Wrapping up my week's theme on "Innovation that matters", I would explore how sometimes innovations are inspired by thinking differently in solving problems, and observing howothers solve similar problems in other domains.
Take for example this little Shell Oil[RealEnergy "Eureka"] video webisode. It's about eight minutes long, and helps explain a recent innovation Shellmade to help extract oil from awkward locations. Look for how the engineer was inspired by observing something his son did, that he in turn applied to innovatively solve this challenging problem.
Thinking differently has helped IBM innovate as well. Today, IBM announced it has shippped its 10,000th Storage Virtualization Engine, which coincidentally happens to correspond with today's GA date of SVC 4.2.1 release. From the [IBM Press Release]:
"IBM has been delivering virtualization capabilities for more than 40 years and today we unveil a milestone in the area of data storage virtualization with the shipment of 10,000 storage virtualization engines -- a fact no other storage company in the world can claim," said Kelly Beavers, Director, Storage Software, IBM. "By working across multiple platforms, IBM's storage virtualization helps to lower energy costs and unlocks the proprietary hold that other storage vendors have had on customers for years -- which IBM believes makes storage virtualization the killer application in the storage industry over the next decade."
SVC helps improve flexibility and responsiveness of IT infrastructures, such as creating a single virtual pool of information across the enterprise, enabling IT departments to respond more quickly to business needs and manage resources more flexibly. Benefits including increased resiliency, better application availability, simplified data migrations, and improved resource utilization can all be achieved through storage virtualization and these benefits are increased further when SVC is coupled with server virtualization such as through IBM System p LPARs and VMware ESX Server.
IBM's storage virtualization helps to unlock the proprietary hold that vendors such as EMC, HP and Hitachi have had on customers for years. With IBM SVC, customers can choose any combination of supported EMC, IBM, HP, Hitachi or other devices, virtualize them, and manage and deploy them easily and with greater flexibility and independence than ever before.
You can also read this[MarketWire] article.
I've posted before on IBM's [history of storage virtualization], but there are still a few folks not convinced.Dr. Kevin McIsaac has an article on ComputerWorld[Vendor Claims on Storage Virtualization] that warns against vendor hype. Dr. McIsaac feels"network-based storage virtualization results in a lowest common denominator view of the infrastructure, eliminating the value-added features of the array." This is really not a "network" issue, as this applies equally to Hitachi's USP-V directly cabled to external storage, no network required.IBM BarryW gives his take [Lowest Vendor Neutral Denominator] on his blog.
The concern that adding SVC (or USP-V) in front of other disk arrays adds complexity or eliminates the value-added features of older technologies, can be addressed simply by observing how similar problems were solved by the automobile industry.
- In 1911, the automobile industry introduced the "electric starter", eliminating the value-added features of the "hand crank".Instead of standing in front of the vehicle turning a hand crank over and over until the engine started, the driversat inside the vehicle and turned a small key or pressed a button, and let the "electric starter" do it. Yes, this meant thatcars were more complicated by adding a battery and electric system, but it also made cars easier to start and drive. Despite manufacturers arguing why their hand cranks were better than the hand cranks of other manufacturers, automobile models with hand cranks disappeared by 1920.
- In 1934, the automobile industry introduced the "automatic transmission" eliminating the value-added featuresof the "stick shift" and "clutch pedal". Before, people had to know when to shift gears manually, depending ontheir speed, engine RPM, and steepness of the hill they are driving on, pressing the clutch pedal at the same time, requiring skilled hand-foot coordination. Yes, cars weremore complicated with more equipment under the hood, but it made them easier and safer to drive, with one less thing to distract the driver. Surprisingly cars with automatic transmissions can be more energy-efficient, employing best practices when to automatically shift gears to optimize fuel economy.
While you can still purchase automobiles with manual transmission, the newer hybrids and electric vehiclesnearly universally all have automatic transmission. Not everyone is skilled enough to drive a car with manual transmission, something to consider when you decide which car to take on a cross-country road trip if you want to share the driving responsibilities with the rest of your group.Not surprisingly, rental car companies like Hertz offer primarily cars with automatic transmission, both forincreased safety, and to broaden the reach to all driving skill levels.
- In 1946, the automobile industry introduced "power windows", eliminating the value-added features of the window-crankon each door to roll the window up or down. Now you just press or pull a lever or button, until the window reaches the desired position. Yes, this means that cars are yet again more complicated,with little motors inside each door panel, but it made them easier to use, with the added safety option to lock out children from rolling down the back windows.
Some people actually choose manual windowsout of fear of driving their car into a lake or river, assuming a window-crank may make the difference in escaping the vehicle. It is these kinds of highly-unlikely scenarios that cause people to make bad purchase decisions. A betterapproach is to learn how to [escape from a sinking vehicle] properly, and keep the right "window-breaking" tools on hand. I keep a hammer for this purpose, and while you might think that Tucson has norivers or lakes to worry about, we do have flash floods, and I'll take knowledge-plus-hammer over window-crank any day.
So, when a company or industry innovates a new way of doing something, changing the way people think about the problem, it might take a while to take effect. SVC has been well-received in the marketplace, with thousands of delighted clients in production.
technorati tags: Shell, Oil, Eureka, video, webisode, IBM, storage, virtualization, engine, SVC, Kelly Beavers, EMC, HP, Hitachi, HDS, Kevin McIsaac, ComputerWorld, network-based, USP, USP-V, Hu Yoshida, BarryW, automobile, industry, electric starter, automatic transmission, power windows, escape, sinking, car, Tucson
Continuing this week's theme of "Innovation that Matters", today I'll discuss cell phones, and their rolein "cloud computing". Some people call these "cellular phones", "mobile phones" or "hand phones".I have posted about these topics before. Last January, I discussed the[Convergence
]represented by Apple's iPhone, and in August, I talked about[Accessing Data in the Clouds
], but some recent announcements bring this back up as a fresh topic.
With the [end of the PC era] upon us,IBM researchers John J. Barton, Shumin Zhai, and Steve B. Cousins from the Almaden Research Center wrote aresearch paper [Mobile Phones Will Become The Primary Personal Computing Devices], and USA Today reports that [Social networkers reach out more with cellphones]. Of course, telephones, including those attached to land lines, have always been used for social networking since the late 1800s, to arrange parties, reunions, and other get-togethers, but this article is referring to the new "Web 2.0" meaning of social networking, with services like Facebook, Flickr, MySpace and Twitter.
This is a major game-changer, forcing companies to rethink many of their strategies. For example,John Windsor, on The YouBlog asks the CBS Interactive division[What Business Are You In?]The answer is that CBS is shifting from a content focus, to an audience focus, looking to provide CBS television contentto an audience of cell phone users.ThinkBeta [Me, My Cell Phone and I] presents some interesting statistics. Google CEO Eric Schmidt estimates there are over 2.5 billion cell phones in use today, with 288 million units shipped alone in 3Q07.
That's quite a trend. As a leader in IT innovation, IBM tries to stay one step ahead of the industry, selling off mature technologies to other manufacturers, like typewriters, printers, and most recently laptops and desktop PCs, so that it can focus on newer technologies and market trends. For example, while many people might be aware that IBM designs and fabricates processor chips for all of the major game consoles (Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nitentendo's Wii, and Sony'sPlay Station 3), they might not know that IBM also makes chips for many cell phone manufacturers. IBM[POWER Architecture] blog writes about the IBM CMOS 7RF SOI semiconductor:
IBM has managed to integrate seven Radio Frequency (RF) front-end functions onto this single CMOS chip using silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology. And this means? For cell phones, according to IBM foundry product director Ken Torino, "Our solution minimizes insertion loss and maximizes isolation which will prevent dropped calls even on the most inexpensive handsets." Currently, cell phone RF front-end functions are handled by five to seven chips and at least two of those are using expensive gallium arsenide (GaA) technologies. The CMOS 7RF SOI should not only reduce costs by eliminating the need for so many chips, but also trim the fat from materials expenditures since GaA tech is somewhat expensive. IBM predicts that manufacturers will first use the chip to reduce on-phone processors to two or three before making the leap to a single chip.
With all this demand, the world will need engineers to develop softwareapplications that work in this new environment. This plays into IBM's strength in the area of grid and supercomputing.IBM and Google announced they have jointly established an Internet-scale computing initiative to promote new software development methods that can help students and researchers address the challenges of Internet-scale applications. From[IBM Internet-scale computing] webpage:
Internet use and content has grown dramatically, fueled by global reach, mobile device access, and user-generated Web content, including large audio and video files. More of the world population is looking to the mobile Web to fulfill basic economic needs. To meet this challenge, Web developers need to adopt new methods to address significant applications such as search, social networking, collaborative innovation, virtual worlds and mobile commerce.
The University of Washington is the first to join the initiative. A small number of universities will also pilot the program, including Carnegie-Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Maryland. In the future, the program will be expanded to include additional researchers, educators and scientists.
The heart of the project is a large cluster of several hundred computers (a combination of Google and IBM systems) that is planned to grow to more than 1,600 processors. Students will access the cluster through the Internet to test their parallel programming projects. The cluster is powered with open source software, including:
The project includes a Web site to encourage collaboration among universities in the program, built with Web 2.0 technologies from the [IBM Innovation Factory].
For more viewpoints on this, read the [Google Press Release],or the reviews at [PC World,Cnet,GridsWatch,BBC News, eWeek,IT Jungle].
technorati tags: cellphones, cell, cellular, mobile, hand, phones, iPhone, cloud computing, end of PC era, John Barton, Shumin Zhai, Steve Cousins, IBM, Almaden, Research Center, primary, personal, computing, device, Web 2.0, CBS, Interactive, Google, Eric Schmidt, Microsoft, Xbox+360, Nintendo, Wii, Sony, PlayStation, PS3, CMOS, 7RF, SOI, GaA, Internet-scale, computing, CMU, MIT, Linux, Fedora, Xen, XenSource, Apache, Hadoop, MapReduce, Eclipse, parallel programming, Innovation, factory, PCworld, Cnet, GridsWatch, BBC, eWeek, ITjungle
Continuing my week's theme on Innovations that matter, I thought I would tackle energy efficiency and the recent excitement over the Smart car.
USA Today had an article [America crazy about breadbox on wheels called Smart car]. This car weighs only 2400 pounds, gets a respectable 33 MPG City,and 40 MPG Highway, with a list price of $11,590 US dollars. These have been in Europe for some time now.The "Smart" name comes from combining the S from Swatch, the M from Mercedes and ART. The car was designed byNicholas Hayek, founder of the SWATCH wristwatch line, and manufactured by Daimler, who also makes Mercedes cars.
We have many communities here in Tucson that people drive street-legal golf carts. People don't realize but bothelectric and electric/gas hybrid golf carts have been around for a long time. Some of the nicer golf carts run forabout $7,000 US dollars, with a shelf on the back that can hold two sets of golf clubs, or groceries.Of course, you would never take a golf cart on the highway, so that is where the Smart car comes in, with a 10gallon tank, could easily get you from one major city to another.
Like golf carts, the Smart-for-Two model being sold in the US will hold only two people, which is perfect for manyAmerican families. The standard 4-person or 5-person sedan is too big for most DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids), and other families with kids often opt for the 7-person SUV instead.
It is good to see that energy consumption is finally getting the attention it deserves. IBM recently announced some exciting offerings to help data centers manage their energy consumption:
- IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager V3.1 [AEM]:
A new, key component of IBM's [Cool Blue portfolio] offering, AEM helps clients manage and even potentially lower energy costs. According to Gartner, insufficient power and excessive heat remain the greatest challenges in the data center. With AEM, IT managers can understand exact power/cooling costs, manage the efficiency of the current environment and reduce energy costs. AEM is the only energy management software tool that can provide clients with a single view of the actual power usage across multiple IBM platforms, including x86, blades, Power and storage systems, with plans to extend support to the mainframe.
- IBM Usage and Accounting Manager Virtualization Edition V7.1 [UAV]for System p and System x:
UAV gives IT managers more information to manage data center costs. These powerful usage management tools are designed to accurately measure, analyze, and report resource utilization of virtualized/consolidated/shared resources. With UAV, IT managers can better manage costs and justify new systems by determining who is using how much of which resource; assessing the cost of an IT service or application; and accurately charging each user or department. Working with AEM capabilities, it will also allow tracking of energy consumption costs by server and by user. This level of reporting eliminates a key inhibitor to the adoption of virtualization and consolidation and further differentiates IBM systems.
- IBM Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager[UAM]:
This solution -- ideal for heterogenous IT shops -- serves as an accurate measurement tool underlying billing processes and SLA compliance. UAM provides usage-based accounting and charging for virtually any IT resources across the enterprise -- ranging from mainframes to virtualized servers to storage networks and more. The Usage and Accounting Manager Virtualization offerings seamlessly integrate into it.
Whether you are trying to reduce energy consumption in your data center, or in your transportation around town, these innovations can help you stay "green".
technorati tags: Smart Car, USAToday, golf cart, street legal, hybrid, MPG, green, energy, IBM Systems, Director, AEM, UAV, UAM, TUAM, SLA, management, virtualization, DINKS, SUV
Continuing my theme of "Innovation that matters", I thought I would cover MapQuest and NeverLost.
When Shawn Callahan on Anecdote wrote[Our need for the knowledge worker is over], he was referring to the fact that we no longer need the term "knowledge worker", because practically everyone isa "knowledge worker" today. He asks "How does knowledge help us to work better?"
It is said that as much as 30 percent of a knowledge worker's time is spent looking for information to do their jobs. This could be information to make a decision, decide between several choices, take specific action, or schedule when these actions should take place. The logistics of planning a business trip, and actually navigating in unfamiliarsurroundings, is a good example of this, and presents some unique challenges.
- Before these technologies
Before these technologies, to plan a trip involved finding someone who lives or has been to the destination city,can recommend hotels and restaurants near the meeting facility, and can suggest approximate times it would take to drive from one place to another. I would bring a compass, and would shop for a city map, either before leaving, or upon arrival.
On one trip to Raleigh, I asked a local IBMer who lived in Raleigh for a hotel recommendation. The hotel was nice,but involved a long 45-60 minute commute each day to the meeting facility. When I asked her why she suggested thatparticular hotel, she said it was because it was "close to the airport". I have since learned never to ask for "best" of anything, as this is subject to such interpretation.
On another trip, I was travelling with a colleague in Germany. He asked how I knew which bus to take, and which bus stop to wait at. I pulled out my compass, and told him that based on the schedule, the bus that went in a specific directionmust be the correct one. The entire bus load of people burst out laughing, that we fit the universal stereotype ofmen who refuse to ask for directions. This method works only in Germany, where timeliness is next to godliness. In other countries, time schedules are more of a suggestion.
Sometimes, maps of the destination city were not always easy to find. Now with the Internet and Google Earth, maps are available before leaving on the trip. (See my post on Inner Workings of Storage which discusses how Google Earth works.)
I like using MapQuest, available online at [mapquest.com], and have not yet looked into the similar systems from Google or Yahoo. I map out each leg of my trip that involves driving, walking or trains. These are oftenairport-to-hotel, hotel-to-meeting, meeting-to-airport. Having a feel for the time and distances between locationshelps choose hotels and restaurants, when to leave, and so on.
I even use MapQuest in Tucson. Recently, a route I generated to visit a friend across town took into accountconstruction on Highway I-10 that has been going on for a while, where 8 miles of on-ramps are closed, and routed me around this mess accordingly. This is one key advantage over a static map, either a paper map, or downloaded from Google Earth.
While MapQuest may not always choose the "best" route, it always finds "a route" that works, and generally works for me.
For other reviews of MapQuest, see [Cartography, Cnet's Troy Dreier,EZ Driving, and Misha on HubPages].
A few problems with a MapQuest print-out I have found are:
- It is on paper, which could impact driving, as I have to look away from the road to look at the instructions.
- If it can't find a specific address, it provides generic instructions, and often, this involves airports.
- It often starts with "Head Northeast...", so unless you brought your compass, or can tell what direction you are pointing from Sun, Moon or stars, you may end up leaving in the wrong direction.
Recently, I checkmarked the "Request NeverLost" box on my Hertz Gold profile, and now I seem to get NeverLost innearly every rental. The system is based on the[Global Positioning System] set of satellites,complemented by a CD-based street information and yellow pages data for US and Canada, stored in the trunk.
The NeverLost system knows which way the car is oriented, can tell which direction you are driving, and tell youwith voice prompts to be in the left lane, right lane, and when to make left and right turns. No need for a compassor any knowledge of which way is North, East, West or South.
I also like that it gives you three choices for route: (a) Shortest time, (b) Most use of Highways, and (c) Least use of Highways. This came in handy when I was in Toronto last week. Apparently, the 407 Highway had recently implementedan Electronic Toll Road (ETR) which bills based on license plate. While this system is fine for residents, it isnot designed for rental car companies. Hertz left a note in my car warning me NOT to use the 407 highway, or I wouldbe charged an $8.50 dollar penalty. I chose "Least use of Highways" and proceeded to tour the city of Toronto for90 minutes from the Pearson Airport to my hotel in Markham, a trip that would have only taken 20 minutes otherwise.
Once you enter your destination street address, it can estimate the distance to get there. This is not a quick process, as there is no keyboard, you have to enter each letter using up/down/left/right keys. You can enter thename of the street, hotel or restaurant. To find "Sal Grosso" restaurant in Smyrna, it was at 1927 Powers Ferry Road,but NeverLost said that Powers Ferry only went from 2750-6350. I had to select 2750 and then hope to be close enough.
In Dallas, I tried to find "P. F. Chang's" restaurant, and you have to make sure that the periods and spaces are entered exactly. I ended up looking for restaurants in Grapevine, Texas, and then just going through the list ofall that start with the letter "P".
Another issue is that sometimes it takes awhile to find the satelites in the sky. I get the car started, I hit theenter button to get the NeverLost started, enter the address, and then it starts looking for satellites? Why doesn'tit look for satellites while you spend 3-5 minutes trying to enter the street address?In my case, I take out my MapQuest print-out, head in the right direction, and hope that NeverLost catches upeventually, in time to help me get to the final location.
It is not clear how often Hertz updates the CDrom that contains the street and yellow pages data. About 30-40 percent of the time, it can't find the street address I am looking for, and I have to be creative on howto get me in the general area.
Part of the problems is that I have not read the entire instruction manual, and do not have time to learn itwhen I am in the car driving. I might have to put this on my reading to-do list before my next trip. Some ofmy other colleagues have purchased their own GPS-based systems, like those from Garmin or Magellan, so that theyalways have it available, and they always know how to use it. This has the advantage that you can use it when walking around, or in your own car when you are home, as well.
See the [Official Hertz NeverLost website] for more information.or here for other reviews from[James Martin, and [Thom Hogan].
Despite these few problems, I am impressed on the innovations involved to make this all happen. All of the mapping information was stored, transmitted, searched, and then plotted in a manner that provides specificinformation that you need to get the job done. For now, I will probably use a combination of these to planand travel on my business trips. Wouldn't it be nice if other areas in your life had this kind of support?
technorati tags: knowledge worker, MapQuest, Google, Yahoo, Hertz, NeverLost, Garmin, Magellan[Read More]
In North America, today marks the start of the "Give 1 Get 1" program.
|Children using the XO laptop|
I first learned from this when I was reading about Timothy Ferriss' [LitLiberation project] on his [Four Hour Work Week] blog, and was surfing around for related ideas, and chanced upon this. I registered for a reminder, and it came today(the reminder, not the laptop itself).
Here's how the program works. You give $399 US dollars to the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC)[laptop.org] organization for two laptops: One goes to a deserving child ina developing country, the second goes to you, for your own child, or to donate to a localcharity that helps children. This counts as a $199 purchase plus a $200 tax-deductible donation.For Americans, this is a [US 501(c)(3)] donation, and for Canadians and Mexicans, take advantage of the low-value of the US dollar!
If your employer matches donations, like IBM does, get them to match the $200donation for a third laptop, which goes to another child in a developing country. As for shipping, you pay only for the shipping of the one to you, each receiving country covers their own shipping. In my case, the shipping was another $24 US dollars for Arizona.No guarantees that it will arrive in time for the holidays this December, but it might.
To sweeten the deal, T-mobile throws in a year's worth of "Wi-Fi Hot Spot"that you can use for yourself, either with the XO laptop itself, or your regular laptop, iPhone, or otherWi-Fi enabled handheld device.
National Public Radio did a story last week on this:[The $100 Laptop Heads for Uganda]where they interview actor [Masi Oka], best known from the TV show ["Heroes"], who has agreed to be their spokesman.At the risk of sounding like their other spokesman, I thought I would cover the technology itself, inside the XO,and how this laptop represents IBM's concept of "Innovation that matters"!
The project was started by [Nicholas Negroponte] from [MIT University] as the "$100 laptop project". Once the final designwas worked out, it turns out it costs $188 US dollars to make, so they rounded it up to $200. This is stillan impressive price, and requires that hundreds of thousands of them be manufactured to justify ramping upthe assembly line.
Two of IBM's technology partners are behind this project. First is Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) that providesthe 433Mhz x86 processor, which is 75 percent slower than Thinkpad T60. Second is Red Hat,as this runs lean Fedora 6 version of Linux. Obviously, you couldn't have Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X, as both require significantly more resources.
The laptop is "child size", and would be considered in the [subnotebook] category. At 10" x 9" x 1.25", it is about the size of class textbook,can be carried easily in a child's backpack, or carried by itself with the integrated handle. When closed, it is sealedenough to be protected when carried in rain or dust storms. It weighs about 3.5 pounds, less than the 5.2 pounds of myThinkpad T60.
The XO is "green", not just in color, but also in energy consumption.This laptop can be powered by AC, or human power hand-crank, with workin place to get options for car-battery or solar power charging. Compared to the 20W normally consumed bytraditional laptops, the XO consumes 90 percent less, running at 2W or less. To accomplish this, there is no spinning disk inside. Instead, a 1GB FLASH drive holds 700MB of Linux, and gives you 300MB to hold your files. There isa slot for an MMC/SD flash card, and three USB 2.0 ports to connect to USB keys, printers or other remote I/O peripherals.
The XO flips around into three positions:
Standard laptop position has screen and keyboard. The water-tight keyboard comes in ten languages:International/English, Thai, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, West African, Urdu, Mongolian, Cyrillic, and Amharic.(I learned some Amharic, having lived five years with Ethiopians.)There does not appear be a VGA port, so don't be thinking this could be used as an alternative to project Powerpoint presentations onto a big screen.
Built-in 640x480 webcam, microphone and speakers allow the XO to be used as a communication device. Voice-over-IP (VOIP) client software, similar to Skype or [IBM Lotus Sametime], is pre-installed for this purpose.
The basic built-in communication are 802.1g (54Mbs) that you can use to surf the web usingthe Wi-Fi at your local Starbucks; and 802.1s which forms a "mesh network" with other XO laptops, and can surf theweb finding the one laptop nearby that is connected to the internet to share bandwidth. This eliminates the need to build a separate Wi-Fi hub at the school. There are USB-to-Ethernet and USB-to-Cellular converters, so that might be an alternative option.
Flipped vertically, the device can be read like a book.The screen can be changed between full-color and black-white, 200 dpi, with decent 1200x900 pixel resolution. The full-color is back-lit, and can be read in low-lighting. The black-white is not back-lit, consumes much less power, andcan be read in bright sunlight. In that regards, it is comparable to other [e-book devices], like a Cybook or Sony Reader.
Software includes a web-browser, document reader, word processor and RSS feed reader to read blogs.The OLPC identifies all of the software, libraries and interfaces they use, so that anyone that wants to developchildren software for this platform can do so.
- Game mode
With the keyboard flipped back, the 6" x 4.5" screen has directional controls and X/Y/A/B buttons to run games. This would make it comparable to a Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable (PSP). Again, the choice between back-lit color,or sunlight black-white screen modes apply. Some games are pre-installed.
So for $399, you could buy a Wi-Fi enabled[16GB iPod Touch
] for yourself, which does much the same thing, or you can make a difference in the world.I made my donation this morning, and suggest you--my dear readers in the US, Canada and Mexico--consider doing the same.Go to [www.laptopgiving.org
] for details.