of the energy consumption of this county comes from oil. Despite having their own oilrepositories off-shore, the Costa Ricans have decided not to drill and ruin their pristine shoreline,but rather import from foreign sources.Gasoline prices are set high to include some of the environmental costs, about four dollars per gallon(800 Costa Rican Colones per liter). Cars can be converted to run on less expensive Propane orsugar cane Ethanol, but the conversions are cost-prohibitive for many.
Did it help? No, Traffic was like a parking lot. Part of this was the result of the main highway beingunder construction, forcing many people to take side streets.
Electricity is 13 US cents per KWh. My hotel in Escazu wanted an extra $8.50 US dollars per day to run theAir Conditioner. By comparison, my house in Tucson, Arizona is 1167 square feet, roughly five to six times the size of my hotel room, and my electricity bill is a flat 27 US dollars per month year round.
Did it help? No, most tourists just pay the extra cost. I tried one day with A/C, and the second day without, for scientific comparison, and decided to go without the rest of the time I was there. Perhaps being from Tucson, Arizona I can tolerate the 85-degree heat better than others.
So if incentives to conserve like high prices don't work, what will? I interviewed Alexandra,a local 24-year-old studying law at a nearby college:
Once you get your law degree, will you move to another country, such as the United States? --There are already too many lawyers in your country.
What about Japan or Asia, there is a shortage of lawyers there?-- No, I plan to stay here in my country. Costa Rica is beautiful, my friends and family are here, why would I leave?
So why do you think the incentives don't work to help people conserve gasoline and electricity? --People have to earn a living, and are focused on getting things done. If it can be done in a way that helps the environment, great, but otherwise life continues.
So will you specialize in "environmental" law? -- Not sure yet. Too early to say. Costa Rica is certainly leading the world in environmental protection, and much of this is through laws and tax schemes.
High prices don't serve well as incentives to reduce consumption, but perhaps national pride and working in an industry like agriculture or eco-tourism might.