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Tonight PBS plans to air Season 38, Episode 6 of NOVA, titled [Smartest Machine On Earth]. Here is an excerpt from the station listing:
"What's so special about human intelligence and will scientists ever build a computer that rivals the flexibility and power of a human brain? In "Artificial Intelligence," NOVA takes viewers inside an IBM lab where a crack team has been working for nearly three years to perfect a machine that can answer any question. The scientists hope their machine will be able to beat expert contestants in one of the USA's most challenging TV quiz shows -- Jeopardy, which has entertained viewers for over four decades. "Artificial Intelligence" presents the exclusive inside story of how the IBM team developed the world's smartest computer from scratch. Now they're racing to finish it for a special Jeopardy airdate in February 2011. They've built an exact replica of the studio at its research lab near New York and invited past champions to compete against the machine, a big black box code -- named Watson after IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson. But will Watson be able to beat out its human competition?"
Craig Rhinehart offers [10 Things You Need to Know About the Technology Behind Watson].
An artist has come up with this clever [unofficial poster].
Like most supercomputers, Watson runs the Linux operating system. The system runs 2,880 cores (90 IBM Power 750 servers, four sockets each, eight cores per socket) to achieve 80 [TeraFlops]. TeraFlops is the unit of measure for supercomputers, representing a trillion floating point operations. By comparison, Hans Morvec, principal research scientist at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) estimates that the [human brain is about 100 TeraFlops]. So, in the three seconds that Watson gets to calculate its response, it would have processed 240 trillion operations.
Several readers of my blog have asked for details on the storage aspects of Watson. Basically, it is a modified version of IBM Scale-Out NAS [SONAS] that IBM offers commercially, but running Linux on POWER instead of Linux-x86. System p expansion drawers of SAS 15K RPM 450GB drives, 12 drives each, are dual-connected to two storage nodes, for a total of 21.6TB of raw disk capacity. The storage nodes use IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) to provide clustered NFS access to the rest of the system. Each Power 750 has minimal internal storage mostly to hold the Linux operating system and programs.
When Watson is booted up, the 15TB of total RAM are loaded up, and thereafter the DeepQA processing is all done from memory. According to IBM Research, "The actual size of the data (analyzed and indexed text, knowledge bases, etc.) used for candidate answer generation and evidence evaluation is under 1TB." For performance reasons, various subsets of the data are replicated in RAM on different functional groups of cluster nodes. The entire system is self-contained, Watson is NOT going to the internet searching for answers.
On ZDnet, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols welcomes our new [Linux Penguin Jeopardy overlords]. I have to say I share his enthusiasm!
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Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
IBM thought the week that everyone is watching IBM Watson compete against humans on Jeopardy! would be a good week to launch new storage products.
For more on this, see the [1Q2011 Storage Announcements page].
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Did IBM XIV force EMC's hand to announce VMAXe? Let's take a stroll down memory lane.
In 2008, IBM XIV showed the world that it could ship a Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class system using commodity parts. Technically, prior to its acquisition by IBM, the XIV team had boxes out in production since 2005. EMC incorrectly argued this announcement meant the death of the IBM DS8000. Just because EMC was unable to figure out how to have more than one high-end disk product, doesn't mean IBM or other storage vendors were equally challenged. Both IBM XIV and DS8000 are Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class storage systems, as are the IBM N series N7900 and the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS).
In April 2009, EMC followed IBM's lead with their own V-Max system, based on Symmetrix Engenuity code, but on commodity x86 processors. Nobody at EMC suggested that the V-Max meant the death of their other Symmetrix box, the DMX-4, which means that EMC proved to themselves that a storage vendor could offer multiple high-end disk systems. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) would later offer the VSP, which also includes some commodity hardware as well.
In July 2009, analysts at International Technology Group published their TCO findings that IBM XIV was 63 percent less expensive than EMC V-Max, in a whitepaper titled [COST/BENEFIT CASE FOR IBM XIV STORAGE SYSTEM Comparing Costs for IBM XIV and EMC V-Max Systems]. Not surprisingly, EMC cried foul, feeling that EMC V-Max had not yet been successful in the field, it was too soon to compare newly minted EMC gear with a mature product like XIV that had been in production accounts for several years. Big companies like to wait for "Generation 1" of any new product to mature a bit before they purchase.
To compete against IBM XIV's very low TCO, EMC was forced to either deeply discount their Symmetrix, or counter-offer with lower-cost CLARiiON, their midrange disk offering. An ex-EMCer that now works for IBM on the XIV sales team put it in EMC terms -- "the IBM XIV provides a Symmetrix-like product at CLARiiON-like prices."
(Note: Somewhere in 2010, EMC dropped the hyphen, changing the name from V-Max to VMAX. I didn't see this formally announced anywhere, but it seems that the new spelling is the officially correct usage. A common marketing rule is that you should only rename failed products, so perhaps dropping the hyphen was EMC's way of preventing people from searching older reviews of the V-Max product.)
This month, IBM introduced the IBM XIV Gen3 model 114. The analysts at ITG updated their analysis, as there are now more customers that have either or both products, to provide a more thorough comparison. Their latest whitepaper, titled [Cost/Benefit Case for IBM XIV Systems: Comparing Cost Structures for IBM XIV and EMC VMAX Systems], shows that IBM maintains its substantial cost savings advantage, representing 69 percent less Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than EMC, on average, over the course of three years.
In response, EMC announced its new VMAXe, following the naming convention EMC established for VNX and VNXe. Customers cannot upgrade VNXe to VNX, nor VMAXe to VMAX, so at least EMC was consistent in that regard. Like the IBM XIV and XIV Gen3, the new EMC VMAXe eliminated "unnecessary distractions" like CKD volumes and FICON attachment needed for the IBM z/OS operating system on IBM System z mainframes. Fellow blogger Barry Burke from EMC explains everything about the VMAXe in his blog post [a big thing in a small package].
So, you have to wonder, did IBM XIV force EMC's hand into offering this new VMAXe storage unit? Surely, EMC sales reps will continue to lead with the more profitable DMX-4 or VMAX, and then only offer the VMAXe when the prospective customer mentions that the IBM XIV Gen3 is 69 percent less expensive. I haven't seen any list or street prices for the VMAXe yet, but I suspect it is less expensive than VMAX, on a dollar-per-GB basis, so that EMC will not have to discount it as much to compete against IBM.
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Fellow master inventor and blogger Barry Whyte (IBM) recounts the past 20 years of history in IT storage from his perspective in a series of blog posts. They are certainly worth a read:
In his last post in this series, he mentions that the amazingly successful IBM SAN Volume Controller was part of a set of projects:
"IBM was looking for "new horizon" projects to fund at the time, and three such projects were proposed and created the "Storage Software Group". Those three projects became know externally as TPC, (TotalStorage Productivity Center), SanFS (SAN File System - oh how this was just 5 years too early) and SVC (SAN Volume Controller). The fact that two out of the three of them still exist today is actually pretty good. All of these products came out of research, and its a sad state of affairs when research teams are measured against the percentage of the projects they work on, versus those that turn into revenue generating streams."
But this raises the question: Was SAN File System just five years too early?
IBM classifies products into three "horizons"; Horizon-1 for well-established mature products, Horizon-2 was for recently launched products, and Horizon-3 was for emerging business opportunities (EBO). Since I had some involvement with these other projects, I thought I would help fill out some of this history from my perspective.
Back in 2000, IBM executive [Linda Sanford] was in charge of IBM storage business and presented that IBM Research was working on the concept of "Storage Tank" which would hold Petabytes of data accessible to mainframes and distributed servers.
In 2001, I was the lead architect of DFSMS for the IBM z/OS operating system for mainframes, and was asked to be lead architect for the new "Horizon 3" project to be called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center (TPC), which has since been renamed to IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
In 2002, I was asked to lead a team to port the "SANfs client" for SAN File System from Linux-x86 over to Linux on System z. How easy or difficult to port any code depends on how well it was written with the intent to be ported, and porting the "proof-of-concept" level code proved a bit too challenging for my team of relative new-hires. Once code written by research scientists is sufficiently complete to demonstrate proof of concept, it should be entirely discarded and written from scratch by professional software engineers that follow proper development and documentation procedures. We reminded management of this, and they decided not to make the necessary investment to add Linux on System z as a supported operating system for SAN file system.
In 2003, IBM launched Productivity Center, SAN File System and SAN Volume Controller. These would be lumped together with Horizon-1 product IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and the four products were promoted together as the inap
The SAN File System was the productized version of the "Storage Tank" research project. While the SAN Volume Controller used industry standard Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) to allow support of a variety of operating system clients, the SAN File System required an installed "client" that was only available initially on AIX and Linux-x86. In keeping with the "open" concept, an "open source reference client" was made available so that the folks at Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft could port this over to their respective HP-UX, Solaris and Windows operating systems. Not surprisingly, none were willing to voluntarily add yet another file system to their testing efforts.
Barry argues that SANfs was five years ahead of its time. SAN File System tried to bring policy-based management for information, which has been part of DFSMS for z/OS since the 1980s, over to distributed operating systems. The problem is that mainframe people who understand and appreciate the benefits of policy-based management already had it, and non-mainframe couldn't understand the benefits of something they have managed to survive without.
(Every time I see VMware presented as a new or clever idea, I have to remind people that this x86-based hypervisor basically implements the mainframe concept of server virtualization introduced by IBM in the 1970s. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, and supports other server virtualization solutions including Linux KVM, Xen, Hyper-V and PowerVM.)
To address the various concerns about SAN File System, the proof-of-concept code from IBM Research was withdrawn from marketing, and new fresh code implementing these concepts were integrated into IBM's existing General Parallel File System (GPFS). This software would then be packaged with a server hardware cluster, exporting global file spaces with broad operating system reach. Initially offered as IBM Scale-out File Services (SoFS) service offering, this was later re-packaged as an appliance, the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) product, and as IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud (SBSC) cloud storage offering. These now offer clustered NAS storage using the industry standard NFS and CIFS clients that nearly all operating systems already have.
Today, these former Horizon-1 products are now Horizon-2 and Horizon-3. They have evolved. Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, GPFS and SAN Volume Controller are all market leaders in their respective areas.
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Every year, I teach hundreds of sellers how to sell IBM storage products. I have been doing this since the late 1990s, and it is one task that has carried forward from one job to another as I transitioned through various roles from development, to marketing, to consulting.
As you can see from this photo, Taipei is a large city with just row after row of buildings. The metropolitan area has about seven million people, and I saw lots of construction for more on my ride in from the airport.
The student body consists of IBM Business Partners and field sales reps eager to learn how to become better sellers. Typically, some of the students might have just been hired on, just finished IBM Sales School, a few might have transferred from selling other product lines, while others are established storage sellers looking for a refresher on the latest solutions and technologies.
I am part of the teach team comprised of seven instructors from different countries. Here is what the week entails for me:
These are the solution areas I present most often as a consultant at the IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson, so I can provide real-life stories of different client situations to help illustrate my examples.
To learn more about a Top Gun class in your area, see the [Top Gun class schedule].
The weather here in Taipei calls for rain every day! I was able to take this photo on Sunday morning while it was still nice and clear, but later in the afternoon, we had quite the downpour. I am glad I brought my raincoat!
technorati tags: IBM, Sales Training, Top Gun, Taipei, Taiwan, NAS, SONAS, disk, virtualization, unified+storage, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, Storwize V7000, Storwize V7000 Unified, Infrastructure Management, Tivoli Storage, Productivity Center, TPC, Unified Recovery Management, TSM, FlashCopy, FCM