Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience 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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The study surveyed 5,676 leaders from various industries, education, and government agencies responsible for workforce development and labor/workforce policy. This was a truly global survey, with respondents from North and South America, the Nordics, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
A gloomy picture for the future
The survey paints a gloomy picture for the future. The majority of industry executives struggle to keep their workforce skills current, in light of rapidly changing technological advancements.
Only 55 percent of the respondents felt the current education system, from grade school up to university, were adequate to ensure lifelong learning and skills development. Most blamed inadequate investment from private industry in addressing these issues.
Any problem can be solved if (a) everyone agrees what the problem is, and (b) everyone feels it is high enough priority to solve. The study found there was a disparity of what the problem is, what the priorities are, and who should solve it.
In the book Class Counts: Education, Inequality, and the Shrinking Middle Class, the author Allan Ornstein argues ".. the debate centers on whether the government should take a backseat or manage the economy, whether a free market should prevail or whether we should redefine or tinker with market forces..."
Which workplace skills are in short supply?
Can we at least agree on which workplace skills are in short supply?
Not surprisingly, Industry leaders ranked the top three skills required:
Technical core capabilities for Science, Technology Engineering and Math [STEM]
Basic computer and software/application skills
Fundamental core capabilities around reading, writing and arithmetic (often called [the three Rs])
These are all "hard skills", referring to the knowledge, skills and competencies to perform specific tasks. Nearly 75 percent of corporate training budgets are focused on hard skills.
Government leaders, on the other hand, especially those that are responsible for labor/workforce policy, ranked the top three skills:
Ability to communicate effectively in a business context
Willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change
Ability to work effectively in team environments
These would all be classified as "soft skills", referring to the people skills, social skills, communication and emotional intelligence to effectively navigate the environment and work well with others.
In fact, these government leaders felt that STEM, computer skills and "the three Rs" ranked the lowest requirements in their priority.
"Unless managers have forgotten everything they learned in Econ 101, they should recognize that one way to fill a vacancy is to offer qualified job seekers a compelling reason to take the job. Higher pay, better benefits, and more accommodating work hours are usually good reasons for job applicants to prefer one employment offer over another."
"... the long-hours pandemic is a symptom of the tech and design sectors' badge-of-honor-martyr-complex. ... part of the reason that women can't have it all is that American business has grown this time-macho culture, a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, ... the classic 40-hour work week have trained us to measure our labor by the number of hours we log,... However, this mindset is dead wrong when applied to today's professionals. The value ... isn't the time they spend, but the value they create through their knowledge."
IT jobs require creativity and focus. In a feature article titled [Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science], Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, looks at the work habits of highly accomplished creative people through history and finds that they all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus.
Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.
Encouraging more students to develop the skills early
While we all agree that employers should raise salaries, offer better benefits, and fix their morally-corrupt culture of working too many hours, that only addresses part of the problem, the demand half of the equation. We also need to get kids to learn the hard and soft skills needed at an early age.
Do students have what it takes to work in the IT industry? John Rampton lists the [15 Characteristics of a Good Programmer]. Most are soft skills, with my favorites being: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
In his book Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, Peter Cappelli advises corporations to take a more proactive role:
"... a huge part of the so-called skills gap actually springs from weak employer efforts to promote internal training for either current employees or future hires ... It makes no sense for the employers, as consumers of skills, to remain an arm's-length distance from the schools that produce those skills..."
The major stakeholders, from industry to education to government, should partner together. For example, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system will be the first in the United States to [require all students to take computer science] in high school, starting with the class graduating in 2020. Grants and training are being provided by IT industry giants like Google and Microsoft.
IBM is also doing its part with [a new education paradigm], called Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools [P-TECH]. Normal high school is typically four years (grades 9 to 12), but P-TECH is a system of innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college, and career. The additional two years (grades 13 and 14) of community college can help teach the soft and hard skills needed for particular jobs in IT.
After the six years, students graduate with a no-cost associates degree in applied science, engineering, computers and related disciplines, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step easily into well paying, high potential jobs in the IT arena for multiple industries.
The paradigm has grown from one school in 2011 to 60 schools by September 2016, with over 300 large and small companies affiliated with P-TECH schools serving thousands of students.
So the future may not be as gloomy as predicted. Problems can be addressed if everyone works together to solve them. In the mean time, I will be taking the rest of the year off for long-overdue vacation. Perhaps I will go hike mountains and take naps, as Alex suggests above.
It's official. We have changed our name! The Worldwide IBM Systems Executive Briefing Centers (EBC) are now being called the Worldwide IBM Systems Client Experience Centers!
I joined the Tucson EBC team in 2007. For the past 10 years, I have been running design workshops, consulting with clients and architecting solutions.
Why the name change? The term "Executive Briefing Center" implies one-way communication with [death by PowerPoint], which can be ineffective in today's dynamic and collaborative work environments.
Client expectations for two-way communications have given rise to immersive and interactive engagements where clients not only learn about IBM's solution offerings, they experience them.
Through hybrid briefing/workshop engagements, demonstrations, and active promotion of our ISV Ecosystem partners, we take clients on a journey where they envision utilizing our technology and solutions to achieve desired business outcomes. The new Client Experience Center moniker more accurately represents the work we do and the value we provide.
(Note: I realize that the new acronym for the Client Experience Center (CEC) is the same as the Central Electronic Complex (CEC) used in both storage and server products. I can assure you that the executives that decided to rename the centers had not chose this to be funny! Consider it a mere coincidence.)
Of course, changing the name is not cheap. We will have to update all of our websites, and order new signage, new water bottles, new coasters, new embroidered shirts, and new business cards, just to name a few!
The weather in Tucson is awesome these next few months, so come on down! Can't travel? We can come visit you, or do it over the phone via webinar.
Our Worldwide IBM Systems Client Experience Centers are located in:
Last Friday, I helped students learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). This was the annual [2017 Arizona STEM Adventure] event in Tucson, Arizona. Once again, Pima Community College Northwest Campus provided the venue.
The event hosted 1,200 students, ranging from fourth to eighth grades. Buses collected them from ten different school districts in the area. Home-schooled, private-schooled and charter-schooled children participated as well.
There were three dozen exhibits, some were indoors, and others in tents outside. The weather was delightful for November.
IBM's exhibit used a simple bicycle wheel to demonstrate the properties of a [gyroscope]. A gyroscope is a spinning wheel that maintains its angular momentum. This can be useful for both measuring forces that try to affect it, as well as counteract those forces.
We had the kids stand on a rotating platform, holding the bicycle wheel with both hands. A volunteer would spin the wheel. If the kid leaned the wheel left or right, the platform would spin to counteract the force. (The effect can be accomplished while sitting on a swivel chair. See [Exploratorium] for an example.)
Gyroscopes are used in everything from airplanes to submarines to help with navigation, keeps space-based telescopes like the Hubble pointed in the right direction, helps to dig tunnels straight, and for [Steadicam] filming for Hollywood movies and [IBM Client Center videos!
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
"The state has warmed about two degrees (F) in the last century. Throughout the southwestern United States, heat waves are becoming more common, and snow is melting earlier in spring. In the coming decades, changing the climate is likely to decrease the flow of water in the Colorado River, threaten the health of livestock, increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and convert some rangelands to desert." (Source: [What Climate Change means for Arizona])
Their robots stole the show! This one pictured here was remote controlled. Another one was able to pick up and throw basketballs.
(This is not my first exposure to FIRST. See my 2009 blog post [Helping Young Students] on how I helped fourth graders learn C programming language by building robots with LEGO Mindstorms.)
The team draws students from the five high schools of the Vail school district. I drive by one of these, the Vail Academy and High School, on the way to IBM Client Experience Center. This is not just for boys, about one third of the team are girls!
The students do the design of each robot, do the welding, even do the C++ programming, and participate in competitions!
Lunch and Logistics
With all the focus on science and technology exhibits, it is easy to forget all the work done behind the scenes. An [Eventbase] website was used to help us direct all of the students, teachers and volunteers to the right place.
Since we had enough volunteers for the IBM exhibit, I chose instead to be a "general volunteer" and was assigned the task of collecting and distributing lunches. For some schools, the students brought their own lunches on the bus, these were collected when they got off the bus, and distributed to them when it was their time to eat. For other schools, their staff packed lunches for each student.
We staggered the distribution into five groups, with color coded labels, starting from 10:30am, every 20 minutes, to 11:50am. The volunteers themselves did not eat until 1:30pm. We were provided pulled pork sandwiches from [Mama's Hawaiian BBQ], a local favorite!
This was a great day! There are plenty of problems that need to be solved in our world, and a shortage of scientists and engineers to solve them. Encouraging kids to pursue these careers is a good step forward.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
The Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Livermore [CORAL] is a joint procurement activity among three of the Department of Energy's National Laboratories launched in 2014 to build state-of-the-art high-performance computing (HPC) technologies that are essential for supporting U.S. national nuclear security and are key tool s used for technology advancement and scientific discovery.
Of course, when you hear "state-of-the-art technology", IBM is probably the first company that comes to mind!
The new IBM Spectrum Scale 5.0 has been greatly enhanced to meet CORAL requirements:
Dramatic improvements in I/O performance
Significant reduction in internode software path latency to support the newest low-latency, high-bandwidth hardware such as NVMe
Improved performance for many small and large block size workloads simultaneously from new 4 MB default block size with variable sub-block size based on block size choice
Improved metadata operation performance to a single directory from multiple nodes
Spectrum Scale 5.0 now handles automatically tuning more than twenty communication protocol and buffer management parameters, aiding setup for optimal performance. The enhanced GUI features many capabilities including performance, capacity, network monitoring, AFM (multicluster management), transparent cloud tiering, and enhanced maintenance and support, including interaction with IBM remote support.
Spectrum Scale 5.0 now offers file-level immutability. Previous releases supported immutability at the file set granularity, so this allows greater granularity. Immutability can be an effective tool as part of an overall Non-Erasable, Non-Rewriteable [NENR] compliance policy.
Spectrum Scale comes in both "Standard Edition" and "Data Management Edition". The latter offers some additional features, including Transparent Cloud Tiering, Asynchronous AFM Disaster Recovery support, and Encryption. Some additional enhancements to Data Management Edition in Spectrum Scale 5.0 are:
File audit logging capability to track user accesses to file system and events supported across all nodes and all protocols
Parseable data stored in secure retention-protected fileset
Data security following removal of physical media protected by on-disk encryption
The new IBM Storage Utility Offerings include the IBM FlashSystem 900 (9843-UF3), IBM Storwize V5030 (2078-U5A), and Storwize V7000 (2076-U7A) storage utility models that enable variable capacity usage and billing.
These models provide a fixed total capacity, with a base and variable usage subscription of that total capacity. IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights is used to monitor the system capacity usage. It is used to report on capacity used beyond the base subscription capacity, referred to as variable usage.
The variable capacity usage is billed on a quarterly basis. This enables customers to grow or shrink their usage, and only pay for configured capacity.
Suppose you only need 300 TB today, but expect this to grow to 1 PB (1000 TB) over the course of three years. You install 1000 TB (1 PB) of capacity, and pay for the base 300 TB, plus whatever above this 300 TB you might be using during each subsequent quarter. After 36 months, you pay for the rest of capacity installed.
(There are comparable offerings from IBM's competitors, but they often require that you pay for at least 75 to 85 percent of the installed amount, and then you would need to continue to disrupt your operations with additional capacity installed throughout the 12 to 36 month period. IBM's approach allows you to avoid installation disruption during the entire 36 month period!)
IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud V8.1.1 delivers a powerful solution for the deployment of IBM Spectrum Virtualize software in public cloud, starting with IBM Cloud. This new capability provides a monthly license to deploy and use Spectrum Virtualize in IBM Cloud to enable hybrid cloud solutions
Remote replication will be supported between Spectrum Virtualize-based appliances (including SAN Volume Controller (SVC), the Storwize family, IBM FlashSystem V9000, and VersaStack with Storwize family or SVC), or Spectrum Virtualize Software, to the IBM Cloud.
Using IP-based replication with Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, or Global Mirror with Change Volumes, clients can create secondary copies of on-premises data in the public cloud for disaster recovery. IBM has over 25 data centers around the world available to chose from. Remote copy services can also be used between two IBM Cloud data centers for improved availability.
The solution is based on bare metal servers. You can create either two- or four-node high availability clusters.
Spectrum Virtualize on-premise SVC and Storwize now also support 2.4 TB 10K rpm 2.5-inch SAS hard disk drives.
IBM has been holding various "Hackathons" and "Meetups" as a new way to reach out to prospective clients. IBM sponsored a meetup at the Austin Executive Briefing Center (EBC) to discuss Machine Learning with TensorFlow on IBM Power systems, October 26, 2017.
This was a joint event, co-sponsored by [IBM Watson/Cognitive Austin] and [Big Data/AI Revealed] meetup groups. Special thanks to my colleague Cathy Cocco, IBM Executive IT Architect with the IBM Austin EBC, for coordinating this event with their organizers.
(What is a Meetup? [Meetup.com is an online social networking website that facilitates in-person local group meetings. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as books, games, pets, technology, careers or hobbies. In 2017, there are 32 million users with 280 thousand groups available across 182 countries.)
Here was the agenda for the event:
Registration, Pizza & Soft drinks
Tensorflow 101 presentation
Demo: Using TensorFlow for Financial Market Predictions on IBM POWER Systems
Lightning Talk: IBM Data Science Experience
Clarisse Taaffe-Hedglin: Intro to TensorFlow on IBM Power servers
Our guest speaker was my colleague Clarisse Taaffe-Hedglin, IBM Cognitive Senior Technical Architect, part of the same Worldwide Client Centers team that I work in. She flew in from Charlotte, NC.
Her topic was TensorFlow, an open source [Machine Learning] framework. TensorFlow was originally developed by Google, but was made open source in November 2015.
Machine Learning is popular in a variety of industries, from self-driving cars and trucks, speech recognition and video surveillance, to what movie to watch next on Netflix. There are three aspects to Machine Learning:
Data: Start with the data you want to analyze. This could be IoT sensor data, security logs, or social media feeds. Check out all that happens in an "Internet Minute"!
Compute: While mathematical computations can be performed on traditional CPUs, some frameworks are optimized and accelerated with Graphical Processing Units (GPU). These GPU can perform Teraflops of single and double precision calculations.
Technique: As methodology have gotten more complicated over the years, frameworks have evolved to match.
The [TensorFlow] framework is now one of the most popular among data scientists. You can download it for free at [Github].
Clarisse showed the various programming/calculation tools used by data scientists. The top five were: Python, R, SQL language, MapReduce, and Microsoft Excel.
Mathematical models come in many flavors. Clarisse explained they can be used to identify clusters of data that might have similar properties, or to perform classification, or linear regression. The results can be "descriptive", gaining a better understanding of what already is, or "predictive" for what might be.
Some frameworks like Chainer or Torch are more flexible, using a dynamic Build-by-Run approach. However, these do not scale well. Theano and TensorFlow, on the other hand, employ a Define-then-Run approach, which scales better for larger projects. With the growth in popularity with TensorFlow, the Theano framework has been "functionally stabilized".
Clarisse Taaffe-Hedglin: Financial Markets Demo
For the demo, Clarisse had historical stock closing data for USA, Australia and Asian stock markets. The hypothesis: We can determine a Buy/Sell for USA stocks based on the closing results of non-American stock results? This is a classic "Binary Classification" model. The other stock markets close 4-16 hours before the U.S. markets open, so this has real-world applicability.
Since the data was in different monetary units, she did some cleanup to normalize the data, removing out the trends, and converting everything to U.S. Dollars (USD).
Clarisse used "Supervised Learning" on 80 percent subset of the data, and then used the other 20 percent remaining data to validate how well it did.
As with any model, you measure how good it is by how close it results in the correct answer. Wrong answers are weighted by how bad they are. This is often referred to as "Loss" or "Cost". Different models can therefore be compared by minimizing the loss.
Using a simple y=wx+b mathematical model, she ran 30,000 iterations. After 5,000 iterations, the model was already guessing correctly 55 percent of the time, by the time we hit 30,000 this was up to 68 percent accuracy.
TensorFlow also supports "hidden layers", basically intermediate variables that are then used in subsequent layers for more complicated calculations. This is the way our brain works with neural networks. With two added layers, she re-ran the 30,000 iterations, and now was up to 73 percent accuracy.
Normally, this kind of analysis would take hours or days, but since TensorFlow takes advantage of the IBM Power8 CPU and NVidia Tesla K80 GPU in the IBM Power server, the whole thing finished in five minutes!
Tuhin Mahmed: Lightning Talk on IBM Data Science Experience (DSX)
Tuhin Mahmed, IBM Software Developer, is the organizer for the Big Data/AI meetup group. He wants to promote the idea of "Lightning Talks" where each person presents for just 10-15 minutes. This is a variant of the popular [Pecha Kucha] events.
To get things started, he presented 10-15 minutes on [IBM Data Science Experience], or DSX for short. Taking Multiple Listing Service (MLS) real estate data of closing prices on houses sold in a range of zip codes from the Austin Area, he mapped these on x-y axis. The x axis was square feet, and the y axis was closing price.
Using DSX, he was able to develop a mathematical model that estimates house closing prices based on their zip code and square footage.
This was a simple example, but it showed the power of Jupyter Notebooks, and how anyone can get a 30-day free trial of DSX for their own experimentation.
Currently, being a data scientist is more of an art than a science. This is one of those fields that takes only a few months to learn, but years to master.
Rather than building a model from scratch, data scientists can take existing models, and modify them to fit their needs. There are a variety of existing models available in what is called the "Model Zoo". Google has over 2,000 projects already.
Those interested in trying this out TensorFlow for themselves were directed to [Nimbix], a Cloud Service Provider that offers POWER servers with NVidia GPUs.
There were about 50 attendees, more than half identified themselves data scientists. As the first inaugural sponsored event for the IBM Austin EBC, I think this was a success!
If you are in the Austin area, the next meetup will be at the [Capital Factory] on Brazos Street on November 30, 2017.