Turbotodd

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

Archive for August 2012

IBM To Acquire Flash Memory Provider Texas Memory Systems

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IBM announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Texas Memory Systems (TMS), a leading developer of high-performance flash memory solutions.

TMS is a privately held company based in Houston, Texas. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 1978, TMS designs and sells high-performance solid state storage solutions. Unlike hard disk drives that rely on spinning disks and robotic arms, solid state systems are high-speed data storage solutions based on flash or RAM memory that can provide significantly faster throughput and data access while consuming less power.

TMS offers its solid state solutions as the RamSan family of shared rackmount systems and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) cards.

The products are designed to help companies improve performance and reduce server sprawl, power consumption, cooling, and floor space requirements, all of which in turn can help clients save money, improve performance and invest more in innovation.

IDC estimates the amount of solid state storage solutions being shipped into the enterprise will grow significantly, reaching nearly 3 exabytes by 2016.

“The TMS strategy and solution set align well with our Smarter Computing approach to information technology by helping clients realize increased performance and efficiencies at lower costs,” said Brian Truskowski, general manager, Systems Storage and Networking, IBM. “Solid state technology, in particular, is a critical component of our new Smarter Storage approach to the design and deployment of storage infrastructures, and part of a holistic approach that exploits flash in conjunction with disk and tape technologies to solve complex problems.”

Following acquisition close, IBM plans to invest in and support the TMS product portfolio, and will look to integrate over time TMS technologies into a variety of solutions including storage, servers, software, and PureSystems offerings.

TMS employs approximately 100 people. The deal is expected to close later in 2012.

Written by turbotodd

August 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Pay As You Go

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Thus far, this has been a pretty “mobilized” summer, with news breaking every day about the increasingly important role mobile computing is playing in our business and personal lives.

Today, we heard about the new Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet (even Walt Mossberg kinda likes it!), and TechMeme has early screenshots and guestimates about what the newer, smaller iPad’s going to look like.

But devices aren’t the whole picture. Infrastructure, application lifecycle management, security and privacy, and other related issues are key to mobile success. And, until these devices are enabled with an easier payment capability, money will be left on the table.

Lots of it.

Ironically, it’s been Apple that has been the closest to providing such a system thus far, with their Apple ID linkage to our credit cards.  But that’s just for the stuff I buy from Apple…what about everybody else?

So today, the Wall Street Journal’s Robin Sidel explained that more than a dozen big merchants are expecting to announce their plans to develop a mobile-payments network that would go up against the likes of Google.

Called the “Merchant Customer Exchange,” the new venture is being led by Wal-Mart, Target, 7-Eleven Inc., and Sunoco, and will attempt to find its way to a more standarized mobile payment system.

Though this may move may be an intended counter to Google’s Wallet capability on the Android platform, Sidel’s story reminds us we also have another joint venture called Isis, led by a number of telcos, as well as the recent $25 million investment by Starbucks in mobile payment start-up Square, also in the running.

And of course, let’s not forget some of those other existing systems which have millions of credit card accounts, including Amazon, whose 1-Click payment capability stands apart, and PayPal, with their unique person-to-person payments capability.

In this emerging roulette wheel of mobile payments, I’m not quite sure where I’d place my bets just yet, as the wheel’s just getting going.

But there’s a lot at stake.

I just attended comScore’s quarterly webcast on the “State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy.” For the second quarter of this year, nearly one in ten of all e-commerce dollars spent were done so via a mobile or tablet device.

Moreover, nearly two in five tablet owners have purchased something online via their device in the past month (a number more than double of that of smartphone owners).

One wonders if that smartphone purchasing number might not be a few percentage points higher were it easier to hand over one’s payment information via smartphone handsets.

Looking at the bigger picture for a moment, comScore also reported in the webcast that the channel shift to online appears to be accelerating, with online sales overall up 15 percent for the quarter, while on a comparable category basis, offline sales only increased two percent.

At the forthcoming IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Orlando (see this post for more details), IBM has some 20+ sessions that contain a mobile component, including one entitled “Mobile Payments, An IBM POV” (IB-3440).

That event will be held September 5-7 at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida, and you can learn more about it here.

TurboTech: The Wisconsin Episode

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Every once in a while, developerWorks’ Scott Laningham and I get together via Skype to catch up on the latest in technology.

This week, Scott’s on a remote, cheese-head “workation” somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin.

And despite being surrounded by trees and lakes, he found his way to an Interwebs connection, along with a gasoline generator, so we could do one of our “TurboTech” episodes.

I was afraid one of the rhinos that John Swanson thought he spotted in a separate “This Week on developerWorks” episodes recorded with Scott in the great outdoors might sneak up on Scott while we were mid-recording, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

In this episode, Scott and I opined on social media’s role at the London Olympic games, along with a deep space exploration of the latest Mars rover (“Curiosity”) landing on the Red Planet. We also mentioned several forthcoming IBM events stretching from Orlando to Vegas to Singapore.

Me, I’m just glad Scott’s generator didn’t run out of gas. That would have brought a whole new meaning to the phrase of having another episode “in the can!”

Written by turbotodd

August 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

The New Statistics

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Are you a statistics geek?

IBM SPSS Statistics is an integrated family of products that addresses the entire analytical process, from planning to data collection to analysis, reporting and deployment. The newest version addresses the unique needs of big data analysis and also adds some compelling risk probability capabilities via new “Monte Carlo” simulations.

Do you want to become a statistics geek?

I’m generally a words guy myself, but numbers have their place.

And increasingly, what we as mere mortals can do with those numbers using increasingly friendly, utilitarian software is making it easier than ever to manipulate numbers.

When I was in graduate school working on my master’s degree, I was exposed to statistics, and had to learn how to run stats on a mainframe computer using SPSS software.

It was anything but user friendly. For many of you, that may sound familiar.

But that has changed.  And  just today, IBM announced the newest version of IBM SPSS Statistics software (V 21), and the new enhancements are intended to ensure that the most advanced analytics techniques are available to business users, analysts, stats geeks, and the like.

Those new enhancements include simulation modeling (with Monte Carlo risk simulation capabilities), improved support for big data analysis, and improved integration with common data types and external programming languages.

You can learn more about the new SPSS here, and note, on the first page you can get both a video overview of the product, as well as a demo of the new Monte Carlo simulation capability.

Written by turbotodd

August 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Research In Nairobi

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Over the past several years, you’ve probably noticed that IBM has become much more active on the African continent.

IBM’s newest research lab will be the first on the African continent, in Nairobi, where scientists will conduct basic and applied research to tackle some of East Africa’s toughest challenges, including smarter water systems and transportation congestion.

IBM’s continued investment in this emerging and important continent were expanded upon yesterday when IBM announced that Africa would be the next frontier for innovation in IBM Research.

IBM Research – Africa will have its first location, in Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration between the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) through the Kenya ICT board.

This new venture will conduct basic and applied research focused on solving problems relevant to African and contribute to the building of a science and technology base for the continent.

Key areas of research will include the following:

  • Next Generation Public Sector: Governments have a mission critical role to play in the growth and sustainable developments in Africa. With the right kind of ICT, including big data solutions, advanced analytics, and cloud technologies, government organizations can draw insights and benefit from the vast amounts of data held by any number of government agencies. This can help advance e-government capabilities such as helping to reduce the cost of social services, improving efficiency and productivity, deterring fraud and abuse, improving citizen access to services, and enabling digital interaction between citizens and the public sector.
  • Smarter Cities – with initial focus on water and transportation: Rates of urbanization in Africa are the highest in the world. The single biggest challenge facing African cities is improving access to and quality of city services such as water and transportation. IBM, in collaboration with government, industry and academia, plans to develop Intelligent Operation Centers for African cities – integrated command centers – that can encompass social and mobile computing, geo-spatial and visual analytics, and information models to enable smarter ways of managing city services. The initial focus will be on smarter water systems and traffic management solutions for the region.
  • Human Capacity Development: A skills shortage is hindering the leadership and innovation of new industry in Africa. The IBM Research – Africa lab, while carrying out research, will help to elevate the level of ICT and related scientific skills in Kenya by working in collaboration with select universities, government agencies and companies. Boosting the innovation culture in Kenya and engaging local entrepreneurs and innovators in developing solutions that matter to the people of Kenya and the region may also assist in accelerating economic development.

“In today’s world, innovation is the main lever for a competitive national economy, is a source of employment, and has the potential to improve lives,” said Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology. “The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy.”

Operations at IBM Research – Africa will commence immediately. Expansion into other parts of Africa may be considered in a second phase.

IBM Investment in Africa 

IBM is making a significant investment in Africa, ramping up its profile on the continent as part of its focus on emerging markets. The expansion program is part of a major business plan to increase IBM’s presence in growth markets and support global strategy. The company is present in more than 20 African countries and recognizes the huge potential of research and smarter systems in transforming business, government and society across the continent.

Alongside its day-to-day business of providing advanced technologies and services to clients in Africa, IBM has deployed an array of programs aimed at building economic capacity such as IBM’s employee volunteer program, Corporate Service Corps, which is modelled on the U.S. Peace Corps. For example, IBM is working with the Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) to review the country’s changing economic landscape and develop a plan to deliver financial services to rural areas.

IBM Research – Africa will join existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

IBM Research laboratories are credited with the creation of many of the foundations of information technology, including the invention of the relational database, disk storage, DRAM memory and much more. IBM Research has been recognized with five Nobel Prize Laureates, and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards.

Recently IBM Research created a question-answering supercomputing system called Watson that defeated the champions of a major televised quiz show, showing its ability to match humans in answering a wide range of free text questions.

Now That’s Some Serious Spin!

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Steve Lohr with The New York Times has gone long on “big data.”

In his piece, Lohr explains how big data has gone mainstream, and using IBM’s Watson computer that beat “Jeopardy!” world champions last year as a key inflection point in its evolution, and also quoting IBM exec and technical fellow Rod Smith.

Some excerpts:

Rod Smith: “Big Data is really about new uses and new insights, not so much about the data itself.”

And on Watson: “The Watson computer from I.B.M. that beat human “Jeopardy” champions last year was a triumph of Big Data computing. In theory, Big Data could improve decision-making in fields from business to medicine, allowing decisions to be based increasingly on data and analysis rather than intuition and experience.”

I mentioned in some prior posts the upcoming Smarter Commerce Global Summit IBM will be hosting at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort (which you can learn more about and register for here).

Just out of curiosity, I went and did a query to see if any sessions would include “big data” as a featured topic, and as it turns out, there were four, including “Crunch Big Data for Digital Analytics Using Netinsight on Premises and Netezza,” and “Big Data, Big Campaigns: Using Unica Campaign Management & IBM Netezza Data Warehousing Appliances.”

So, it’s pretty clear that the era of “big data” is certainly upon us with respect to marketing as well.

***
I also wanted to highlight some news just emerging from our friends in IBM Research.

Yesterday, they announced a new breakthrough that has potential impact for semiconductor transistor manufacturing.

With the announcement, they revealed the first-ever direct mapping of the formation of a persistent spin helix in a semiconductor, an effort jointly conducted between IBM Researchers and scientists with ETH Zurich.

Until now, it was unclear whether or not electronic spins posessed the capability to preserve the encoded information long enough before rotating.

But through this new experiment, they demonstrated that synchronizing electrons extends the spin lifetime of the electron by 30 times to 1.1 nanoseconds — the same time it takes for an existing 1 GHz process to cycle.

Why do we care?

Well, today’s computing technology encodes and processes data by the electrical charge of electrons. But that technique is limiting, as the semiconductor dimensions continue to shrink to the point where the flow of electrons can no longer be controlled. Spintronics could surmount this approaching impasse by harnessing the spin of electrons instead of their charge.

This new understanding in “spintronics” not only gives scientists unprecedented control over the magnetic movements inside devices, but also opens up new possibilities for creating more energy efficient electronics.

However, this effort could get colder before it warms up and leads to massive technology transfer into the marketplace: Spintronics research takes place at very low temperatures at which electron spins interact minimally with the environment.

In the case of this particular research, IBM scientists worked at 40 Kelvin (-233 Celsius, -387 Fahrenheit)!!!

You can read the full scientific paper entitled “Direct mapping of the formation of a persistent spin helix” by M.P. Walser, C. Reichl, W. Wegscheider and G. Salis was published online in Nature Physics, DOI 10.1038/NPHYS2383 (12 August 2012).

The Rory McIlroy-Fest

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(Photo by J.D. Cuban, for Golf Digest.) These are the clubs that new PGA Championship champion, Rory McIlroy, had in his bag as of three years ago, according to Golf Digest. With his new victory, he can probably afford quite an upgrade, and this just in time for the Ryder Cup in Medinah, where he’s clearly destined by European captain Jose Marie Olazabal to play a central role on the European squad.

The PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, ended with a non-climactic finish yesterday afternoon.

I was playing some golf of my own up in north Texas with my father, so I got to watch the final round of the PGA once I returned home to Austin.

And when I watch the final round of a major, I can tell you I typically watch the whole round, start to finish, which is at least four hours.

I also had to place myself in a news blackout starting around 3 PM CST.

Driving south back to Austin, I realized the radio news might give the winner away, so I turned Puccini’s “Tosca” on my iPhone and listened to it while navigating the slow southbound traffic.

Once home I warmed up the DVR and settled in, and I quickly realized the last round was about to become another Rory McIlroy-fest. If you saw what he did in the U.S. Open at Congressional last summer, you realize all Rory needs is a little winding up in those high performance gears before he starts golfing like a phenom, and that’s what happened yesterday afternoon on Kiawah Island.

Yes, Carl Petterson, and Adam Scott, and even Tiger Woods, weren’t completely out of the mix after finishing the third round and moving on to the fourth and final round in the late morning.

But Rory was like a fine BMW sedan whose upper end just needs a little punch of the gas to speed up and settle in to the highway, leaving everyone else in its dust.

Also, it wasn’t just one part of his game that was making the difference, as is often the case with a championship caliber player.

Rory’s drives were threading the waves of the Ocean Course, his mid-irons were mostly finding their targets with great precision, and when they weren’t that close, his putter was picking up the slack.

He simply looked like Tiger Woods in his hey day — and as we saw at Congressional, when he gets wound up like that, he simply can’t be stopped and is playing a whole different level of golf than we mere mortals.

For all those who’ve been watching the Olympics in London these past two weeks, and marveling at the performances of all the great athletes…well, that’s kind of how many of we golf fans feel when we watch Rory (or any great player) turning it on in a round like that.

By the way, Rory broke yet another record, one that belonged to Jack Nicklaus: The largest margin of victory in a PGA Championship (his was seven, and McIlroy’s yesterday was 8, at 13 under).

In the PGATour.com’s wrap-up, Tiger Woods summed up McIlroy’s potential as a player like this: “When he gets going, it’s pretty impressive to watch.”

Uh, yeah, ya think?  But I guess coming from the former world number one, those are still potent words.

So, congratulations, Rory.  You were a tour de force in a major once again, and if you play anywhere that well in the Ryder Cup, the U.S. has that much less of a chance in taking back the Cup.

Regardless, Medinah’s going to be some seriously compelling, but nerve-wracking golf.

Written by turbotodd

August 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

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