That’s it, today’s the day.
The first players have already teed off at the Masters in Augusta.
Yesterday, I discussed the virtual means by which you could experience playing at Augusta National.
Today I’m going to focus on the various means by which you can follow this year’s action on and off the course.
First, and most importantly, the leaderboard.
On the Masters web site, for which IBM is the longtime technology sponsor, you can go to the virtual equivalent of the traditional Masters leaderboard.
You can also find the leaderboard on this year’s revamped iPad app, which I’m quickly leaning on as my 19th hole for following all the action from Augusta.
This year it includes live video from a number of the holes, including Amen Corner, 15, 16, as well as two “featured groups,” a Masters “in-depth” feature channel, and for those warm-ups, the driving range, and over the weekend a live simulcast of CBS’ TV coverage.
You’ll be able to access live radio, news features, and pictures from the grounds (including new 360 panoramic images that I suspect will be suitable for framing!).
As for TV coverage itself, that doesn’t start in the U.S. until 3:00 PM EST ESPN. However, live video coverage begins on Amen Corner starting at 10:45 AM on the Website and via the mobile applications, so if you’re hankering to get out to the action, that’s going to be your fastest way in.
This year, IBM is leaning heavily on its SmartCloud technology to help drive quality and continuous operations, along with the flexibility and scalability required by the Masters.
As players peak on the course, we typically see a resultant workload increase in our technology systems.
This helped lead to have the need to provision a new Presentation Services “instance,” for example, in less than 3 minutes using Tivoli Provisioning Manager, as it helps us get new virtual machine instances up and running quickly.
We are also able to move one workload to another on our POWER systems powering the Masters using our Live LPAR mobility in four minutes without service interruption.
Can you say pressure putt???
So as the tournament begins, who will I be keeping a close eye on?
Tiger, for sure. Phil. Brandt. Rory. Graeme. Garrigus. Schwartzel. Colsaerts. Poulter. Oosthuizen. Guan (the 14 year-old Chinese kid).
It’s just an incredibly talented field, as, of course, it always is. Length and shot shaping are always helpful at Augusta, especially right to left, but as Zach Johnson proved several years ago, shorter hitters can score (and win) if they play the right angles.
As for me, I went back and played another virtual round at Augusta last night in my Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 and shot 2 under.
There’s hope for me yet. That means I would currently be tied with Jim Furyk for second place in my Walter Mitty golf fantasy. But it’s only Thursday…
It’s Masters week, if you hadn’t already figured that from all these golf- and Masters-related golf posts.
I’ve never had the honor of visiting or playing Augusta National myself, but I know people who have.
In fact, I was attending a recent IBM event in Las Vegas when a very senior IBM executive confided to me that he had played Augusta National for the first time recently with several other very senior ex-IBM executive (the gender mix of which I’m not at liberty to reveal.)
I asked him what he shot, and it was a very respectable mid-handicap number, especially for Augusta National — people who don’t know golf can’t really fathom how long 7,435 yards is for a golf course. (That’s why you see so many players who don’t have good distance off the tee hitting long irons and even utility clubs to get onto Augusta’s greens.)
He also explained, as I’ve also heard from others, that TV just doesn’t do the course justice. He explained that the hills and undulations are so much more pronounced when you’re out there walking the grounds.
“Eighteen,” he explained, me nodding my head. “Like walking straight up a hill.” On TV, it obviously looks like it’s uphill, but not nearly the angle at which he was suggesting.
It was at this point that I had to tune out, as he was killing me with this reveal.
So yesterday, after work, I decided I wanted to get to know the course better, and figured why not try and see if there were any golfing games that included Augusta National in their course lineup.
I figure this is the only way I’m going to play some of the world’s great courses, so it’s probably a pretty good investment.
Turns out, Electronic Arts had released a Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012 edition in that year that included the ability to play Augusta National, and they had a Mac edition, AND Amazon would allow me to download it on the fly and install it.
All for a whopping $20.
I also discovered the 2014 Tiger Woods PGA Tour edition will have a version of Augusta for the Masters in 1934 — so not only can you play with the likes of Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan and all the other greats, but you can play the course the way Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie originally designed it.
You just have to have an X-Box 360 or Playstation 3 (neither of which I own!)
The 2012 version will do nicely for now. Once the DMG was downloaded and I had installed the software and got the online presence set up (the game allows you to play a round with others out in cyberspace), I was off to hole number 1, Tea Olive (see pic above).
My score for the round was atrocious, as I was just learning all the controls for shotmaking in the game (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), but the visualizations and greenery were an excellent way to find your way around the course, and to help you better learn how and why players navigate Augusta National the way they do.
For the record, on number 12, I hit about five balls into Rae’s Creek before finding the green — hopefully not a prophecy of things to come should I ever get to actually play a round at Augusta National.
I also found myself in situations that most Tour players would never find themselves which, for me, is about par for the course.
IBM announced a couple of nice wins these past few days.
One, a partnership agreement between IBM and Itella, a leading provider of business services in Europe and Russia.
It’s a seven-year cloud computing agreement to help Itella streamline its business operations and improve its flexibility and time-to-market, and allowing them to focus on their core business and develop new services for their clients.
Itella provides postal, logistics and financial transaction process services in Northern and Central Europe, as well as Russia.
Specifically, IBM will build a private cloud to provide hosting as well as application management and development services to Itella. With the cloud, IBM will automate basic production of technology services as well as improve the quality and management of those services.
“Through this operating model renewal, we can adopt a flexible service delivery to increase automation and introduce best practices, utilizing IBM’s world-class competence,” said Jukka Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, Itella Mail Communications. “Through the partnership, we can make our operations more efficient and cut costs, without compromising our high-quality service.”
And nearly halfway around the globe and just north of here, the great state of Oklahoma is partnering with IBM to save $15 million over the next five years and to help improve services to state residents there.
As governments institute structural changes in the way agencies measure performance and deliver services, data analytics and new delivery models can help lead the way for transformations that realize a measurable return on investment and improved quality of life.
By analyzing business processes and consolidating IT projects, IBM will help the state gain significant savings in software licensing and technology maintenance costs— resulting in an expected IT budget recovery of 30 percent.
“At a time when we all have to learn to do more with less money, IBM has been instrumental in identifying and prioritizing IT consolidation projects for the state of Oklahoma, at the same time allowing us to invest in new services for our residents,” said Alex Pettit, chief information officer, state of Oklahoma.
“IBM brought not only its extensive public sector services experience to help create the initial business case for this project, but also worked with participating agencies to verify that the new technology environment would improve mainframe service and reduce costs.”
IBM helped the state to understand the challenges of providing IT services to various agencies with diverse requirements for data management and federal reporting.
The new IT infrastructure established a model for IT compliance with federal guidelines on program data and processes, using an IBM System z mainframe. IBM also helped the state meet project funding requirements—bridging the financial gap between the initiation of the project and the cost savings.
The agreement helps ensure that the delivery of technology services is more effective and more consistent. In addition, the new infrastructure gives each agency more control over the quality, performance, and support of their technology environment.
Ultimately, the consolidation of five mainframe platforms also yielded significant savings in costs and lower lease costs. The recommended options projected an 18-30 month payback period that would save 25–30 percent of the state’s combined annual IT budget.
IBM worked with the state on a detailed analysis of the IT infrastructure and opportunities to consolidate computing capacity, storage, network, backup and disaster recovery capabilities.
The plan included development of a target architecture, establishment of a high-level roadmap, and development of a services delivery schedule between the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), responsible for operating the consolidated environments, and each state agency.
Anybody watch that little ol’ college basketball game last night between Louisville and Michigan?
Whoa. Talk about saving the best for last. “The end of the road,” indeed.
Hats off to Louisville to reaching and staying number one, especially after the first half of the final, when I thought Michigan might be running away with the show!
Now that the Final Four is over, I can give my undivided attention to my favorite sport, the game of golf.
For the longest time, golf has been a sport that has exalted in its traditions and basked in its conservatism, technological and otherwise.
But in order to keep the sport vibrant, everyone from golfing bodies to entrepreneurs are finding new ways of introducing, bolstering, and sharing information about the sport.
Yesterday in Augusta, chairman Billy Payne inaugurated a new “Drive, Chip and Putt Championship” for youngsters ages 7-15, which will hold its first finals at Augusta National just prior to next year’s Masters.
And though we’ve seen remarkable technology evolution with regards to playing equipment on the golf course, I think we’re just getting going in terms of using data and analytics to help the amateur golfer.
I’ve been using a product called “GolfshotGPS” for some time now to help me conduct some basic analysis of my golf game, but let’s face it, having to do data entry on the golf course takes time away from playing and enjoying the scenery.
Enter “GAME GOLF,” an outfit that originated in Galway, Ireland and who are working to bring more sophisticated analytics more easily to the game of golf, and doing so in a way where we mere amateurs will be able to “compete with the likes of PGA veterans like Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood (two pros who have done early prototype development of GAME GOLF’s technology.)
The idea is simple: Using GAME GOLF’s small wireless hub and a set of golf club “tags,” one for each club in a golfer’s bag, GAME will analyze all the critical elements of one’s golf game. Think of it as having RFID tags on every one of your golf clubs.
GAME records every club used, every swing made, every yard covered in each round, WITHOUT pausing play to enter info into your Android device.
Then, GAME calculates key statistics: Scoring, number of putts, greens in regulation, driving accuracy, and so forth.
But GAME doesn’t just give YOU, the golfer, data. Golf is at its essence a competitive sport you play against yourself and others, so GAME will also share your performance with friends on social networks, and also help connect you with other golfers on GAME’s network.
I can tell you from having analyzed my own game with the limited data I’ve had access to, I’ve been able to improve my game (although improving my “mechanics” was where I saw my biggest improvement).
Golf is an iterative game when it comes to improving, but the smallest of tweeks can have relatively big payoffs (Steve Stricker’s recent putting advice for Tiger Woods, by way of example).
If you know you’re 3 putting 60% of the holes you play…well, I hate to tell you, but you probably ought to head out right now and spend some significant time on the putting green.
But it’s the “fantasy” aspect of GAME that serves up the most intrigue for me. What if Tiger and Brent and Bubba and others also started using GAME during their Tour events, and now suddenly I and my fantasy golf friends could start competing directly with the pros in “virtual” matches.
First, yes, me and my amateur friends, we’d lose, and big time.
But, with the proper handicap adjustments, suddenly we find ourselves on the first tee at Augusta the first Thursday of April with Tiger and Phil, shaking in our boots and hoping we don’t kill someone in the fairway with our first drive.
You can learn more about GAME GOLF in the video below. There’s currently a crowdsourcing fundraiser that has been extended to April 15th.
It’s too early to tell if this will be a golf GAME changer or not, but I think with golf, more information is always better than less.
GAME GOLF seems to provide just enough new information (without hassle in acquiring it) that has the potential to make me a better golfer, and to make the game that much more fun.
Who can argue with that?
Hello Monday, in my favorite week of the year.
Yes, it’s that time again, Masters Week, where the best golfers come together on a classic golf course down in Augusta to test for the best.
The history, the traditions, and such behind The Masters are all well and good, but for true and rabid golf fans like myself, it’s the actual competitive golf from Thursday through Sunday afternoon that we live and breathe for.
Though all eyes this week are on Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy’s new Nike clubs seemed to be warming up to him down here in the heart of Texas over the weekend.
Rory shot a 66 yesterday at the Valero Texas Open, catching some much needed momentum heading into Augusta and finishing second at -12, just two strokes back from winner Martin Laird.
If I were a handicapping man, I’d also be on the lookout this week for the likes of Brant Snedeker, whose hot putter will likely find lots of love at Augusta National; Freddie Jacobson, whose painter’s cap could very well point him in the right directions on Augusta’s undulating nightmare greens; Nicolas Colsaerts, the “Belgium Bomber” playing his first Masters, still one of the best putters in the world; Matt Kuchar, whose victory at WGC-Accenture showed he can hold up under the pressure and take it into the homestretch.
And let’s not forget last year’s winner, Bubba Watson, who might just be up for a repeat.
It’s a difficult tournament to handicap, which is what makes it so interesting to watch.
Speaking of golf, it’s a crazy game. I went out and played twice this weekend…on Saturday, I made three birdies and still shot a 90 (but I also had a 10 on one hole, where I had a Kevin Na-like moment as I tried to hack my way out of some woods).
On Sunday, I rediscovered my swing (especially for my driver), hitting a 350-yard drive on one par 4, and overshooting a 290-yard par 4 with a 3-wood (the wind was VERY much at my back on both holes). Both just gorgeous shots that I couldn’t believe came off of MY club.
I shot an 81, my low for the calendar year, and it was night and day, like I’d been playing two different games from Saturday to Sunday.
Then again, that’s golf!
IBM made a significant announcement earlier today concerning new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. The new data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.
Today’s announcement, which represents the work of hundreds of IBM developers and researchers in labs around the world, includes an industry-first innovation called “BLU Acceleration,” which combines a number of techniques to dramatically improve analytical performance and simplify administration.
Also announced was the new IBM PureData System for Hadoop, designed to make it easier and faster to deploy Hadoop in the enterprise. Hadoop is the game-changing open-source software used to organize and analyze vast amounts of structured and unstructured data, such as posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, online transaction records, and cell phone location data.
The new system can reduce from weeks to minutes the ramp-up time organizations need to adopt enterprise-class Hadoop technology with powerful, easy-to-use analytic tools and visualization for both business analysts and data scientists.
In addition, it provides enhanced Big Data tools for monitoring, development and integration with many more enterprise systems.
IBM Big Data Innovations: More Accessible, Enterprise-ready
As organizations grapple with a flood of structured and unstructured data generated by computers, mobile devices, sensors and social networks, they’re under unprecedented pressure to analyze much more data at faster speeds and at lower costs to help deepen customer relationships, prevent threat and fraud, and identify new revenue opportunities.
BLU Acceleration enables users to have much faster access to key information, leading to better decision-making. The software extends the capabilities of traditional in-memory systems — which allows data to be loaded into Random Access Memory instead of hard disks for faster performance — by providing in-memory performance even when data sets exceed the size of the memory.
During testing, some queries in a typical analytics workload were more than 1000 times faster when using the combined innovations of BLU Acceleration.
Innovations in BLU Acceleration include “data skipping,” which allows the ability to skip over data that doesn’t need to be analyzed, such as duplicate information; the ability to analyze data in parallel across different processors; and greater ability to analyze data transparently to the application, without the need to develop a separate layer of data modeling.
Another industry-first advance in BLU Acceleration is called “actionable compression,” where data no longer has to be decompressed to be analyzed.
Not IBM’s First Big Data Rodeo
The new offerings expand what is already the industry’s deepest portfolio of Big Data technologies and solutions, spanning software, services, research and hardware. The IBM Big Data platform combines traditional data warehouse technologies with new Big Data techniques, such as Hadoop, stream computing, data exploration, analytics and enterprise integration, to create an integrated solution to address these critical needs.
IBM PureData System for Hadoop is the next step forward in IBM’s overall strategy to deliver a family of systems with built-in expertise that leverages its decades of experience reducing the cost and complexity associated with information technology.
This new system integrates IBM InfoSphere BigInsights, which allows companies of all sizes to cost-effectively manage and analyze data and add administrative, workflow, provisioning and security features, along with best-in-class analytical capabilities from IBM Research.
Today’s announcement also includes the following new versions of IBMs Big Data solutions:
- A new version of InfoSphere BigInsights, IBM’s enterprise-ready Hadoop offering, which makes it simpler to develop applications using existing SQL skills, compliance security and high availability features vital for enterprise applications. BigInsights offers three entry points: free download, enterprise software and now an expert integrated system, IBM PureData System for Hadoop.
- A new version of InfoSphere Streams, unique “stream computing” software that enables massive amounts of data in motion to be analyzed in real-time, with performance improvements, and simplified application development and deployment.
- A new version of Informix including TimeSeries Acceleration for operational reporting and analytics on smart meter and sensor data.
Pricing and Availability
All offerings are available in Q2, except the PureData System for Hadoop, which will start shipping to customers in the second half 2013. Credit-qualified clients can take advantage of simple, flexible lease and loan packages with no up-front payments for the software and systems that deliver a new generation of data analytics.
IBM Global Financing offers attractive leasing programs with 90-day payment deferrals for the PureData System for Hadoop, as well as zero percent loans for the broader portfolio of IBM big data solutions.
We’re finally getting some rain in central Texas. We’ll see how long it lasts!
And on the topic of rainmaking, this just in from our friends at Nucleus Research.
Nucleus conducted an analysis of 21 of IBM Smarter Commerce case studies and their ROI, and discovered that for every dollar spent, companies realized an average of U.S. $12.05 in returns.
According to the research, this payback occurred in an average of 9 months (with a high of 23 months, and a low of two).
The cases Nucleus analyzed included U.S. and European companies and government agencies which had deployed IBM Smarter Commerce technologies.
All the case studies were developed independently by Nucleus, following their standard ROI methodology, and IBM was privy to the results only after the research was completed.
In their analysis, Nucleus also observed some summary conclusions, finding that Smarter Commerce projects delivered both top-line and bottom-line benefits, with roughly 60 percent of returns coming from indirect benefits such as productivity, and the rest from direct savings such as reduced operational costs or hires avoided.
Specific key benefits included the following:
- Increased productivity. In many cases companies were able to accomplish more work with fewer staff or avoid additional hires as they grew by automating previously manual processes and increasing employee productivity.
- Reduced costs. Smarter Commerce customers experienced cost reductions in areas such as customer call handling costs, technology costs, and other costs associated with supply chain transactions.
- Improved inventory management. Greater visibility into customer demand and inventory levels enabled Smarter Commerce customers to gain better control over their inventory, reducing inventory carrying costs and increasing inventory turns.
- Improved decision making. Greater agility and rapid insight into data for decision making enabled companies using Smarter Commerce to more quickly make decisions and act on them with confidence.
- Reduced customer churn and increased customer satisfaction. Companies using IBM Business Analytics were able to more rapidly understand customer satisfaction and retain more profitable customers by proactively addressing customers’ propensity to churn. For example, one telecommunications customer was able to reduce customer churn by 8 percent in the first year and 18 percent in the second year by further refining its churn analysis.
Customers Leverage Prepackaged Functionality
Nucleus indicated that the $12.05 average return from Smarter Commerce was at the high end of the range of returns Nucleus had seen from other assessments of deployments such as analytics and CRM, and many IBM Smarter Commerce clients indicated they had achieved high returns by taking advantage of the investments IBM has made in providing integrated solutions, more intuitive user interfaces, and prepackaged industry functionality.
By way of example:
- Integrated solutions and prepackaged industry functionality accelerate time to deployment and time to value while reducing overall project risk.
- Usability improvements drive more rapid adoption and make it easier for companies to drive adoption of technologies such as business analytics to casual and business users beyond the data expert specialists that have historically been the primary users of analytics.
Industry-specific functionality and expertise were particularly important in the success of customers adopting Smarter Commerce technologies in the government sector, such as social services agencies and police departments, where IT often has limited resources.
You can go here to download the full report.