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 )
My books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
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This week, I was part of an all-day event called "Healthcare and Research Trends & Directions in a Cognitive World" at the IBM Executive Briefing Center (EBC) in Rochester, MN. I was one of many presenters covering Information Technology to improve healthcare outcomes. Todd Stacy, IBM Director Server Sales for US Public Market, served as our emcee.
This was a great day. Special thanks to Kathy Lehr, Trish Froeschle, and Scott Gass for organizing this event! We had clients from a variety of Health Care and Life Science industry backgrounds. I certainly learned a few things myself.
Dr. Michael Weiner, IBM Chief Medical Information Officer, Watson Health, covered some of the real challenges not just facing the United States, but also other countries. On average, healthcare in USA [costs over $10,000 USD per American citizen]! Compare that to only $3,700 USD for the folks in the United Kingdom! In fact, nearly all industrial nations spend between $2,000 and $5,000 per person. Where does all the U.S. money go?
A big challenge is our ever-aging population. Every day, there are 10,000 [Baby Boomers] reaching their 65th birthday, with fewer people in the 25-44 age group to work as nurses to take care of them. About 15 percent of the US population are elderly (over age 65) and this is expected to grow to 20 percent in year 2040. The situation is even worse in Japan, where 25 percent of the population today is elderly, and this is expected to be 40 percent by year 2060.
New Care Models
In some countries, like Australia and Japan, post office workers who spent their time delivering mail, now can stop in to check in on elderly people. As people ship less mail, using social media or email instead, this keeps the postal workers employed, in a manner that provides society value.
The USA enjoys one of the lowest costs for food, but then suffers from an epidemic of obesity, with over 34 percent of Americans are obese. When New York City eliminated Trans Fats, heart attacks dropped considerably.
In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health [HITECH] Act required the digitization of medical information, known as "Meaningful Use", which has greatly influenced healthcare facilities. This was implemented by a combination of incentives and penalties. Now, more than than 92 percent of hospitals in the USA have digitized medical information! The rest are still using paper and Xray film images. Some places were initially exempted, such as Assisted Living Homes for example, so there is still more work to be done.
An advantage of using computer-based solutions like Artificial Intelligence is that it eliminates bias. When a woman walks into an Emergency Room complaining about chest pains, few health staff would consider this a sign of heart attack. When a man does same, health staff considers heart attack as the first diagnosis, at the risk of missing out on other possibilities.
Every year, over a million articles related to healthcare research are published. Who can read all this in a timely manner? IBM Watson! After [winning in Jeopardy], IBM Watson was "sent to medical school" to learn how to assist doctors in diagnosing patients.
Transforming Health Care Data Management with IBM Spectrum Storage
Greg Tevis, IBM Software Defined Storage Architect, and Raj Tandon, IBM Senior Strategist, co-presented this introduction to IBM Spectrum Storage family of products. They covered examples with IBM Spectrum Virtualize, IBM Spectrum Control, IBM Spectrum Protect, IBM Spectrum Scale, IBM Cloud Object Storage, and IBM Copy Data Management. The latter having support directly for EPIC and Cache databases.
Cognitive Imaging Solutions for Healthcare Providers
Jason Crites, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences Data Solutions Leader, and Wayland Vacek, Enterprise Sales Manager for Merge, presented IBM Watson Imaging Clinical Review, from IBM's acquisition of the Merge company. The solution is based on IBM Spectrum Scale as the back-end storage repository.
Merge has been around for more than 20 years, with clinical workflow offerings in Cardiology, Radiology, Orthopedics and Eye care. Often, IBM Watson is able to identify things in medical images that escape the review or radiologists or other medical specialists.
At HIMSS conference earlier this year, The human radiologists were shown a collection of images used to train IBM Watson. The human radiologists only identified 20 percent of the images correctly, while IBM Watson got all of them, every time. In many cases, human radiologists have only a few seconds to look at an Xray image. Computers like IBM Watson are now fast enough to compete directly with human radiologists in the same number of seconds.
Building a Foundation for the Cognitive Era in Healthcare and Life Sciences
Dr. Jane Yu, IBM Systems Architect, Healthcare & Life Sciences, and Dr. Frank Lee, IBM Global Sales Leader, IBM Software Defined Infrastructure & Life Sciences, co-presented this topic. They present five challenges:
Growing data volumes are making it more difficult to manage, process and store this data.
Scientists find themselves spending more than 80 percent of their time manually integrating data from silos, and less than 20 percent of their time doing actual research and deriving insights from their analyses.
Compute- and data-intensive workflows may take days to complete on existing server and storage systems.
IT organizations must keep up with rapidly evolving applications, development frameworks, and databases for preferred. Health care Life Science (HCLS) applications. This includes SAS, Matlab, Hadoop, Spark, NoSQL databases, as well as Deep Learning and Machine Learning workloads.
Scientific integrity and government mandates increasingly require collaboration across organizational boundaries.
In one example, Sidra Medical and Research Center plans to map the genomes of all 250,000 citizens in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Imagine that processing each Qatari citizen will generate 200 GB of data for this project, resulting in 50 Petabytes (PB) of data!
Combining IBM Spectrum Compute products with IBM Spectrum Scale storage, can help address these challenges.
Modernize & Transform Helathcare with IBM Storage Solutions
Finally, I presented a 90-minute breakout session that covered three solution areas:
Flash storage to speed up medical records and research. Those who have already implemented Electronic Health Records (EHR) for "Meaningful Use" compliance recognize the value this provides to improving healthcare. Adding All-Flash Arrays such as IBM FlashSystem, Storwize V7000F or DS8000F can drastically improve application performance.
Spectrum Scale and IBM Cloud Object Storage for Vendor Neutral Archive. It seems silly that each PACS vendor has its own little island of storage. A better approach is to send all PACS data from various vendors into a "Vendor-Neutral" storage repository. Both IBM Spectrum Scale and IBM Cloud Object Storage System, either linked together or used separately, can be part of a VNA solution.
VersaStack to simplify deployments. VersaStack is a Converged System that combines best-of-breed Cisco servers and switches with best-of-breed IBM storage, pre-cabled, pre-configured, and pre-loaded with all the necessary software to manage the environment as a single entity. This can reduce the time it takes to deploy new medical applications from weeks to just hours.
Next month, I will be presenting at the IBM Systems Technical University in Orlando, Florida, May 22-26, 2017. There will not be an "IBM Edge" conference this year, so this is your best opportunity to hear the latest information on all of the IBM server and storage products at one conference.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
Last week, at the InterConnect conference, IBM's premiere Cloud and Mobile event, there were announcements regarding IBM Cloud Object Storage.
IBM Cloud Object Storage Cold Vault
It seems that all the major Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) offer storage for warm, cool, and cold data.
IBM Cloud Object Storage Cold Vault service gives clients access to cold storage data on the IBM Cloud and is designed to lead the category for cold data among major competitors. Cold Vault joins the existing Standard and Vault tiers.
For rarely accessed mixed workloads and applications
Archiving, long-term data retention, historical data compliance
For cooler workloads accessed once a month or less
Archiving, short-term data retention, digital asset preservation, tape replacement and disaster recovery
For warm data, active workloads accessed multiple times per month
DevOps, Social, mobile, collaboration and analytics
These tiers are available in both "Regional" and "Cross Regional" deployment models. Customers can choose between Regional Service, which spreads their data across multiple data centers in a given region, and Cross Regional Service, which spans at least three geographically dispersed regions. For example, Regional may have data in three data centers all located in Texas, but Cross-Regional might have data in California, Texas and New York.
IBM Cloud Object Storage Flex
In the past, clients used "Information Lifecycle Management" (ILM) policies to place data where it was initially needed, then move it to less expensive tiers storage as it ages and is accessed less frequently. This was is done between Flash, Disk and Tape storage on premises, but the concept could also be applied to off-premises Cloud storage as well.
Flex is a new cloud storage service offering simplified pricing for clients whose data usage patterns are difficult to predict. Flex enables clients to benefit from the cost savings of cold storage for rarely accessed data, while maintaining high accessibility to all data.
Data that is accessed several times per month (warm) will be charged at Standard rates, data that is accessed once a month or so (cool) will be charged Vault rates, and data that is rarely accessed (cold) will be charged at Cold Vault rates.
In effect, this gives you ILM cost savings without ever having to move your data between Standard, Vault or Cold Vault tiers.
IBM Cloud Object Storage partnership with NetApp AltaVault
Many backup software products have been enhanced to write directly to IBM Cloud Object Storage, including IBM Spectrum Protect (formerly known as IBM Tivoli Storage Manager or TSM for short), as well as Commvault Simpana and Veritas NetBackup.
IBM extends this partnership to NetApp. NetApp AltaVault cloud backup solutions will now automatically be able to send backups to IBM Cloud Object Storage on IBM Cloud. Incorporating native support for IBM Cloud Object Storage into AltaVault solutions allows NetApp users to deploy backup data to the IBM Cloud.
IBM Cloud Object Storage for Bluemix Garage
For software developers, [IBM Bluemix Garage] provides a global consultancy with the DNA of a startup that combines the best practices of Design Thinking, Agile Development and Lean Startup to accelerate application development and cloud innovation.
Now, you can use IBM Cloud Object Storage in the IBM Cloud to support Garage method projects.
Want to try it out? With Promo Code "COSFREE", you can get a free year of Standard Cross-region IBM Cloud Object Storage with up to 25 GB/month access! See [Free Storage Promotion] for details.
This week, IBM InterConnect conference is going on in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One time in Las Vegas, I took the gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel. These are not boats with a motor on a chain or track, a but actually steered and propelled independently by the gondolier. At various points on our path, our gondolier would serenade our group with beautiful Italian songs.
As the ride was ending, I asked our gondolier how long their training program was to do this job. He told me "six weeks". I said "Wow, I would love to learn how to sing Italian songs like that in six weeks". He corrected me, "No, silly, they only hire experienced singers, and teach them six weeks to manage the gondola by turning the oar in the water."
(FCC Disclosure: I work for IBM. I have no financial interest in the Venetian Hotel, CBS Studios, or the producers of any television shows mentioned in this post. David Spark has provided me a complimentary copy of his book. This blog post can be considered an "unpaid celebrity endorsement" for the book reviewed below.)
InterConnect 2017 includes "Concourse", a trade show floor with people showing off the latest technologies. In the past 25 years, I have attended many conferences, and on occasion I have worked "booth duty". I am not in Las Vegas this week, so this post is advice to those that are.
One time, when the coordinators for an upcoming conference announced at an all-hands meeting they were looking for "a number of knowledgeable and outgoing volunteers" to work the IBM booth, one of the employees in the audience asked "How many of each?" While this might have meant to draw laughs, it underscored a real problem.
In many IT and engineering fields, the terms "knowledgeable" and "outgoing" are seen as mutually exclusive. People are either one or the other. A study titled [Personality types in software engineering], by Luiz Fernando Capretz of The University of Western Ontario, analyzed Myers-Briggs Type Indicator of personality and found the majority of engineers were "Introverts".
This line of thinking is further reinforced by the various characters on the television shows like "The Big Bang Theory". If you are familiar with the show, you have Sheldon and Amy are the most knowledgeable, but also the most socially awkward, and then you have Penny and Howard, less knowledgeable but at the more outgoing end of the spectrum.
I understand that for many engineers, working a booth at a trade show is far outside their "comfort zone". But what do you think is more likely, that you can train an engineer to work a booth in six weeks, be more outgoing, hold the right conversations, tell the right stories -- or -- train a professional model, a young, good looking man or woman, who is already outgoing and friendly, to answer technical engineering questions about your products and services?
I have been attending conferences for over 25 years, and occasionally have worked a booth or two. I started out as an engineer, but went through extensive training for public speaking, talking to the media and press, and moderating Q&A Expert panels.
Sadly, most people who work the booth get little to no training at all. You might be told your scheduled hours, how to scan bar codes on badges, and where the brochures and swag are stored. Then, you get your official "shirt" and told to wear it with a certain color pants, so that everyone looks like part of the team.
Fortunately, fellow blogger David Spark, of Spark Media Solutions, has written a book titled "Three feet from Seven Figures" with loads of advice on how to work a booth with one-on-one engagement techniques to qualify more leads at trade shows.
The title of his book warrants a bit of explanation. When you are working a booth, potential buyers and influencers are walking by, often just three feet away from you, and these could represent million-dollar opportunities.
Too often, the folks working a booth take a passive approach. They look down at their phones, chat with their colleagues, and basically wait for complete strangers to ask them a question or request a demo. This non-verbal communication can really be a turn-off. David explains this in all-too-familiar detail and how to be more actively engaged.
David shows how to break the ice and build rapport with each attendee, how to qualify them as legitimate leads, and how to handle each type of situation.
For qualified leads, you need to maximize the opportunity. If you imagine how much a company spends to send its employees to work the booth, plus the cost of the booth itself, and divide it by the limited number of hours that the trade show floor is open, you quickly realize that each hour is precious.
Your time is valuable, and certainly their time is valuable also. Let's not spend too much time on a single lead, but rather capture the information, end the conversation, and move on.
If you are working a booth at IBM InterConnect, or plan to work a booth at an event later this year, I highly recommend getting this book! It is available in a variety of hard copy and online formats at [ThreeFeetBook.com].
I am not in Las Vegas this week for this year's event, but the sessions will be streamed live through [IBM GO].
IBM Systems Technical University - May 22-26, 2017 - Orlando, FL
IBM Systems Technical University is the evolution of a variety of other conferences related to servers, storage and software. Starting out as the "IBM Storage Symposium", then added "System x" servers and renamed to "Storage and System x University", then dropped "System x" when IBM sold off that business to Lenovo.
A few years ago, it was renamed "Edge", initially just focused on Storage, but then two years ago combined with System z mainframe servers and POWER Systems for IBM i and AIX platforms. It also covers software products that previously had their own conferences, like IBM Pulse or MaximoWorld
Last year, the IBM Marketing team tried a daring experiment. Let's change "Edge" to be a "Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform" conference, with emphasis on IT Infrastructure.
The experiment failed. Not because IBM Systems don't support these new initiatives, but because the audience were more interested to hear about how IBM Systems help their current day-to-day business. As many attendees told me, "If we wanted to hear about Cognitive or Cloud, we have plenty of other of conferences that cover that already!"
While 40 percent of IBM revenues are generated from Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform, the other 60 percent are traditional, on-premise, systems-of-record application workloads, the kind that business, non-profit groups, and government agencies have been using for the past few decades!
To address this need, IBM offered three-day "IBM Systems Technical University" events at various locations. Last year, I presented storage topics at events in Atlanta, Austin, Bogota, Boston, Chicago, Dubai, Nairobi, and São Paulo.
We will have several of those this year as well. The main one will be a full 5-day event, May 22-26, in Orlando Florida. I will be there presenting various sessions on storage!
IBM World of Watson - October 29-November 2, 2017 - Las Vegas, NV
This is a Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform conference, with an emphasis on Analytics and Database technologies.
I did not attend World of Watson, or WoW for short, last year, but it was an evolution of the conference previously called "IBM Insight". I am sure everything from DB2 and Open Source databases to Hadoop and Spark will be covered this year as well.
In writing this post, I realize that this year will be like a "Conference Sandwich". Cognitive-and-Cloud at the top and bottom, with all the meat, veggies and garnish in the middle!
This week, IBM sponsored a nice multi-client event in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was quite impressed with the quality of this video. Our marketing department has really done a good job on this!
This event was not just multi-client, but also spanned different industry sectors. IBM recently has realigned to five different sectors, and we had clients from different sectors attending the event.
The night before, I was able to meet most of the other IBM executives who came down for the event. Unfortunately, two were delayed because of the snow storms in the Northeast part of the United States, but they were able to arrive the next day.
The venue was the El Touro restaurant, near the Hilton Caribe. The weather was just right, about 75 degrees and breezy. It was a little humid for me, but everyone else were just happy to be out of the cold. Meanwhile it is nearly 90 degrees in Tucson, Arizona where I am from.
This was billed as a "Lunch and Learn" and the food was delicious! In an effort to keep it simple, we had small dishes of fish with fruit-based cream sauce, paella with rabbit meat and rice, pork belly, Crema Catalana and a churo for dessert. This gave everyone a sample taste of everything, without having to order off a menu.
We basically took the same approach with the presentation. First, Marcos Obermaeir and Marcos Otero, the two leads for this event, thanked the audience and explained their new roles. Marcos Obermaeir is focused on Financial and Insurance sector, while Marcos Otero focused on Communications sector.
Next we had Debbie Niven and Roopam Master, both IBM Executives, explain their roles, and how IBM can help both clients and Business Partners in Puerto Rico.
I presented samples of much larger presentations on three topics. First, the excitement over Software Defined Storage with IBM Spectrum Storage family of products. Second, IBM Spectrum Scale as a better replacement for Hadoop File System (HDFS) for Hadoop, IBM BigInsights and Hortonworks analytics deployments. Third, IBM Cloud Object Storage, and how this can be combined with IBM Spectrum Protect to backup your data to object storage either on premises, or in the Cloud.
I could have easily spoken an hour on each topic, but instead, we shortened to about 20 minutes each, in keeping with the "Tapas" theme of the restaurant. This allowed those clients who wanted to hear more to have a reason to request a follow-up visit or call.
After the clients left, the IBM team had a reception for the IBM Business Partners. About 80 percent of IBM's storage business in Puerto Rico is done through IBM Business Partners, so they are an important link in IBM's "Go-to-Market" strategy.
The moon was nearly full, and the breeze and waves were a spectacular backdrop to the conversations I had with each person I met.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
IBM Storwize V5030F and V7000F all-flash high-density expansion enclosure
The 5U-high, 92-drive expansion enclosure introduced for the IBM Storwize V5000 and V7000 is now available for the all-flash models V5030F and V7000F. High-density expansion enclosure Model A9F requires IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software V7.8, or later, for operation.
The enclosure allows any mix of "Tier 0" write-endurance SSD at 1.6TB and 3.2TB capacities, and "Tier 1" read-intensive SSD at 1.92TB, 3.84TB, 7.68TB and 15.36TB capacities.
Storwize V5030F control enclosure models support attachment of up to 40U of expansion enclosures, which equates to eight high-density expansion enclosures, up to 760 drives per control enclosure, and up to 1,056 per clustered system.
Storwize V7000F control enclosure models support attachment of up to eight high-density expansion enclosures, up to 760 drives per control enclosure, and up to 3,040 drives per clustered system.
IBM has adopted "Agile" process for all of its IBM Spectrum Storage software. Spectrum Virtualize is offered in a variety of forms. IBM offers the FlashSystem V9000, SAN Volume Controller, Storwize family, and Spectrum Virtualize as software that runs on Lenovo and SuperMicro servers. This means quarterly delivery of new features and functions!
Lots of small enhancements were added in this release:
Apply Quality-of-Service (QoS) to a Host Cluster in terms of IOPS and or MB/s throughput.
SAN Congestion reporting, via buffer credit starvation reporting in Spectrum Control and via the XML statistics reporting, for the 16Gbps FCP Host Bus Adapter (HBA).
Resizing for Metro Mirror and Global Mirror remote copy services of thin provisioned volumes.
Consistency Protection for Metro Mirror and Global Mirror. You can now define "Change Volumes" to be used in the event of problems with MM or GM, it will switch over to GMCV mode.
Increased FlashCopy Background Copy Rates
Proactive Host Failover during temporary and permanent node removals from cluster
IBM Aspera® Files cloud service helps to enable fast, easy, and secure exchange of files and folders of any size between users, even across separate organizations. Aspera Files is currently available in three all-inclusive editions of Personal, Business, and Enterprise. Clients can subscribe either to a committed amount of data transferred on a monthly or annual basis or as a pay-per-use option.
Personal edition now includes 20 authorized users and a single workspace.
Business edition now includes 100 authorized users, 100 workspaces, support for IBM Aspera Drive, support for IBM Mobile applications, and support for Single-Sign-On.
Enterprise edition now includes 500 authorized users, no limit on number of workspaces, support for IBM Aspera Drive, support for IBM Mobile applications, and support for Single-Sign-On.
IBM is now introducing a new "Elite edition" includes 2500 authorized users, no limit on number of workspaces, support for IBM Aspera Drive, support for IBM Mobile applications, support for Single-Sign-On, and access to IBM Aspera Developer Network and nonproduction organization.
With the addition of the new Elite edition, clients have the flexibility to subscribe to additional functionality in Aspera Files that helps provide higher value and greater differentiation. The Elite edition is available as a subscription and on a pay-per-use basis.
In addition to the existing charge metric of data transferred, a user subscription metric is now included for all four editions. Each edition comes with an included number of authorized users in addition to other key features and capabilities.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements! There were lots of announcements today, so I have split this up into two posts. One for the Tape and Cloud announcements, and the other for the Spectrum Storage family.
IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software V7.8.1
IBM Spectrum Virtualize&trade: V7.8.1 is the latest software for FlashSystem V9000, SAN Volume Controller and Storwize products.
Last release, IBM introduced "Host Groups" for clusters that needed to share a common set of volumes. This release offers "Host cluster I/O throttling": I/O throttling can be managed at the host level (individual or groups) and at managed disk levels for improved performance management,and GUI support.
Increased background FlashCopy transfer rates: This feature enables you to increase the rate of background FlashCopy transfers, providing faster copies as the infrastructure allows. This takes advantage of the higher performance capabilities of today's systems, processing the copy in a shorter period of time. The default was 64 MB/sec, and now we can go up to 2 GB/sec, for those who want their FlashCopy to be done as fast as possible.
Port Congestion Statistic: Zero buffer credits help detect SAN congestion in performance-related issues, improving support in high-performance environments. IBM had this for the 8Gbps FCP cards, but not for the 16Gbps cards, so now that's fixed.
Resizing of volumes in remote mirror relationships: Target volumes in remote mirror relationships will be automatically resized when source volumes are resized. Lots of clients asked for this, and IBM delivered!
Consistency protection for Metro/Global Mirror relationships: An automatic restart of mirroring relationships after a link fails between the mirror sites improves disaster recovery scenarios, helping to ensure the applications are protected throughout the process.
When IBM introduced "Global Mirror with Change Volumes" (GM CV), I wanted to call it "Trickle Mirror", because the primary site takes a FlashCopy, trickles the data over, then FlashCopy at the remote site. Now, clients using traditional Metro or Global Mirror can add "Change Volumes" as protection. In the unlikely event a network disruption occurs, it drops down to GMCV until the link resumes full speed.
Support of SuperMicro servers for the Spectrum Virtualize as Software Only offering: Support for x86-based Intel™ servers by SuperMicro for Spectrum Virtualize Software is available with this release.
Last year, IBM offered Spectrum Virtualize as software that could run on Lenovo servers. However, now there are clients who want alternative server choices.
Supermicro SuperServer 2028U-TRTP+ is supported to run Spectrum Virtualize Software. This is a great option for end clients, managed service or cloud service providers deploying private clouds, building hosted services, or using software-defined storage on third party Intel servers. This a fully inclusive license with all key features available on Spectrum Virtualize in a single, downloadable image.
IBM Spectrum Control V5.2.13 and IBM Virtual Storage Center V5.2.13
We often joke that IBM Virtual Storage Center is the [Happy Meal] combining storage virtualization with Spectrum Virtualize hardware like FlashSystem V9000, SAN Volume Controller or Storwize as the "hamburger", Spectrum Control as the "fries" and "Spectrum Protect Snapshot" as the "soft drink". Storage Analytics was included as a "prize inside" only available in the VSC bundle to entice clients to chose this option.
Whenever IBM updates Spectrum Control, they often put out a new version of the Virtual Storage Center bundle as well. I was the Chief Architect for Spectrum Control 2001-2002, and Technical Evangelist for SVC in 2003 when we first introduced the product, so I have long history with both products.
This release provides additional information and performance metrics on Dell EMC VMAX and EMC VNX devices. This is done natively, they do not need to be virtualized by Spectrum Virtualize as was often done in the past.
IBM now offers better visibility of drives within IBM Cloud Object Storage Slicestor® nodes. IBM acquired Cleversafe 18 months ago, and are working to get it under the Spectrum Control management umbrella.
IBM Spectrum Scale™ file system to external pool correlation. Spectrum Scale can migrate data to three different type of "external pools":
Cloud Object pool, either on-premise Object Storage or off-premise Cloud Service Provider storage.
Spectrum Protect pool, where Spectrum Protect manages the migrated data on one of 700 supported devices, including tape, virtual tape, optical, flash, disk, object storage or cloud.
Spectrum Archive pool, where data is written directly to physical tape using the Industry-standard LTFS format.
This release provides additional information on the copy data panel about SAN Volume Controller (SVC) HyperSwap® and vDisk mirror.
While the "Virtual Storage Center" bundle is an awesome deal, some clients have asked for the "Vegetarian Option" (Fries and Drink only). Why? Because they want the advanced storage analytics (prize inside) for other devices like DS8000, XIV, etc. So, IBM created the "IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition", which has everything in VSC except the Spectrum Virtualize itself.
Advanced edition adds improvements to the chargeback report. It also includes IBM Spectrum Protect™ Snapshot V8.1 release.
IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights Software as a Service
Storage Insights is IBM's "Software-as-a-Service" reporting-only offering subset of Spectrum Control Advanced Edition. It includes direct support for Dell EMC VMAX, VNX, and VNXe storage systems. This is huge! Now, clients who have only EMC hardware can now, on a monthly basis, figure out where they are wasting money and decrease their costs.
Other features carried over include the enhanced drive support for IBM® Cloud Object Storage, enhanced external capacity views for IBM Spectrum Scale™ and additional replication views for vDisk mirror and HyperSwap® relationships for SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and Storwize® devices that I mention above.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements! There were lots of announcements today, so I have split this up into two posts. One for the Tape and Cloud announcements, and the other for the Spectrum Storage family.
IBM TS7700 Virtual Tape System
IBM TS7700 release 4.1.1 now supports seven- and eight-way grids with approved RPQs. Before this, grids could only have up to six TS7700 systems connected together.
IBM also plans to extend the capacity of the TS7760 base frame to over 600 TB, and to extend the capacity of a fully configured TS7760 system to over 2.45 PB, before compression, by supporting 8 TB disk drives. This is a huge increase over the 4TB and 6TB drives used today.
IBM offers the IBM Cloud Object Storage System in three ways: as software, as pre-built systems, and as a cloud server on IBM Bluemix (formerly known as SoftLayer).
For those not familiar with IBM Cloud Object Storage (IBM COS), consider it "Valet Parking" for your storage. In a valet parking environment, you have valet parking attendants that drive the cars, parking garages that hold the cars, and a manager that oversees the operation. With IBM COS, you have Accesser® nodes that receive and retrieve your data like valet parking attendants, you have Slicestor® nodes that store your objects like cars in a parking garage, and you have IBM COS Manager to oversee the operation.
Today, IBM announced new HDD options for their S01, S03 and S03 models of Slicestor nodes. These are all 7200 rpm, 3.5-inch Nearline drives, at capacities of 4 TB, 6 TB, 8 TB and 10 TB.
In addition, a short-range 40 GbE SFP+ transceiver is available for ordering on IBM Cloud Object Storage Accesser models A00, A01, and A02, and IBM Cloud Object Storage Slicestor models S01 and S02. This improves the performance of data transfer between the Accesser nodes and the Slicestor nodes. Think of it like shortening the distance valet parking attendants have to drive your car to the garage and run back.
I have been presenting Cloud Storage for nearly 10 years now. People are often shocked to learn that most of the major cloud providers -- including Amazon, Google, Microsoft -- do not offer "Data at Rest" encryption on their storage offerings.
Why not? Because it would mean investing in Self-Encrypting Drives, Key management software, and other related technology to make it happen. Instead, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) expect you to encrypt the data in software. Most users encrypt data before it lands on the cloud, but what if you create the data in the cloud?
IBM solved this by offering IBM Cloud Object Storage in its IBM Cloud (formerly known as SoftLayer). It has integrated encryption software that takes care of this for you.
This new product, IBM Multi-Cloud Data Encryption V1.0, enables you to encrypt files, folders, and volumes in any cloud while maintaining local control of encryption keys. It integrates with IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager (SKLM). This is designed to allow you to move cipher data between clouds that are running Multi-Cloud Data Encryption without decrypting and re-encrypting the data.
For example, you can use IBM Multi-Cloud Data Encryption to protect your data on Amazon, Google or Microsoft, then later realize that you can save a ton of money moving to IBM Cloud instead, and you are now able to move the data over seamlessly!
(Back in 2010, I poked fun at EMC with my post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round]. I pointed out that EMC's announcement of "new features" that already existed in IBM's SAN Volume Controller. Oops! They did it again!)
Basically, Dell EMC is working on a new "2 Tiers" approach that combines high-performance flash tier with high-capacity object storage. Guess what? IBM already offers this! Why wait?
IBM Spectrum Scale, formerly known as the General Parallel File System (GPFS), supports POSIX, HDFS, OpenStack Swift, Amazon S3, NFS, SMB and iSCSI protocols.
Spectrum Scale can provide this front-end abstraction layer between flash and object storage, including IBM Cloud Object Storage system and IBM Bluemix (formerly SoftLayer) cloud services.
But why limit yourself to just two tiers? IBM Spectrum Scale can also support 15K, 10K and 7200 RPM spinning disk drive tiers, as well as virtual or physical tape tier, the ultimate low-cost high-capacity tier!
Several years ago, IBM coined the phrase "FLAPE" to discuss the two-tier approach of combining Flash with Tape using Spectrum Scale as the front-end abstraction layer.
Perhaps we should call combinations of Flash and Object "FLobject" storage? If the name catches on, you read it here first!
IBM is in a transition from being a "Systems, Software and Services" company, to become the leading "Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform" company. IBM has been in this transformation for the past three years or so, and [over 40 percent of its revenue] now comes from these strategic initiatives.
The purpose of AI and cognitive systems developed and applied by the IBM company is to augment human intelligence. Our technology, products, services and policies will be designed to enhance and extend human capability, expertise and potential. Our position is based not only on principle but also on science.
Cognitive systems will not realistically attain consciousness or independent agency. Rather, they will increasingly be embedded in the processes, systems, products and services by which business and society function -- all of which will and should remain within human control.
For cognitive systems to fulfill their world-changing potential, it is vital that people have confidence in their recommendations, judgments and uses. Therefore, the IBM company will make clear:
When and for what purposes AI is being applied in the cognitive solutions we develop and deploy.
The major sources of data and expertise that inform the insights of cognitive solutions, as well as the methods used to train those systems and solutions.
The principle that clients own their own business models and intellectual property and that they can use AI and cognitive systems to enhance the advantages they have built, often through years of experience. We will work with our clients to protect their data and insights, and will encourage our clients, partners and industry colleagues to adopt similar practices.
The economic and societal benefits of this new era will not be realized if the human side of the equation is not supported. This is uniquely important with cognitive technology, which augments human intelligence and expertise and works collaboratively with humans.
Therefore, the IBM company will work to help students, workers and citizens acquire the skills and knowledge to engage safely, securely and effectively in a relationship with cognitive systems, and to perform the new kinds of work and jobs that will emerge in a cognitive economy.
This week, I was reminded that back in 2011, Watson beat two human players, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on the TV game show "Jeopardy!" On his last response, Ken wrote "I for one welcome our new computer overlords." With IBM investing heavily in Cognitive Solutions, should people be worried, or welcome the new technology?
Back in 1950, Isaac Asimov proposed "Three laws of robots":
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Let's take a look at how Artificial Intelligence has been represented in the movies over the past few decades. I have put these in chronological order when they were initially released in the United States.
(FCC Disclosure and Spoiler Alert: I work for IBM. This blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" for cognitive solutions made by IBM. While IBM may have been involved or featured in some of these movies, I have no financial interest in them. I have seen them all and highly recommend them. I am hoping that you have all seen these, or at least familiar enough with their plot lines that I am not spoiling them for you.)
2001: A Space Odyssey
Back in 1968, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke made a masterpiece movie about a mysterious obelisk floating near Jupiter. To investigate, a crew of human beings takes a space ship managed by a sentient computer named [HAL-9000].
(Many people thought HAL was a subtle reference to IBM. Stanley Kubrick clarifies:
"By the way, just to show you how interpretation can sometimes be bewildering: A cryptographer went to see the film, and he said, 'Oh. I get it. Each letter of HAL's name is one letter ahead of IBM. The H is one letter in front of I, the A is one letter in front of B, and the L is one letter in front of M.'
Now this is a pure coincidence, because HAL's name is an acronym of heuristic and algorithmic, the two methods of computer programming...an almost inconceivable coincidence. It would have taken a cryptographer to have noticed that."
Source: The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eye Magazine Interview, Modern Library, pp. 249)
The problem arises when HAL-9000 refuses commands from the astronauts. The astronauts are not in control, HAL-9000 was given separate orders from ground control back on earth, and it has determined it would be more successful without the crew.
In 1973, Michael Crichton wrote and directed this movie about an amusement park with three uniquely themed areas: Medieval World, Roman World, and Westworld. Robots are used to staff the parks to make them more realistic, interacting with the guests in character appropriate for each time period.
A malfunction spreads like a computer virus among the robots, causing them to harm or kill the park's guests. Yul Brenner played a robot called simply "the Gunslinger". Equipped with fast reflexes and infrared vision, the Gunslinger proves especially deadly!
(Michael Crichton also wrote "Jurassic Park", which had a similar story line involving dinosaurs with catastrophic results!)
Last year, HBO launched a TV series called "Westworld", based on the same themes covered in this movie. The first season of 10 episodes just finished, and the next season is scheduled for 2018.
Directed by Ridley Scott, this 1982 movie stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a law enforcement officer. Rick is tasked to hunt down and "retire" four cognitive androids named "replicants" that have killed some humans and are now in search of their creator, a man named J. F. Sebastian.
(I enjoy the euphemisms used in these movies. Terms like kill, murder or assassinate apply to humans but not machines. The word "retire" in this movie refers to destruction of the robots. As we say in IBM, "retirement is not something you do, it is something done to you!")
Destroying machines does not carry the same emotional toll as killing humans, but this movie explores that empathy. A sequel called "Blade Runner 2049" will be released later this year.
In 1983, Matthew Broderick plays David, a young high school student who hacks into the U.S. Military's War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) computer. The WOPR was designed to run various strategic games, including war game simulations, learning as it goes. David decides to initiate the game "Global Thermonuclear War", and the military responds as if the threats were real.
Can the computer learn that the only way to win a war is not to wage it in the first place? And if a computer can learn this, can our human leaders learn this too?
In this series of movies, a franchise spanning from 1984 to 2009, the US Military builds a defense grid computer called [Skynet]. After cognitive learning at an alarming rate, Skynet becomes self-aware, and decides to launch missiles, starting a nuclear war that kills over 3 billion people.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator model T-800, a cognitive solution in human form designed by Skynet to finish the job and kill the remainder of humanity.
In this 2004 movie, Will Smith plays Del Spooner, a technophobic cop who investigates a crime committed by a cognitive robot.
(Many people associate the title with author Isaac Asimov. A short story called "I, Robot" written by Earl and Otto Binder was published in the January 1939 issue of 'Amazing Stories', well before the unrelated and more well-known book 'I, Robot' (1950), a collection of short stories, by Asimov.
Asimov admitted to being heavily influenced by the Binder short story. The title of Asimov's collection was changed to "I, Robot" by the publisher, against Asimov's wishes. Source: IMDB)
Del Spooner uncovers a bigger threat to humanity, not just a single malfunctioning robot, but rather the Virtual Interactive Kinesthetic Interface, or simply VIKI for short, a cognitive solution that controls all robots. VIKI interprets Asimov's three laws in a manner not originally intended.
In this 2015 movie, Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a 26 year old programmer at the world's largest internet company. Caleb wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat. However, when Caleb arrives he discovers that he must interact with Ava, the world's first true artificial intelligence, a beautiful robot played by Alicia Vikander.
(The title derives from the Latin phrase "Deus Ex-Machina," meaning "a god from the Machine," a phrase that originated in Greek tragedies. Sources: IMDB)
Nathan, the reclusive CEO of this company, relishes this opportunity to have Caleb participate in this experiment, explaining how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will transform the world.
(The three main characters all have appropriate biblical names. Ava is a form of Eve, the first woman; Nathan was a prophet in the court of David; and Caleb was a spy sent by Moses to evaluate the Promised Land. Source: IMDB)
The premise is based in part on the famous [Turing Test], developed by Alan Turing. This is designed to test a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
Movies that depict the bad guys as a particular nationality, ethnicity or religion may be offensive to some movie audiences. Instead, having dinosaurs, monsters, aliens or robots provides a villain that all people can fear equally. This helps movie makers reach a more global audience!
Of course, if robots, androids and other forms of Artificial Intelligence did exactly what humans expect them to, we would not have the tense, thrilling action movies to watch on the big screen.
This is not a complete list of movies. Enter in the comments below your favorite movie that features Artificial Intelligence and why it is your favorite!
(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]:
of or relating to cognition; concerned with the act or process of knowing, perceiving, etc.
of or relating to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes.
What exactly does IBM mean by Cognitive? IBM has taken this definition, and focused on four key strategic areas:
In the summer of 1981, I spent a summer debugging a "Pascal" compiler at the University of Texas at Austin. I wasn't told that was what I was doing. Rather, I was tasked with writing sample Pascal programs that would demonstrate the features and capabilities of the language.
Every day, I would come up with a concept of a program, punch up the cards, run it through the CDC hopper, and verify that it would work properly. If I didn't have it working by lunch, I would take it to the "help desk", they would look it over, and tell me how to fix it after I got back.
Most of the time, it was a mistake in my software. A few times, however, it was a flaw in the compiler itself. My programs were basically test cases, and the Pascal Compiler development team was fixing or enhancing the compiler code every time I had a problem.
Compilers basically work by parsing the program text, looking for fixed keywords that are entered in a specifically prescribed order to make sense. Other keywords may represent data types, variables, constants or pre-defined macros.
But compilers are not cognitive. Cognitive solutions can understand natural language, and have to handle all the ambiguity of words not being in the correct order, or different words having different meanings.
As an Electrical Engineer, I had to take many classes on classical analog signal processing. In fact, all computers have some amount of analog components, where threshold processing is used to differentiate a zero (0) from a one (1).
For example, if a "zero" value was represented by 1 volt, and a "one" value by 5 volts, then you can set a threshold at 3 volts. Any voltage less than 3 would be considered a "zero" value, and anything 3 volts or greater a "one" value.
But threshold processing is not cognitive. Cognitive solutions also use thresholds, but their thresholds are dynamically determined, through advanced analytics and statistical mathematical models, and may adjust up and down as needed, based on machine learning over time.
IBM Research is proud to have developed the world's most advanced caching algorithms for its storage systems. Cache memory is very fast, but also very expensive, so offered in limited quantities. Caching algorithms decide which blocks of data should remain in cache, and which should be kicked out.
Ideally, a block in read cache would be kicked out precisely after the last time it was read, with little or no expectation for being read again anytime soon. Likewise, a block in write cache would be destaged to persistent storage precisely after the last time it was updated, with little or no expectation for being updated again anytime soon.
Traditional approach is "Least Recently Used" or [LRU]. Cache entries that were read recently or updated recently, would be placed on the top of the list, and the least referenced would be at the bottom of the list. When space is needed in cache, the entries at the bottom of the list would be kicked out.
IBM's [Adaptive Cache Algorithm outperforms LRU]. For example, on a workstation disk drive workload, at 16MB cache, LRU delivers a hit ratio of 4.24 percent while ARC achieves a hit ratio of 23.82 percent, and, for a SPC1 benchmark, at 4GB cache, LRU delivers a hit ratio of 9.19 percent while ARC achieves a hit ratio of 20 percent.
But caching algorithms, including IBM's Adaptive Cache, are not cognitive. These algorithms respond pragmatically based on the current state of the cache. Cognitive solutions learn, and improve with usage. This is often referred to as "Machine Learning".
The human-computer interface (HCI) has much room for improvement in a variety of areas.
Take for example a snack vending machine. In college, we had assignments to simulate the computing logic of these. We had to interact with the buyer, receive coins entered into the slot--nickels, dimes and quarters representing 5, 10 and 25 cents--determine a total monetary balance, and then dispense snacks of various prices and return an appropriate amount of change, if any. There is even a [greedy algorithm] designed to optimize how the change is returned.
But vending machines are not cognitive. Like the caching algorithms, vending machines interact based on fixed programmatic logic, treating all buyers in the same manner. Cognitive solutions can interact with different users in different ways, customized to their needs, and these interactions can improve over time, based on machine learning.
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.
New High Performance Flash Enclosure (HPFE-Gen2)
The original HPFE was 1U high with 16 or 30 flash cards, and could support RAID-5 or RAID-10. Most used RAID-5, resulting in four array sites of 6+P each, leaving two cards for spare. These 1.8-inch cards were only 400 or 800 GB in size, so the maximum raw capacity was only 24TB per 1U enclosure.
The new HPFE-Gen2 enclosure is a complete re-design, consisting of two Microbays and two TeraPacks. The I/O Bays attach to the Microbays via PCIe Gen3. The Microbays in turn attach to both TeraPacks via redundant 6 Gb or 12 Gb SAS.
Each TeraPack holds 24 flash cards each. Since the TeraPacks come in pairs, you can install 16, 32 or 48 flash cards per enclosure. Each 16-card set represents two array sites, for a maximum of six array sites per HPFE-Gen2.
RAID-5 for 400/800 GB. Two 6+P arrays, four 7+P arrays, and two spares.
RAID-6 for 400/800/1600/3200 GB. Two 5+P+Q arrays, four 6+P+Q arrays, and two spares.
RAID-10 for 400/800/1600/3200 GB. Two 3+3 arrays, four 4+4 arrays, and four spares.
(Technically, these new "Flash cards" are 2.5-inch Solid State Drives (SSD) placed into the HPFE Gen2 connected to the PCIe Gen3 interface, with 50 percent additional capacity to tolerate up to 10 drive-writes-per-day (DWDP). IBM will continue to call them "Flash Cards" for naming consistency between the two generations of HPFE.)
The new HPFE-Gen2 enclosures are substantially faster, offering up to 90 percent more IOPS, and up to 268 percent more throughput (GB/sec). The Microbays use a new flash-optimized ASIC to perform the RAID calculations.
New All-Flash Array DS8880F models
IBM introduces the DS8884F, DS8886F and DS8888F that are based entirely on the HPFE-Gen2 enclosures described above.
Hybrid - HDD/SSD/HPFE mix
Hybrid - HDD/SSD/HPFE mix
AFA - HPFE only
AFA - HPFE-Gen2 only
AFA - HPFE-Gen2 only
AFA - HPFE-Gen2 only
New zHyperLink connection
Also, as a "Statement of Direction", IBM intends to deliver field upgradable support for zHyperLink on existing IBM System Storage DS8880 machines for connection to z System servers. zHyperLink is a short-distance, mainframe-attach link designed for lower latency than High Performance FICON.
Typical latency with FICON/zHPF is around 140-170 microseconds, and this new zHyperLink is estimated to reduce this down to 20-30 microseconds, but is limited to 150 meter fiber optic cable distance. zHyperLink is intended to speed up DB2® for z/OS® transaction processing and improve active log throughput.
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.
"... [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:
'According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day -- 9.3 hours per week, on average -- searching and gathering information. Put another way, businesses hire 5 employees but only 4 show up to work; the fifth is off searching for answers, but not contributing any value.' Source: [Time Searching for Information]
'19.8 percent of business time -- the equivalent of one day per working week -- is wasted by employees searching for information to do their job effectively,' according to Interact. Source: [A Fifth of Business Time is Wasted]
IDC data shows that 'the knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30 percent of the workday, searching for information ... 60 percent [of company executives] felt that time constraints and lack of understanding of how to find information were preventing their employees from finding the information they needed.' Source: [Information: The Lifeblood of the Enterprise]."
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:
★ (one star)
Irrelevant, answer not even storage-related
★★ (two stars)
Relevant, at least it is storage-related, but does not answer the question, or answers it poorly
★★★ (three stars)
Relevant, adequately answers the question
★★★★ (four stars)
Relevant, answers the question well
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:
The questions are not always fully formed sentences. For example, "Object storage?" Is this asking what is object storage in general, or rather what does IBM offer in this area?
The questions often do not spell the names of products correctly, or use informal abbreviations. "Can Store-wise V7 do RtC?" is a typical example, short for "Can the IBM Storwize V7000 storage controller perform Real-time Compression?"
The questions ask what is planned in the future. "When will IBM offer feature x in product y?" I am sorry, but Watson is not [Zoltar, the fortune teller]!
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!