Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for September 2010

Joint Filing

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IBM has begun to partner with key customers to offer immediate value from one of its recent acquisitions, Cast Iron software.

In a collaboration with ADP, a leading provider of HR, payroll, and benefits administration services, IBM Cast Iron will help ADP expand its tax filing offerings to new markets and serve employers of all sizes.

This will allow ADP clients to realize efficiencies through a simplified tax filing process.

“Our clients’ use of IBM Cast Iron integration software will help to ensure those clients can take advantage of ADP Tax Services’ payroll tax filing system, while also expanding the integration of our on-demand Tax Services with more on-premise payroll software and ERP payroll systems,” said Lori Schreiber, General Manager, Division Vice President, Tax Services, ADP Tax and Financial Services.

“Moving forward, we will continue to use our tax filing and compliance expertise to expand our suite of product and service offerings across our beyond-payroll business lines.”

Together, IBM and ADP will offer customers greater simplicity and cost efficiency through combined online payroll processing and tax filing capabilities.

For example, ready-to-use connectors automatically unite different payroll applications with ADP Tax Services.  Drag-and-drop mapping between company payroll applications and ADP Tax Services enable the translation of alphanumeric and numeric data in different applications.

Advanced business logic can detect corrupted data in a payroll system and notify the system administrator for correction before the data is transferred to ADP.  Further, one console provides the ability to see and manage all cloud and on-premise data and processes being integrated.

Cast Iron has been the leading leading cloud integration provider with thousand of cloud deployments and well-established relationships with major cloud vendors.

It provides solutions that rapidly integrate SaaS and cloud applications, such as Salesforce.com, Oracle CRM, Taleo and ADP, with on-premise enterprise applications from SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and others.

IBM Cast Iron technologies provide pre-packaged integration solutions for dozens of leading enterprise and cloud applications, as well as a single, integrated platform that bridges cloud and on-premise applications in just days.

Further, IBM Cast Iron technologies can deliver these solutions as a physical appliance, virtual appliance or as a cloud service.

Go here and you can read more about the initial market reaction to IBM’s acquisition of Cast Iron Systems in May of this year.

Written by turbotodd

September 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

No Tweeting On The Greens, Please

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Anybody watch Ken Burn’s follow-up to his seminal documentary, “Baseball,” last evening on PBS?

Entitled “The Tenth Inning,” I just happened to be channel surfing my 157 channels with nothing else on so I tuned in.

And is often the case with Ken Burns’ work, I couldn’t tune out — I watched the first of two parts glued to my seat, particularly with the deep background on folks like Barry Bonds, and especially the section covering the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home-run-a-thon in the summer of 1998, when both broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61, set in the 1961 season and a record that stood for 37 years.

I also wallowed in the recap of the powerful late 1990s Yankees (I’m one of the 10 percent who love the Yanks).

But Burns didn’t pull any punches in this follow-up, highlighting the huge damage that Major League Baseball’s ostrich play on performance-enhancing drugs has done to the game, not to mention the 1994 player’s strike, from which the league is arguably still recovering (and the damage from which the Sosa/McGwire home-run-a-thon Burns argues also helped assuage).

Rest assured, I’ll be tuning into part two this evening.

But of course, what I’m really psyching myself up for is this weekend’s Ryder Cup.

After Jim Furyk’s nail-biting twofer win of The Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup last weekend, I’m totally stoked for the final golfing denouement of 2010.

However, I won’t anytime soon be a fan of the Twitter ban that Ryder Cup captains Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin have imposed on their respective Europe and U.S. player rosters.

For golf fans, and the golfers themselves, the Ryder Cup (which is only played every two years) is one of the most enthralling and nerve-wracking golf tournaments in the world.

Considering the sport of golf has seen its amateur ranks dwindling in membership by over ten percent the past few years, it seems to me the sport and its players should become more transparent, not less.

Though I don’t necessarily want to burden any of the players with Tweets live from the course, it could serve the game well to allow the players to Tweet after hours as the drama of the players’ intense days wind down.

Instead, a code of golfing Omerta silence has been imposed, and we fans will just have to guess what the players are thinking as they sweat out their three days in Newcastle.

That’s okay.  I’m sure the worldwide golf audience will be sure to help fill the Twittering void.

Written by turbotodd

September 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm

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Making A List, Checking It Twice

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Dr. Atul Gawande's "Checklist Manifesto" makes a compelling argument for making that list and checking it twice, even in the most expert of white collar professions.

I’m a big fan of checklists.

I’ve been attempting to properly drink the Robert David Allen Getting Things Done Kool-Aid for a couple of  years now.

Inherently, I think knowledge workers like myself have to find improved ways of managing their time, projects, responsibilities, etc., and I’ve discovered that even the most basic and mundane checklist (whether or not you use GTD methodology) increases my productivity and helps me maintain my sanity.

At minimum, I feel as those it’s helpful in offsetting whatever Alzheimherish proclivities I may be developing.

But checklists aren’t just limited to personal productivity.  They’re also a great way to share and implement knowledge, often in the most dire and life-altering of circumstances.

Just ask Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, a 2009 tome on how checklists can assist even the most modern of professionals in its approach to providing a disciplined adherence to essential procedures “by ticking them off a list,” often preventing fatal mistakes and corner cutting.

As Publisher’s Weekly observed in its own review of the book, Gawande examined checklists across a wide range of industries, including aviation, construction, and investing, along with his own medical profession, and was able to demonstrate that even the most simply mandated checklists (hand washing in hospitals) dramatically reduced hospital-caused infections and other complications.

Though I’m all for the medical folks washing their hands to the extreme, particularly if I’m the one going under the knife, I’m even more excited to report that Dr. Gawande will be speaking at the upcoming IBM Information on Demand Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 24-28.

Dr. Gawande is a MacArthur fellow and a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as well as a staff writer for The New Yorker. In his spare time, he’s also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical school and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In his own Amazon-published review of Gawande’s checklist approach to life, last year’s Information on Demand keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell had this to say about the book:

Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it’s just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality.

Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success.

Even before I downloaded the first chapter of Gawande’s book on my iPad and started reading about the helpfulness of checklists, I’d already become an adherent.

Now, I would recommend you make your own list and include Dr. Gawande’s keynote talk at the top of yours for the 2010 Information on Demand conference.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Dr. Gawande via his “Annals of Medicine” column for The New Yorker here.

Written by turbotodd

September 29, 2010 at 6:00 am

UT Austin Campus Shooting

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We had lots of excitement here on the University of Texas at Austin campus today.

A lone shooter was on the loose on campus, and eventually killed himself inside a campus library.

A shooting on campus here in Austin of course immediately evokes the memory of Charles Whitman, the Austin campus sniper who killed 14 people and wounded 32 others on August 1, 1966 here at UT-Austin.

The difference these days, of course, is that the campus now has text messaging and technologies like Twitter to get the word out to students and out of harms way.

People following the #utshooter hashtag on Twitter were reporting that the UT campus police, and UT administrators, had learned lessons from other shootings (including the tragic one at Virginia Tech from several years ago) and were getting the word out at lighting speed that the campus was shutting down for the day, and that police from the City of Austin and on campus were on the case.

Latest word from Austin’s newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, is that the shooter fired four shots near a fountain on campus, and that officers then followed him into a library, where he later killed himself.

There was chatter about a second shooter, but the police seem to have ruled that out and have since given the all clear on campus.

You can read MSNBC’s latest national coverage here.

I’m just glad police were so quick on the scene and the shooter (who allegedly had an AK-47) didn’t hurt anyone (but, tragically, himself).

Blogger’s Addendum: If you’re trying to get news directly from the excellent student newspaper at the University of Texas, the Daily Texan, I got the following message around 2:25 PM CST.  They’re recommending parties subscribe to the @thedailytexan Twitter ID.  I guess that’s one way to get new Twitter followers!

The Daily Texan Online, the website for the University of Texas student newspaper, was "over capacity" after the news of today's campus shooting broke out, and visitors were referred instead to their Twitter ID, @thedailytexan

Written by turbotodd

September 28, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Risky Business: Results From The First-Ever IBM Global IT Risk Study

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IBM recently undertook its first-ever Global IT Risk Study to uncover the challenges associated with IT risk, and the steps IT managers and CIOs are taking to better understand, confront, and resolve this concern.

This survey was conducted in May and June of this year, in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit. The survey was conducted online with 556 IT managers and others involved in their business’s IT function, and included 131 CIOs. Regions throughout the globe were included, including North America, Western Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Survey Says…

To get the flavor of the full report, I would encourage you to register and download the full report — there are way too many important details to cover here.

But in terms of big picture results, the survey provided some key directional indicators on where IT managers and executives’ concerns mostly lay, and just as important, what they should consider doing about them.

First, in terms of risk maturity.  Few of today’s organizations are “risk mature,” or fully prepared for all risk situations that may occur.  The lack of a risk-aware culture plays a big part in this lack of maturity.

Second, culture.  Without a risk-aware culture, even the best efforts to mitigate risk may not succeed.

The 2010 IBM Global IT Risk Study provides detailed results on risk management questions that run the gamut, including important questions about risk preparedness in a variety of physical and virtual infrastructure scenarios like the ones in this graphic.

Third, and no major surprise, data protection and privacy.  Data is the unifying concern across all IT risk management domains.

And finally, emerging trends. Clearly on the radar is the need to incorporate cloud computing, mobile technology, and social networking into the existing infrastructure.

In fact, the risks surrounding social networking technologies was near the top of the list of IT respondents’ concerns, with some 64% of them indicating it was “Extremely risky/risky”.

IT security was also prevalent in the study as a primary concern, with some 78 percent of IT professionals concerned about vulnerability to hackers and unauthorized access/use of company systems.

Providing Actionable Intelligence For IT Risk

After reading through the data and responses from the IBM Global IT Risk study, you may develop an inclination to set out for the closest tall building and jump.

That would be foolhardy and simply add insult to injury where your company’s risk profile is concerned. They need you — whether they know it or not is another story.

No, the good news amidst all the bad is that the IBM report also provides some actionable intelligence, recommendations for how to improve your risk situation based on the concerns expressed by IT managers worldwide.

Starting with the simplest, but most obvious, advice: Examining and assessing your organization’s IT risk maturity so you can focus on the areas that will best help your business.

Learning how to “sell” the benefits of risk mitigation, helping your colleagues understand it’s a means by which you can help bolster business growth and improve brand perception.

Or determining how to raise the level of risk awareness throughout the organization, so the burden doesn’t fall on a single set of organizational shoulders (read: Yours!).

You’ll find a wealth of this and other valuable information and counsel in the report. And on Wednesday, September 29th, 2010, you can watch a full virtual event on the presentation of the findings and their implications.

Visit here to get all the details of the Webcast and to download the full report.

And please, in the meantime, stay away from tall buildings.

Written by turbotodd

September 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

IBM To Acquire BLADE Network Technologies

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IBM today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BLADE Network Technologies (BLADE), a privately held company based in Santa Clara, CA.

BLADE specializes in software and devices that route data and transactions to and from servers. The acquisition is anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of 2010, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and applicable regulatory reviews.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

BLADE provides blade server and top-of-rack switches as well as software to virtualize and manage cloud computing and other workloads.

With BLADE, IBM can drive innovation at the systems networking level to enable clients to speed the delivery of key information from system to system — for workloads such as analytics and cloud computing — while also reducing data center costs.

Customers include more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list across 26 industry verticals, including automotive, telecom services, education, government, healthcare, defense and finance.

IBM and BLADE have worked together since 2002, resulting in thousands of joint clients. In fact, over 50 percent of IBM System x BladeCenters currently attach to or use BLADE products (1).

Sharpening the Blade

The BLADE acquisition builds on the industry-leading capabilities and technologies IBM is applying to its systems, which are optimized to help clients manage a range of new, more demanding workloads.

This year, IBM introduced a full line-up of new, workload-optimized systems that incorporate innovation at each level — from microprocessors and firmware software to middleware and hardware.

Emerging business models from smart grids to smart traffic systems are infusing intelligence into every day processes, generating a torrent of information.

Business decisions require rapid access to that information. BLADE’s proven, industry-tested switches and software are designed to improve systems performance for faster delivery of information, optimize virtual environments and lower energy use.

BLADE provides software that helps address the massive virtualization requirements of cloud computing environments.

BLADE software allows servers to more closely integrate with the network so that clients can deploy thousands of virtual machines to run large application workloads in the cloud and reduce complexity through simplified management.

Written by turbotodd

September 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

IBM Improves Its Nanotechnique

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IBM researchers have published a breakthrough technique in the peer-reviewed journal Science that measures how long a single atom can hold information, and giving scientists the ability to record, study, and “visualize” extremely fast phenomena inside these atoms.

The scientists at IBM Research in our Almaden Labs are using the Scanning Tunneling Microscope like a high-speed camera to record the behavior of individual atoms at a speed of about one million times faster than previously possible.

IBM researchers in Zurich invented the Scanning Tunneling Microscope in 1981 and were awarded the Nobel Prize for their efforts.

Since then, IBM scientists have been pushing the boundaries of science using the Scanning Tunneling Microscope to understand the fundamental properties of matter at the atomic scale, with vast potential for game-changing innovation in information storage and computation.

The ability to measure nanosecond-fast phenomena opens a new realm of experiments for scientists, since they can now add the dimension of time to experiments in which extremely fast changes occur.

To put this into perspective, the difference between one nanosecond and one second is about the same comparison as one second to 30 years. An immense amount of physics happens during that time that scientists previously could not see.

In addition to allowing scientists to better understand the nanoscale phenomena in solar cells, this breakthrough could be used to study areas such as quantum computing, which are radically different types of computers not bound to the binary nature of traditional computers but which instead have the potential to perform advanced computations that are not possible today.

Or information storage technology, which, as technology approaches the atomic scale, provides scientists the opportunity to explore beyond the limits of magnetic storage. This breakthrough specifically allows scientists to “see” an atom’s electronic and magnetic properties and explore whether or not information can be reliably stored on a single atom.

Hold On: This Gets Geeky

Since the magnetic spin of an atom changes too fast to measure directly using previously available Scanning Tunneling Microscope  techniques, time-dependent behavior is recorded stroboscopically, in a manner similar to the techniques first used in creating motion pictures, or like in time lapse photography today.

Using a “pump-probe” measurement technique, a fast voltage pulse (the pump pulse) excites the atom and a subsequent weaker voltage pulse (the probe pulse) then measures the orientation of the atom’s magnetism at a certain time after excitation. In essence, the time delay between the pump and the probe sets the frame time of each measurement.

This delay is then varied step-by-step and the average magnetic motion is recorded in small time increments.  For each time increment, the scientists repeat the alternating voltage pulses about 100,000 times, which takes less than one second.

In the experiment, iron atoms were deposited onto an insulating layer only one atom thick and supported on a copper crystal. This surface was selected to allow the atoms to be probed electrically while retaining their magnetism. The iron atoms were then positioned with atomic precision next to non-magnetic copper atoms in order to control the interaction of the iron with the local environment of nearby atoms.

The resulting structures were then measured in the presence of different magnetic fields to reveal that the speed at which they change their magnetic orientation depends sensitively on the magnetic field. This showed that the atoms relax by means of quantum mechanical tunneling of the atom’s magnetic moment, an intriguing process by which the atom’s magnetism can reverse its direction without passing through intermediate orientations.

This knowledge may allow scientists to engineer the magnetic lifetime of the atoms to make them longer (to retain their magnetic state) or shorter (to switch to a new magnetic state) as needed to create future spintronic devices.

“This breakthrough allows us – for the first time – to understand how long information can be stored in an individual atom. Beyond this, the technique has great potential because it is applicable to many types of physics happening on the nanoscale,” said Sebastian Loth, IBM Research, about the discovery. “IBM’s continued investment in exploratory and fundamental science allows us to explore the great potential of nanotechnology for the future of the IT industry.”

A Majorly Small Matter

Among IBM’s many nanotechnology milestones, its scientists won a Nobel Prize for inventing the Scanning Tunneling Microscope, devised methods to manipulate individual atoms for the first time – famously spelling the letters IBM with 35 Xenon atoms – developed logic circuits using carbon nanotubes, and incorporated sub-nanometer material layers into commercially mass-produced hard disk drive recording heads and magnetic disk coatings.

IBM’s current nanotechnology research aims to devise new atomic- and molecular-scale structures and methods for enhancing information technologies, as well as discovering and understanding their scientific foundations.

To learn more about this latest breakthrough, check out the following YouTube video (which includes some nanotech animations and interviews with our humans who explain the new technique).

You can also check out some pics from this technique here on Flickr.

Just don’t forget: It’s a small world after all.

Written by turbotodd

September 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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