IBM: Still Buzzwording after All These Years

April 8, 2022

I read “IBM Unveils Industry’s First Quantum-Safe System, IBM z16.” I have no doubt the machine is capable and certainly better than the IBM dog to which I had access in 1962. I loved standing in line to sign up for a card punch machine. I loved standing in line to drop off my pathetic card deck. I loved getting the green bar paper and the deck back days later. What’s not to like? Today’s system is super duper. The write explains that the “new” mainframe can prevent a quantum issue from a computer yet to be deployed as a functional encryption/decryption equipped quantum computer. That’s a pretty good wild and crazy idea: Protect against a future thing not yet in existence. Wow!

However the write up uses more buzzwords than I have seen in the patents filed by an outfit called Kyndi (if you don’t know, this is another enterprise search company with jargonized patent documents). Here’s a short list of some of the gems used to describe a mainframe. Keep in mind this is a mainframe, not a zippy Apple M chip powered gizmo. A mainframe. The words:

Quantum safe system. (Frankly I am not sure what a quantum computer will actually do once the cost, applications, cooling, etc. are figured out.)

Inference requests. (Years ago there was a Web search system called Inference. Today I am not exactly sure what an inference request is. Maybe a query requiring fancy predictive math? The IBM approach is to deliver latency optimized inferencing. I think this means latency reduced inference but maybe not. The number presented without any supporting data is 300 billion inference requests per day. Is this eight hours or 24 hours?)

Integrated on chip AI accelerator. (And what’s AI mean? Probably machine learning but the on chip AI is snappy. How big is this “artificial intelligence” conceptual umbrella? I assume IBM used the word “all” in a previous draft of this buzzwordy phrase.)

Near future threats. (After SolarWinds the threats are here and now and will persist because the attack surface is like the paved parking lots in Paramus, New Jersey. What’s near future? Like tomorrow?)

Cyber resiliency posture. (My hunch is that this means that executives at Microsoft struggling with Azure and Exchange security will sit up straight after 1,000 bad actors working for a nation state use off the shelf exploits to attack those Softies’ systems and software.)

CEX8S. (Is the acronym pronounced like the word for biological actions related to progeny creation or like the breakfast cereal one ate for breakfast? Has the acronym been influenced by Tesla’s cutesy auto labels: Model S, Model 3, and Model X, the one with long lasting performance?)

Quantum-safe cryptographic technology. (At least Kyndi spelled “quantum” this way: Quantom. IBM couldn’t be bothered to nose into Kyndi’s spelling innovation. IBM’s invocation approach may relate to the firm’s experiments with quantum computing which have allegedly ripped the crown of quantum supremacy from the scaled head of Googzilla.)

Wow. This is a mainframe, and it works pretty much like its predecessors. Why not emphasize compatibility, methods of exporting data to lesser systems, and exactly what legacy software will run on the beastie?

Not zippy enough? Certainly not for the IBM marketers. Quantum AI inferencing CEX8S are much zippier. Let’s ask the part of Watson that hasn’t been sold? Here’s the answer I think Watson will output:

IBM deliberately misclassified mainframe sales to enrich execs, lawsuit claims

That seems like a Watson like answer to me.

Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2022

IBM: Big Blue May Have Some Digital Re-Engineering to Explain

March 4, 2022

Yo, I am a dinobaby, and I am proud of that fact. You want proof. I know what a rotary dial phone is. I know how to use a facsimile machine. Heck, I can still crank out a mimeograph document. I even know how to get a drink from a terracotta jar in rural Brazil. (Love those chemicals and that wonky purple-blue color which reminds me of Big Blue.)

Several years ago, I read a blog by some IBM people which documented the harvesting of old workers. That blog disappeared, of course. It named managers, disclosed snippets of email, and did a fine job to making clear that oldsters had one function. The idea was that before finding their future elsewhere, the old employees would train their replacements. This is a variation on copying data from a DASD to a zippy new storage device, just with humanoids, not silicon.

I have been following the word dinobaby. I entered it into my log of jazzy new terms coined by millennials and GenXers. I put dinobaby between grosso modo memetic learning and vibe shift. This is not alphabetical I know, but I like the rhythm of the words when offered in a dinner conversation about technology.

The word appeared in  “IBM Executives Planned to Rid the Company of Older, Dinobaby Employees and Replace Them with Millennials, Lawsuit Alleges.” I thought the lawsuit was an interesting opportunity for legal eagles to generate some money.

Then I read the February 26, 2022, story “IBM Cannot Kill This Age-Discrimination Lawsuit Linked to CEO.” Despite Covid, financial turmoil, and the unfortunate events in Eastern Europe:

The judge overseeing an age-discrimination case against IBM has denied the IT giant’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, citing evidence supporting plaintiff Eugen Schenfeld’s claim that CEO Arvind Krishna, then director of IBM research, made the decision to fire him.

The write up includes a link to a legal document and some snazzy code names; for example, Project Concord, Project Baccarat, and Project Ruby. It appears that each project was intended to get the big, noisy, weird dinobabies out of IBM’s life.

Not happening yet.

The write up asserts that there are more than 10,000 mainframe capable dinobabies vaporized by the “projects” implemented during the scintillating tenure of Ginni Rometty, former president and CEO of Big Blue. (Did you know that Ms. Rometty worked at General Motors, an esteemed automobile company which developed the Chevrolet Bolt, a model which caught on fire?  The owner was not Ginni Rometty. The burning GM vehicle was owned by  an elected official in Vermont.)

IBM may escape punishment for its alleged conversion of humanoids into dinobabies. But it will be interesting to follow the legal machinations which now seeks to transform dinobabies into hamsters and gerbils with mainframe and other esoteric skills.

Plus the lawyers can consult IBM Watson for inputs!

Stephen E Arnold,March 4, 2022

IBM Watson: Creative Re-Explaining

February 25, 2022

I read “IBM Charts New Brand Direction With Campaign Built Around Creativity.”

The article contains an interesting statement allegedly articulated by Jonathan Adashek, cco and svp of marketing and communications at IBM

Adashek said IBM has historically had trouble articulating a clear and unifying purpose for a business as sprawling and multifaceted as the 110-year-old enterprise giant has become. But with business moves like the Kyndryl spinoff helping to strengthen the company’s core focus on growth areas like artificial intelligence and hybrid cloud computing, IBM decided it was time to boil down its public-facing message.

Does this mean the Watson “anti creativity” has been left behind?

Nope. Here’s some evidence:

Ogilvy global chief creative officer Liz Taylor said the concept for the campaign evolved out of the idea that a certain type of creative thinking is central to the business projects that many IBM clients are attempting to tackle—and that the company’s range of enterprise tech and consulting services can help with that. “It really started in the sort of notion of this era of creativity is the defining currency of business,” Taylor said. “It’s not necessarily creativity in the way I might think of my job, but our audience is just increasingly responsible for creating and executing visions for how to compete in this new world.”

Yep, IBM is creative: Clever contracts related to a certain nation state in the good old WW2 era, addressing cancer and telling, “You are history”, and now a type of creative different from that delivered by Madison Avenue-types.

Yep, “not necessarily creativity in the way I might think of my job” which is to explain that IBM fuels creativity.

Logical? Not necessarily. Did you know that IBM’s creativity allowed it to acquire a Microsoft Azure consulting firm called Neudisic? Buying innovation and a revenue stream for a semi successful cloud provider? Yes. Creative? Sure.

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2022

After Main Street Retail, Amazon Targets Big Blue

February 24, 2022

Amazon is making it easy to abandon mainframes for its cloud services, Data Center Knowledge reveals in, “AWS Is Out to Kill Mainframes.” In other words, IBM. AWS Mainframe Modernization allows companies to transfer their operations to AWS and either morph legacy applications into Java-based services or keep existing code with few changes. The service promises to automate the process with development, testing, and deployment tools. Though some folks are still mainframe aficionados, others see those systems as decidedly out of date. Writer Max Smolaks admits mainframes excel at processing power, security, and uptime. However, he explains:

“These systems are incredibly expensive and difficult to maintain, and the pool of people qualified to deal with their legacy software is shrinking all the time. AWS has been trying to get customers off mainframes and into its data centers for years. This time, the company says it has built a runtime enthronement provides all the necessary compute, memory, and storage to run both refactored and replatformed applications while automatically handling capacity provisioning, security, load balancing, scaling, and application health monitoring. Since this is all done via public cloud, there are no upfront costs, and customers only pay for the amount of compute provisioned.”

Mainframe Modernization is not yet fully deployed across the globe, but is available for preview in certain regions. We are reminded the concept of remastering legacy software has been done before:

“A similar model has been promoted by other companies, like the Swiss startup LzLabs, which has been developing a product called Software-Defined Mainframe since 2011, based on its own COBOL and Java interoperability architecture. Going in a different direction, the Open Mainframe Project founded in 2015 is attempting to make existing machines a lot more useful, by teaching them to run on Linux, rather than proprietary operating systems like z/OS.”

Smolaks notes folks have been foretelling the death of the mainframe for decades now. Will this AWS initiative be the one to finally vanquish it?

Cynthia Murrell, February 24, 2022

A Small Reminder: Finding Accurate, Actionable Information Is More Than Marketing Hoo-hah

January 14, 2022

Information retrieval ignites many interesting discussions. In our global environment, factionalism is the soup du jour. Talking about search can triggering dysphagia if a foot is consumed or apoplexy if one’s emotions go ballistic.

To keep search chatter in balance, I recommend “Scoop: IBM Tries to Sell Watson Health Again.” The write up does an non-job of romping through the craziness of IBM Watson and assorted medical windmills. There is one telling passage in the write up which I wish to highlight; to wit:

Big Blue wants out of health care, after spending billions to stake its claim, just as rival Oracle is moving big into the sector via its $28 billion bet for Cerner.

What’s up with IBM Watson in general and health care in particular? Several observations from my snowy redoubt in rural Kentucky, a state which has failed to emulate the business success of Tennessee. Is it Mitch? I don’t know.

Now my thoughts:

  1. Answering questions about scientific, technical, and medical questions is less demanding than figuring out what a TikTok message means. Failing in STM is like tripping over a bottle cap in a deserted NFL stadium’s parking lot
  2. Watson and its cognitive assertions requires training. Training is expensive. Google is working hard to convince itself and others to embrace the Snorkelesque approach. Watson’s method is a bit behind the sail boat’s curve in my opinion. Maybe the training race is over and Watson is in dry dock.
  3. The crazy assertions that cancer doctors could work better, faster, and more cheaply with Watson by their side resulted in one major event. The flashy Houston medical center showed Watson where the Exit door was located.

What will happen when a group of money people buy Watson? Lots of meetings, some tax planning, and quite a few telephone calls to college friends. Then a flip.

Will Watson health emerge a winner? IBM missed its chance the first time around. Perhaps the company can team with other health care competitors and craft a revenue winner. Will IBM ring up the Google? Will IBM make a trip to Redmond, home of the OS/2 debacle?

Who knows? Perhaps the company will apply some effort to fixing up its lagging cloud business? Again, who knows? Let’s ask Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2022

Forgotten IBM Watson? Despite Quantum Supremacy, IBM Loves Its AI Too

December 1, 2021

IBM continues to upgrade Watson; this time it is new natural language processing software. IBM’s Newsroom details the upgrade: “IBM To Add New Natural Language Processing Enhancements To Watson Discovery.” The enhancements will assist industries elevate customer care, accelerate business processes by discovering insights and synthesizing information.

Companies are using more NLP software to review their data and its varying formats. AI allows companies to discover insights, save research time, and help employees make more fact-driven decisions. Customization for different industries is a key determinant in the Watson Discovery upgrade:

“The new planned features that IBM announced today are designed to make it easier for Watson Discovery users to quickly customize the underlying NLP models on the unique language of their business. Stemming from NLP advancements developed by IBM Research, business users can train Watson Discovery to help read, understand and surface more precise insights from large sets of complex, industry-specific documents even if they don’t have significant data science skills.”

Among the new features are: advanced NLP customization capabilities, automatic text pattern detection, and pre-trained document structure understanding. NLP will change how the law, financial, insurance, and other industries conduct business.

While NLP upgrades are relatively new, but they will eventually become industry standards as the software becomes cheaper and more ingrained. NLP might actually become mandatory to combat inaccuracy and poor business practices.

Whitney Grace, December 1, 2021

Quantum Supremacy Is a Thing and IBM Now Has It

November 18, 2021

I read “IBM Achieves Quantum Supremacy: Announces 127-qubit “Eagle” Quantum Processor at Quantum Summit 2021.” Maybe this is indeed accurate. I would like to ask IBM Watson, “Is this IBM marketing talk, or has Big Blue aced the Google and legions of Chinese quantum engineers?”

The write up reports:

IBM expects to achieve a 1,121-qubit quantum processor – and quantum advantage – by 2023.

This statement seems different from the headline. In fact, I expect to be named the next 77 year old analyst flying into space in 2023. The problem is that “expect” and “do” are quite different things to me.

Not to IBM, at least according to the article which quotes and IBM’er as saying:

“The arrival of the ‘Eagle’ processor is a major step towards the day when quantum computers can outperform classical computers at meaningful levels,” said Dr. Darío Gil, Senior Vice President, IBM and Director of Research. “Quantum computing has the power to transform nearly every sector and help us tackle the biggest problems of our time. This is why IBM continues to rapidly innovate quantum hardware design, build ways for quantum and classical workloads to empower each other, and create a global ecosystem that is imperative to the adoption of quantum computing.”

Yep, marketing talk based on some lab experiments. That means no quantum computer on your desk in the near future. Quantum supremacy is here at least in IBM’s view of its capabilities.

Okay, Google and Chinese engineers. Back to work. The amusing but somewhat bittersweet IBM news has been lost in the endless flow of content marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2021

IBM: The Company Will Telum Like It Could Be

August 25, 2021

I read “The Other IBM Big Iron That Is On The Horizon.” The write up mentions that the Telum processor is for System z mainframes. The outfit making the chip is … Samsung.

I also noted “IBM Unveils New Chip Designed to Detect Fraud with AI.” The article explains:

The chip is built to enable applications to run efficiently where the data resides, helping to overcome traditional enterprise AI approaches that tend to require significant memory and data movement capabilities. Telum’s on-chip acceleration is capable of running AI models during a transaction. This improves fraud detection in industries that hold valuable customer and business information.

The “is built” is interesting because the “IBM Big Iron” article makes this point:

We happen to think IBM had hoped to be able to ship the Telum processors and their System z16 machines before the end of 2021 and the transition from 10 nanometer to 7 nanometer processes at former foundry partner GlobalFoundries to 7 nanometer processes at current foundry partner Samsung has delayed the z16 introduction from its usual cadence. As it stands, the z16 chip will come out in early 2022, after the Power10 chips with fat cores (meaning eight threads per core and only 15 cores per chip) come to market. The skinny Power10 cores (four threads per core but 30 cores on a die) used in so-called “scale out” systems are not expected until the second quarter of 2022. It is rough to change foundries and processes and microarchitectures all at the same time, so a delay from the original plan for both z16 and Power10 are to be expected.

An AI chip. Really good at fraud detection. Requires a System z mainframe. Shipping in the future, maybe next year.

The new IBM outsources. The new IBM pre-announces. But what’s interesting is that as tasty as the descriptions are, the platform requires the “old” IBM; that is, a mainframe. Interesting because neither write up mentions Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, August 25, 2021

Yes, IBM Watson in Zoom Type Sessions

August 23, 2021

Zoom type meetings are not my fave. Your mileage may vary, but I miss the whole travel to meeting, small talk over crappy snacks, and watching the humanoids in action or inaction as the case may be.

I read “3 Smart Video Collaboration Features We Still Need.” The royal “we” is a nice touch for a consultant to IBM. The write up suggests that IBM Watson can tag along and monitor Zoom type meetings. When the hapless group of disinterested Zoom type participants needs “strategy” or “policy” information, good, old Watson will provide that input.

Here’s a comment from the write up:

There’s even something like IBM’s Watson Assistant, which could answer policy and strategy questions during a meeting. (Disclosure: IBM is a client of the author.) Many times, questions aren’t answered by the most knowledgeable person at the table, but by either the most obnoxious or most senior leader. Watson could steer the conversation toward the best outcome. We are on the cusp of taking collaboration systems much farther than they have ever gone. It’s time to turn them into the productivity engines they can be.

I like the disclosure at the end of the write up. Plus, the expert concludes with his strongest marketing pitch. The notion that staring at a camera and monitor will become a productivity engine is amusing. Sci fi fans will love the suggestion.

Oh, wait! Facebook has announced its next big thing. Slap on the virtual reality hood and have an almost real meeting. Stir in some Watson and we will have a winner.

A few observations:

  • Smart software can demonstrate bias and incorrect outputs; providing high value strategy and policy outputs not so much
  • IBM Watson is, as far as I know, the only smart software to fail in the cancer and Covid amelioration trial runs. Isn’t that zero for two?
  • Zoom type interactions have not slowed some companies in their attempt to get employees back into a setting in which those very same humanoids can be monitored, involved in meetings, and pulled into a conversation without the all-to-common “I can’t connect.”

Content marketing is interesting. Unfortunately it is too easy to spot the messaging. No Watson needed because that smart software struggles to deliver more than opportunities for cheerleading for an ageing amalgam of open source, home brew code, and acquired technology.

And the other features? A smart moderator for Zoom type meetings? Err. What? A mom? An Adam Carolla? Plus, another Zoom type meeting at the same time? Yikes. Gee whiz, Computerworld.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2021

The Gray Lady Grinds on Big Blue

July 20, 2021

The New York Times may not be successful in selling ad space to IBM in the next few months. The estimable “real” news outfit published an entertaining discussion of Watson. Navigate to “What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson.” Pay up. Read the 2,000 word business school, essay, opinion piece. Then check your portfolio to verify that IBM stock is down again, has new executives in new roles, and the tenacity to keep on with the “little engine that could” approach to dealing with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft as well as start ups offering everything from i2 Analyst Notebook clones to federating data systems to consulting services at a discount.

Yikes. Big Blue. The New York Times.

The write up has a number of zingers; for example:

  • “Beware what you promise” about the “future of knowing.”  Winking smile
  • “Watson has not remade any industries. And it hasn’t lifted IBM’s fortunes.”
  • [Watson] “was not realistic.”
  • [Watson was] “a learning journey.”
  • “… The grand visions of the past are gone.”
  • “Watson is no longer the next big thing, but it may become a solid business for IBM.”

Yep, that is a conditional and instead of an Amazon AWS Sagemaker gusher of cash, a “solid business.” The wonderfulness of the NYT article omits a couple of minor points:

  • The “cognitive computing” pitch. Baloney in my opinion.
  • The manual effort required to train the mash up of home brew code, open source, and stuff acquired from outfits like Vivisimo takes time and subject matter experts. The result? Expensive stuff for sure. And once the system is trained, one has to keep on training whilst optimizing.
  • The complexity of taking a bunch of parts and implementing them as “smart software” is very difficult. Amazon seems to be going for the “off the shelf” approach and “ready to roll” models.

Net net: Let’s ask Watson how about those AI start ups as acquisition targets. Marketing, not innovation, seems to be the go to strength of IBM. What do you say, Watson? Watson, are you there? Wow, that latency is a killer isn’t it?

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2021

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