November 30, 2013
Amazon has aspirations beyond being the world’s largest retailer. The online retail giant also aspires to be a mega force in computing, says The New York Times Bits Blog in: “Amazon Bares Its Computers.” Amazon has announced that it is taking its Amazon Web Services beyond simple cloud-computing to include specialized computers, data storage systems, networking systems, optical transmissions systems, and power substations. The overall goal is make computer cheaper and run more efficiently.
Amazon rarely discusses its AWS plans, but the recent discussion about how it plans to annually spend one billion comes as big news.
Amazon is prepping to boosts its web services by hiring power engineers to work on substations and remove power redundancies in cloud-computing. Hardware is purchased directly to reduce costs and the company created original statistical methods to limit damage from catastrophic failures. Amazon also owns its own optical fiber systems and take AWS global.
Amazon is hardly keeping their information under wraps this time, though. They are sharing their advances via open source in a direct challenge to Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Microsoft will never share its secrets and Google does share some of its toys, but it keeps the bigger stuff locked away. What about Facebook?
The article explains:
“The notable outrider among the giant computers is Facebook, which isn’t selling its own system. Instead, Facebook is focused on pure cost-cutting, and spearheads the Open Compute Project, a kind of open-source, cloud-computing architecture. Open Compute is far enough along that companies like Hewlett-Packard, which came late to cloud computing, use aspects of it in their public clouds.”
Amazon is not directly asserting it is better than its competitors, but its openness and cost-cutting procedures certainly make it look better in the consumers’ eyes.
Whitney Grace, November 30, 2013
November 28, 2013
Exciting news is reported in the article titled Why IBM’s Watson is Huge for Developers on eWeek. IBM announced on November 14 that they will be opening up the supercomputer to developers, who are scrambling for the chance to work on the cognitive computing technology. General manager of ecosystems Sandy Carter clarified that there is a qualification process for developers, and there are short-term goals. IBM is aiming to grow Watson mainly in three areas (for now): health care, retail and transportation.
Steve Mills, an IBM senior vice-president, explained:
“”There is a fair amount of tooling that’s going to be required to make this thing more digestible,” Mills said. “We’ll probably go to a T-shirt-sized approach to Watson delivery in the future, where you get a small, medium and large kind of offering…They’ve done it. IBM will be launching the IBM Watson Developers Cloud, a cloud-hosted marketplace where application providers of all sizes and industries will be able to tap into resources for developing Watson-powered apps.”
For developers, this could mean a quicker and easier path into markets that they had no way to consider due to funding. Now their ideas will have a much better chance of coming to fruition. For quite some time, IBM has been containing Watson, but with this step forward the opportunities are endless. Meanwhile we are holding our breath for a demo.
Chelsea Kerwin, November 28, 2013
November 22, 2013
I read “Chinese Supercomputer Retains ‘World’s Fastest’ Title, Beating US and Japanese Competition” may be nothing more than street racing with silicon. According the the write up:
A Chinese supercomputer has retained the crown of world’s fastest supercomputer, beating competitors from both Japan and the US.
There are several ideas to put the Chinese supercomputer in the back row. Questions about data transfer suggest the new champ has lousy lungs. It is also possible the graphics card makers’ performance enhancing drug—jiggled and manipulated test suites. Yes! Winner!
The Chinese have won the race two years in a row. In terms of my interests, the Chinese performance is one more datum supporting the notion that engineers from other countries have some work to do.
In terms of search, the reality is that most search systems are pretty much the same in terms of what they deliver to users—frustration and off point results. To improve the search and retrieval systems, more computing horsepower is needed.
With zippy computers and their various technologies, will the innovations in search come from the traditional drag race winners? Perhaps faster machines will allow more sophisticated methods of processing text and the magical “Big Data” will come from the Middle Kingdom?
Fast computers are enablers. Worth watching? Probably.
Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2013
November 15, 2013
Hadoop was named after a toy elephant, so it is only appropriate that as a form of charity the company is donating money to saving elephants from poachers. nature and technology have often been perceived to be at odds with one another, constantly battling for dominance over the planet. Technology can save nature and analytical data techniques have been used to solve problems according to the recent Gigaom article, “Buy Datameer’s Hadoop Application, Save An Elephant.”
The article states:
“We’ve written before about applying big data techniques to help solve societal problems, and now we have a case of applying the revenue from big data software sales directly to a cause. In this case Datameer, a startup that applies a spreadsheet interface to Hadoop, is selling a “charity edition” of its product for $49 and donating all the proceeds during the month of November to a conservation charity called Pro Wildlife.”
Some cynics may view this gesture as a marketing ploy to buy a product that meant to solve the big data problem. (Actually, it only allows users to download to a single desktop and analysis 10 GB, so it is more like big data for the single data-obsessed user). On the bright side, you get to help save the largest, living land mammal. Who does not like elephants?
Whitney Grace, November 15, 2013
November 12, 2013
Those of us with experience in IT may not be surprised by the revelations InfoWorld shares in “6 Dirty Secrets of the IT Industry.” This magazine of IT gospel asked its readers to share their observations of shady IT matters, then fact-checked the results. See the article for the whole roster, but I’ll share a few bits here.
Secret number one is the broadest; Writer Dan Tynan colorfully titles this one, “Sys admins have your company by the short hairs.” He quotes Pierluigi Stella, CTO of security firm Network Box USA, who gives each of us good reason to send our IT departments the random gift basket:
“There are no secrets for IT. I can run a sniffer on my firewall and see every single packet that comes in and out of a specific computer. I can see what people write in their messages, where they go to on the Internet, what they post on Facebook. In fact, only ethics keep IT people from misusing and abusing this power. Think of it as having a mini-NSA in your office.”
Speaking of the NSA, Tynan calls those government snoopers “punks compared to consumer marketing companies and data brokers.” He cites the practices in casinos as the epitome of this very individualized marketing tactic, and provides examples. He goes on to quote former casino executive and Louisiana State University professor Michael Simon, who emphasizes that the practice is far from limited to casinos:
“I teach an MBA class on database analysis and mining, and all the companies we study collect customer information and target offers specific to customer habits. It’s routine business practice today, and it’s no secret. For example, I bring my dog to PetSmart for specific services and products, and the offers they send me are specific to my spending habits. . . instead of wasting time sending me stuff I won’t use like discounts on cat food or tropical fish.”
Whether you, like Simon, appreciate targeted marketing or you find it creepy, it is worth remembering how much data these entities are collecting on each of us.
It is also good to keep in mind some pitfalls of another practice that has become commonplace—storing data in the cloud. In fact, this could be the most disconcerting item on this list. Though we tend to think of the cloud in nebulous terms, that data is actually stored on real servers somewhere. When our data shares rack space with that of other entities, we run the risk of intrusion and confiscation through no fault of our own. The article emphasizes:
“Your cloud data could be swept up in an investigation of an entirely unrelated matter — simply because it was unlucky enough to be kept on the same servers as the persons being investigated. . . . Users who want to protect themselves against this worst-case scenario need to know where their data is actually being kept and which laws may pertain to it, says David Campbell, CEO of cloud security firm JumpCloud. ‘Our recommendation is to find cloud providers that guarantee physical location of servers and data, such as Amazon, so that you can limit your risk proactively,’ he says.”
Another suggestion is to encrypt your data, of course. Keeping a local backup is another good idea, since law enforcement seems to be under no obligation to grant access to your own confiscated data. For some of us, this is just more evidence that sensitive information does not belong in the cloud. Caveat Emptor.
Cynthia Murrell, November 12, 2013
November 6, 2013
IBM’s most recent, disappointing earnings report has the company’s PR machine shifting gears. The company is now highlighting some research progress, as we see in “IBM Unveils Computer Fed by ‘Electronic Blood’” at BBC News. The company continues to look to the human brain as the ultimate computing model, but this time it is our noggins’ energy efficiency they aim to copy.
Reporter James Morgan writes:
“The human brain packs phenomenal computing power into a tiny space and uses only 20 watts of energy – an efficiency IBM is keen to match. Its new ‘redox flow’ system pumps an electrolyte ‘blood’ through a computer, carrying power in and taking heat out. A very basic model was demonstrated this week at the technology giant’s Zurich lab by Dr Patrick Ruch and Dr Bruno Michel. Their vision is that by 2060, a one petaflop computer that would fill half a football field today, will fit on your desktop. ‘We want to fit a supercomputer inside a sugarcube. To do that, we need a paradigm shift in electronics – we need to be motivated by our brain,’ says Michel. ‘The human brain is 10,000 times more dense and efficient than any computer today.’”
Michel credits our vascular system for the brain’s incredible efficiency, and IBM is working to replicate the performance.. Of course, the other factor in any energy exchange is the little matter of cooling. Integrated liquid cooling, or interlayering computer chips with tiny water pipes, takes its cue from the allometric scaling phenomenon found in nature. That is, larger animals are actually more efficient at cooling, since a larger surface area is exposed to air. Finally, IBM looks to the functionality of our blood itself; researchers are searching for a fluid that can simultaneously regulate temperature and deliver fuel. See the article for the details behind these concepts. IBM is taking an interesting approach here. Will it be the key to resurgent growth for the iconic company?
Cynthia Murrell, November 06, 2013
October 28, 2013
The article titled Dr. Watson Will See You Now: IBM’s supercomputer Can Analyze Your Medical History, Point to Likely Diagnoses on TechSpot explores the new work for IBM’s Watson in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic. The computer is involved in two exciting projects, the first of which is call WatsonPaths and makes use of the supercomputers ability to explore a given medical case from many angles and even use feedback from physicians as well as medical journals and the patient’s records. The article explains,
“The technology allows doctors to sift through information much more efficiently than they could on their own, while Watson’s artificial intelligence ties evidence together to support treatment options. Initially WatsonPaths will be used as a classroom training tool designed to help students and physicians make more informed and accurate decisions, and also to improve their critical reasoning skills. But the real-world potential is clear.”
A doctor interviewed explained that Watson had already noticed things in a few cases that he had missed. House fans might think of that famously grumpy doctor who was such an excellent diagnostician. Dr. Watson might be Dr. House without the moodiness, able to cull from a fantastic collection of information and hone in on the problem at hand. The other work being given to Watson has to do with organizing the unstructured data lying around the hospital such as lab results and clinical notes. Watson has been attempting to form them into a more logical and accessible tool using natural language expertise.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 28, 2013
October 21, 2013
Progress in technology is constantly prompting shake-ups in the business world. Now, reports Computerworld, “Gartner Warns of Vendor Upheaval in Technology Shift.” We wonder, will there be a complementary upheaval in azure chip consultants? The research firm presented the warnings at their recent technology symposium. Writer Patrick Thibodeau summarizes:
“Gartner analysts warned that a data explosion threatens to overwhelm, sensors will be everywhere, 3-D printing will change everything, and smart machines will replace people. CIOs that don’t adapt will become simple custodians of back-end systems. Companies that fail to change will join Kodak, Blackberry and Wang, each of which was slow to recognize new forces in technology.”
Though Gartner projects that IT spending will increase next year by 3.6 percent, established vendors may not see a slice of that revenue. In fact, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents expect to switch primary suppliers by 2017. Unless the big names like Microsoft, Oracle, and Cisco can pivot quickly, they may soon find themselves obsolete. The write-up goes on to say:
“Gartner analysts at the conference sketched out a near future driven by cheap sensor technology and robotic technologies. In health care, remote monitoring may replace a doctor visits. In agriculture, remote sensors will improve crop yields and reduce the cost of farming. Transportation systems, mining and construction, will shift to driverless vehicles and remove labor as a major cost.”
These are just a few examples Gartner gave of changes on the horizon. They also warned that competitors might start to emerge more quickly than in the past, and that companies will need to hire more talent just to craft good digital strategies. One conference attendee noted that most organizations are not prepared to embrace and run with emerging technologies. Will they be able to adapt in time?
Cynthia Murrell, October 21, 2013
October 20, 2013
Uh-oh! We might be punished for actions we have yet to commit using predictive analytics. According to TechEye.net, a plot out of a Hollywood movie is about to become reality: “Met Police Talks Up ‘Minority Report’ Predictive Software.” If you are not familiar with the Tom Cruise film, it is about a cop in the not too distant future where they use a combination of technology and psychics to stop crimes before they happen. An Inspector Knacker of the Metropolitan Police, from the article, claims that by using a crime statistics and criminal behaviors algorithm, illegal activities will be deterred. The idea that high-targeted areas will come to the attention of police, who will then station more officers in predicted area.
A pilot program was launched in Hackney, Wandsworth, Newham and Lewisham and there was a large reduction in crime. The Met Commissioner Bernard Howgan-Howe wants to use the technology on antisocial behavior and vehicle crime across London.
There is a strange pattern to criminals’ habits:
“Professor Shane Johnson, of University College London department for crime science, who is helping police develop the system, found that burglars’ tactics closely match the behavior of wild animals searching for food. Burglars return to sites they have found productive but move on when they realize supplies are exhausted, he said.”
It sounds more like tracking animal patterns in nature than a Hollywood blockbuster. NOVA may have their next award-winning documentary, however.
Whitney Grace, October 20, 2013
October 19, 2013
“Why HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare Website, Doesn’t Work” is one of those analyses from real journalists. I find these write ups amazing. I want to capture a quote to note from the write up:
Most of the stuff inside government is not awesome, cutting-edge, cloud-based, and responsive. The skills we really want are not all that present in the incumbent system, and they’re very hard to go out and get.–Michael Slaby
I love the “not” part. Encouraging when nothing much seems to be working except free market online outfits rediscovering the efficacy of Vanderbilt’s and Morgan’s methods. Oh, Kentucky’s pork avalanche is working too.
Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2013