Last week, fellow IBM blogger Barry Whyte Barry pointed out that my recent post on [Cognitive University for Watson Systems SmartSeller] was my 1,000th blog post. After 10 years of blogging, I have reached the 1,000 mark!
(As IBM is focused on its transformation from a "Systems, Software and Services" company to a "Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform" company, it seems appropriate to highlight my 1,000 blog post on the concept of cognitive solutions.)
A lot of people ask me to explain what exactly does IBM mean by "cognitive", which is a fair question. Let's start with the [Dictionary definition]:
What exactly does IBM mean by Cognitive? IBM has taken this definition, and focused on four key strategic areas:
IBM is exploring the use of Cognitive Solutions in a variety of different industries, from Healthcare to Retail, Financial Services to Manufacturing, and more.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
(Yes, OK, it's actually Thursday. I wrote this post weeks ago, but was embargoed until Jan 10, and then was asked to wait until Jan 12 so that the IBM Marketing team could translate my text into 15 different languages.)
This week, the IBM DS8000 team announces a new High Performance Flash Enclosure (HPFE-Gen2) and a series of All-Flash Array DS8880F models that exploit this new technology.
To learn more, read the Announcement Letters for [IBM DS8880 all-flash family meets the demand for high-speed storage] and [IBM DS8880 All-Flash family Function Authorizations].
The new HPFE-Gen2 architecture design, and the All-Flash Array models they are based on, positions IBM well into the future for newer 2.5-inch SSD capacities and technologies as they become available.
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Last month, I had the pleasure to help train Watson in its latest mission, to help answer questions from sellers, this are not just for the IBM feet on the street, but also for IBM distributors and IBM Business Partners as well.
In their post [Workers Spend Too Much Time Searching for Information], Cottrill Research explains the problem all too well. Here is an excerpt:
"... [survey by SearchYourCloud] revealed 'workers took up to 8 searches to find the right document and information.' Here are a few other statistics that help tell the tale of information overload and wasted time spent searching for correct information -- either external or internal:
In the early days of the Internet, before search engines like Google or Bing, I competed in [Internet Scavenger Hunts]. A dozen or more contestants would be in a room, and would be given a list of 20 questions to find answers for. Each of us would then hunt down answers on the Internet. The person to find the most documented answers before time runs out wins. It was quite the challenge!
Over the years, I have honed my skills as a [Search Ninja]. With over 30 years of experience in IBM Storage, many sellers come to me for answers. Sometimes sellers are just too lazy to look for the answers themselves, too busy trying to meet client deadlines, or too green to know where to look.
A good portion of my 60-hour week is spent helping sellers find the answers they are looking for. Sometimes I dig into the [SSIC], product data sheets, or various IBM Redbooks.
Other times, I would confer with experts, engineers and architects in particular development teams. Often, I learn something new myself. In a few cases, I have turned some questions into ideas for blog posts!
It was no surprise when I was asked to help train Watson for the new "Systems SmartSeller" tool. This will be a tool that runs on smartphones or desktops to help answer questions that sellers might need to respond to RFP or other client queries.
The premise was simple. Treat Watson as a student at "Cognitive University" taking classes from dozens of IBM professors, in a series of semesters, or "phases".
Phase I involved building the "Corpus", the set of documents related to z Systems, POWER systems, Storage and SDI solutions; and a "Grading Tool" that would be used as the Graphical User Interface. I was not involved in phase I.
Phase II was where I came in. Hundreds of questions are categorized by product area. I worked on 500 questions for storage. For each question, Watson had up to eleven different responses, typically a paragraph from the Corpus. My job as a professor was to grade the responses to some 500 storage questions:
Most of the answers were either 1-star (not storage related) or 2-star (mentioned storage, but poor response). I would search through the existing Corpus looking for a better answer, and at best found only 3-star responses, which I would add to the list and grade as a 3-star response.
I then searched the Internet for better answers. Once I found a good match, I would type up a 4-star response, add it to the list, and point it to the appropriate resources on the Web.
Other professors, who were also looking at these questions, would then get to grade my suggested responses as well. Watson would learn based on the consensus of how appropriate and accurate each response was graded.
I don't know where the Cognitive University team got some of the questions, but they were quite representative of the ones I get every week. In some cases, the seller didn't understand the question he heard from the client, making it difficult for me to figure out what they were actually asking for.
It reminds me of that parlor game ["Telephone" or "Chinese Whispers"], in which one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. I have actually played this at an IBM event in China!
Watson needs to parse the question into nouns and verbs, and use that Natural Linguistic Programming (NLP) to then search the Corpus for appropriate answer. I determined three challenges for Watson in this case:
I managed to grade the responses in the two weeks we were given. Part of my frustration was the grading tool itself was a bit buggy, and I spent some time trying to track down some of its flaws.
The next phase is in late January and February. This will give the Cognitive University team a chance to update the Corpus, improve the grading interface, and find more professors and different set of questions. I volunteered the most recent four years' worth of my blog posts to be added to the Corpus.
Maybe this tool will help me turn my 60-hour week back to the 40-hour week it should be!
technorati tags: IBM, Watson, Cottrill Research, SearchYourCloud, McKinsey, IDC, Google, Bing, Search Ninja, Internet Scavenger Hunts, SSIC, Telephone Game, Chinese Whispers, NLP, RFP, Storwize, RtC, Zoltar, Cognitive University
Fellow blogger Chris Mellor from The Register has an interesting post titled [It's a ratchet: Old storage guard face incoming tech squeeze]. Chris opines that the big traditional storage vendors -- which he refers to as the "old guard": Dell EMC, HDS, HPE, IBM and NetApp -- are being squeezed out by startups with new technologies.
Last week, I saw the play [Fiddler on the Roof], a musical production by Arizona Theater Company (ATC), and thought of various parallels with Chris's post.
For those not familiar, the story centers around a father named Tevye and his wife trying to stick to tradition, with five daughters who are open to breaking with tradition to get married. The family lives in a small rural town, back in a time long ago when people were persecuted for their religious and ethnic background. Aren't you glad we live in [more enlightened times]!
Back to Chris Mellor, he writes in his post:
"This old guard has so far failed to squash newcomers in the all-flash array, hyperscale, object and software-defined storage areas. This is despite the established firms adopting these technologies and acquiring some startups."
Should the old guard try to squash newcomers? Often, these startups provide much needed innovations that move the IT industry forward.
In the play, Tevye wants to stick to tradition, whereby the town's matchmaker would find a husband for each daughter, and he, as father of each bride, would then provide his permission and blessing to the match.
Obviously, these startups are neither asking the old guard for their permission nor their blessing. While I can't speak for the rest of the "old guard", IBM is leading in these various spaces. Let's look at each of these new trends.
In the play, Tevye realizes the world is changing all around him, he can either fight these changes and stick to tradition, or accept that he must change also, and move on. After 105 years, IBM continues to lead the IT industry, primarily by adopting new trends and technologies, moving to new business opportunities as they present themselves.
technorati tags: IBM, Chris Mellor, The Register, Fiddler on the Roof, Arizona Theater Company, All-Flash Array, AFA, FlashSystem, DS8000, Elastic Storage Server, ESS, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, , Storwize, IDC, Software-defined Stroage, SDS, Spectrum Storage, object storage, Spectrum Scale, Spectrum Archive, IBM Cloud Object Storage, POSIX, NFS, SMB, HTTP, Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift, Hyperscale Storage, Spectrum Accelerate
IBM is doing a bit of year-end housekeeping. The Storage Community (sto
IBM will continue to host a community for all of its followers and contributors to share insights on the latest trends in storage at [ibm
All of the most recent IBM content from stor
If you would like to contribute to the new community, please [register here]. Simply click the silhouette icon in the top right-hand corner of the page and select "register." Input your email address and create a password, then sign in. You will receive an email from IBM with further instructions to get you set up.
IBM's twitter handle (@SmarterStorage) will also be sunset as of January 1, 2017, but I encourage you to follow @IBMStorage, or my own twitter handle @az990tony, for the latest storage news and announcements from IBM.