Turbotodd

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

Archive for February 2013

One Big MOOC

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Our CEO, Ginny Rometty, has taken to updating the IBM workforce via some nifty video blogs since she took the helm last year.

In her most recent update, she encouraged the IBM workforce to recommit to continuing to build our skills, and so asked each of us to pursue 40 hours of continuing education in 2013, and that IBM would foot the bill for the additional costs (travel, books, etc.)

Back in 2001-2003, I pursued and completed my MBA in technology management from one of the world’s first for-profit continuing education institution’s, the Apollo Group’s University of Phoenix Online.

This was still the way early days for online learning. Most of the learning was done through traditional books and Phoenix’s proprietary equivalent newsgroup software, where I would exchange asynchronous messages with my professors and fellow students. We also participated in a few self-directed teleconference calls and lots of instant messaging meetings, as there were loads of team projects that required coordination with other students.

One course in particular that I remember wishing I had had a longer course schedule beyond the traditional six weeks (which is how long Phoenix’s courses lasted at the time) was corporate finance. Half the reason I had pursued the MBA was to expand beyond my right brain-oriented BA and MA in English and Radio/TV/Film respectively, and take on more left brain pursuits.

The finance course was exactly the kind of stuff I’d been wanting to learn, but again, in six weeks, it just moved too quickly to completely grok such a vast expanse of information.

So, flash forward to 2013 and my new learning mandate from our CEO. It just so happened last fall I had stumbled onto massive online open course (MOOC) provider Coursera, which has been offering a wealth of classes from a variety of higher learning institutions, and it just so happened they were also going to be offering a corporate finance class through the University of Michigan.

Voila, problem solved. I could now return to revisiting my finance love and spend a little more deliberate time learning it from the ground up, this time over the course of 16 weeks and at no cost to myself or to IBM (other than by taking a little of my time).

This time around, however, I have a professor explaining many of the concepts through online video, snippets of which I can watch in my spare moments or in binge viewing on the weekends. I also have access to more sophisticated online messaging collaboration tools to learn from my fellow students.

And, I do believe, I’m starting to see some technological foundations laid that could completely disrupt the traditional bastions of higher learning, much the way Napster disrupted the recorded music industry.

Good education requires some basic Sophoclean give and take, to be sure, but who says such give and take has to be in a physical classroom with way too many students and not enough personal attention?

I remember courses from my own baccalaureate matriculation at the University of North Texas that filled entire stadium classrooms, and I probably said nary a word to many of those professors, other than answering a few questions over the course of the semester.

What if I could have an even more personalized learning experience, at my own pace, through a MOOC?

Who’s to say a MOOC, in partnership with some of the best professors in the world, couldn’t create their own virtual university, one that isn’t undermined by the increasingly failing economics of brick and mortar learning institutions?

One that, if put together with the right forethought and technology could charge far less than most state and private universities today, and yet still hire the best-of-the-best when it comes to instructors.

If you haven’t heard about MOOCs, you’re definitely not keeping up with the learning Joneses.

Many MOOC courses these days are attracting multiple tens of thousands of students. In fact, Coursera was developed by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller after Stanford University offered three MOOC courses in the fall of 2012 and each averaged an enrollment of around 100,000 students.

Yes, 100,000 each!

Will MOOCs scale to the needs of higher education aspirants everywhere?  Possibly.

But what if it were able to address just a quarter of the higher education needs?  Last fall, an estimated 21 million new college students were headed to universities, many incurring absurd amounts of debt and often experiencing an overhang from the mortgage debt crisis.

In fact, a Wall Street Journal article from January 30 found that credit bureau TransUnion had discovered that 33 percent of the almost $900 billion in outstanding student loans was held by subprime, or the “riskiest,” borrowers as of March of last year.

I suspect that new MOOC-oriented firms like Coursera, Udacity, edX — and probably more to come — are just one avenue that future college students may well want to pursue for a higher level of education at a fraction of today’s traditional university price, and of course they are no silver bullet.

On the other hand, the avaricious appetite for the early MOOC courses from students around the globe would suggest the higher education market is not even close to meeting the inherent demand, and it was that great learned scholar, Aristotle, who taught us that “nature abhors a vacuum.”

 

Written by turbotodd

February 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Send A Fax

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Greetings from the Big Apple.

I’ve been here for several days now, after a fun adventure with Jet Blue trying to get here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already gained several pounds, what with all the pizza and Italian cuisine and sushi and gyros I’ve consumed.

Of course, sitting in all day meetings hasn’t helped, so it’s a good thing I’ve gone out and run the NYC marathon course every evening to get some exercise.

That was a joke, of course.  The last exercise I did in NYC was when I was a NYC bike messenger, and the last routine I perfectly executed there was a pirouhette from the seat of my bicycle into the cab door, and on down onto Park Avenue and into the back of an ambulance to Bellevue hospital.

That was in July 1986, about the same time that the fax machine started the long, slow decline of the bike messenger business in NYC and beyond.

Eventually, we also saw the long, slow decline of the fax machine.

Everywhere in the world.

Except, according to this morning’s New York Times, in Japan, where the love affair with the fax machine continues to this date, despite the advent of the Internet and smartphones.

I’ll leave it to you all to read the piece.  It’s quaint, and culturally intriguing.  But I think it also goes a long way towards explaining the decades-long now economic slump in which Japan continues to find itself.

Then again, I guess it’s a lot easier to hold on to the past if you can hold a piece of fax paper in your hand.

Written by turbotodd

February 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Could You Be Loved

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Call me old school, but for me the best part of the Grammy’s last evening was the Bob Marley homage, led by an energetic Bruno Mars and joined by the likes of Sting, Rhianna, and several of Bob Marley’s offspring.

Though there seemed to be some decent enough performances otherwise, I guess my musical tastes are increasingly running old school as well, which I guess just makes me old.

That’s okay, I’ll wear the fabric of time and wisdom if it’s cloaked in a little Led Zeppelin and Eagles and Beatles and Lynyrd Skynyrd and a whole lotta current from AC/DC.

Contemporary music doesn’t seem have much of an edge to it.  For me, much of it seems too apologetic, too timid, certainly too soft.  I much prefer the Motown and doo wop of the 50s, the psychedelia of the 60s, the classic rock of the 70s, the metal edge of the 80s, the grunge of the 90s.

But that’s yesterday’s news. What about today’s?

Well, if you’re a Google Reader user, good luck. TechCrunch informs us this morning that the RSS feed-reading service “has gone completely mad,” heading into a second day of usability issues and the reappearance of thousands of old, unread items.

Maybe old news could be good news, in this case. Maybe we can use Google Reader to travel back to the good ol’ days, when we didn’t have worry about Facebook SPAM and blocked Twitter APIs.

Hey, Google, no big deal I bet my RSS farm on your dawdling feedreading horse.  Maybe throw the old nag a fresh bale of hay at least once in a while?

Not exactly encouraging news in terms of the service life and TLC that geriatric Google apps receive, now is it?

Of course, there’s always new horses coming into the race, and those just reaching their strides.

Golf journeyman Brandt Snedeker, who took the PGA Tour’s FedEx cup last year, is off to a fast start in 2013, making his walks around Pebble Beach this past few days look like a stroll in the park.

I first saw Snedeker play golf in person at Torrey Pines in 2007, and even then I remarked at how fast the guy plays. Considering the lethargic state of pace of play for most golf courses these days, Snedeker’s a breath of fresh air.

Not only does he make putting look simple with his laser-like lines and Ouiji-board green reads, he plays fast!  Like really fast! Like if you want to get a picture of that swing (from a distance, please), you’d better have multiple auto-shots and lightning fast shutter speeds!

In his post-round interview, Snedeker explained to CBS’ David Feherty his next big golf stop is a major. In 2008, when he was a Masters contender he melted down in the homestretch, but this time he may well have the confidence, maturity, and course management to leap ahead of the pack and get himself some new green threads.

And being a good Southern boy, here’s hoping he listens to some good old-fashioned Allman Brothers Band tunes as he prepares to psych himself up for Augusta.

Written by turbotodd

February 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Dr. Watson Finds Bedside Manner

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Back in September of 2011 I mentioned in this blog post that one of Watson’s first jobs outside of playing Jeopardy! was going to be in the healthcare industry.

Well, earlier today WellPoint, Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center today unveiled the first commercially developed Watson-based cognitive computing breakthroughs.

These innovations stand alone to help transform the quality and speed of care delivered to patients through individualized, evidence based medicine.

Check out this short video to learn more about how physicians and other medical professionals are able to use IBM’s Watson technology to help them with their medical diagnostic tasks.

The American Cancer Society projects that 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone.  Studies suggest that the complexities associated with healthcare have caused one in five health care patients to receive a wrong or incomplete diagnosis.

These statistics, coupled with a data explosion of medical information that is doubling every five years, represents an unprecedented opportunity for the health care industry and next generation cognitive computing systems, to combine forces in new ways to improve how medicine is taught, practiced and paid for.

For more than a year now, IBM has partnered separately with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to train Watson in the areas of oncology and utilization management.

During this time, clinicians and technology experts spent thousands of hours “teaching” Watson how to process, analyze and interpret the meaning of complex clinical information using natural language processing, all with the goal of helping to improve health care quality and efficiency.

“IBM’s work with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center represents a landmark collaboration in how technology and evidence based medicine can transform the way in which health care is practiced,” said Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions (see my interview with Manoj at last fall’s InterConnect event in Singapore further down in the post).

“These breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industries most pressing challenges.”

Evidence Based Medicine: Addressing Oncology Issues By Quickly Assimilating Massive Amounts Of Medical Information

To date, Watson has ingested more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in the area of oncology research.

Watson has the power to sift through 1.5 million patient records representing decades of cancer treatment history, such as medical records and patient outcomes, and provide to physicians evidence based treatment options all in a matter of seconds.

In less than a year, Memorial Sloan-Kettering has immersed Watson in the complexities of cancer and the explosion of genetic research which has set the stage for changing care practices for many cancer patients with highly specialized treatments based on their personal genetic tumor type.

Starting with 1,500 lung cancer cases, Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians and analysts are training Watson to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research, while sharing its profound expertise and experiences in treating hundreds of thousands of patients with cancer.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings. The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world,” said Craig B.Thompson, M.D., President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace.”

The Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and WESTMED Medical Group are the first two early adopters of the capability. Their oncologists will begin testing the product and providing feedback to WellPoint, IBM and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to improve usability.

Speeding Patient Care Through WellPoint’s Utilization Management Pilot

Throughout WellPoint’s utilization management pilot, Watson absorbed more than 25,000 test case scenarios and 1,500 real-life cases, and gained the ability to interpret the meaning and analyze queries in the context of complex medical data and human and natural language, including doctors notes, patient records, medical annotations and clinical feedback.

In addition, more than 14,700 hours of hands-on training was spent by nurses who meticulously trained Watson. Watson continues to learn while on the job, much like a medical resident, while working with the WellPoint nurses who originally conducted its training.

Watson started processing common, medical procedure requests by providers for members in WellPoint affiliated health plans in December, and was expanded to include five provider offices in the Midwest. Watson will serve as a powerful tool to accelerate the review process between a patient’s physician and their health plan.

“The health care industry must drive transformation through innovation, including harnessing the latest technology that will ultimately benefit the health care consumer,” said Lori Beer, WellPoint’s executive vice president of Specialty Businesses and Information Technology. “We believe that WellPoint’s data, knowledge and extensive provider network, combined with the IBM Watson technology and Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s oncological expertise can drive this transformation.”

Watson-Powered Health Innovations

As a result, IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint are introducing the first commercially based products based on Watson. These innovations represent a breakthrough in how medical professionals can apply advances in analytics and natural language processing to “big data,” combined with the clinical knowledge base, including genomic data, in order to create evidence based decision support systems.

These Watson-based systems are designed to assist doctors, researchers, medical centers, and insurance carriers, and ultimately enhance the quality and speed of care.  The new products include the Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, powered by Watson, in collaboration with IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint.

The WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer, powered by Watson, designed for utilization management in collaboration with WellPoint and IBM.

New Interactive Care Insights for Oncology  

  • The cognitive systems use insights gleaned from the deep experience of Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians to provide individualized treatment options based on patient’s medical information and the synthesis of a vast array of updated and vetted treatment guidelines, and published research.
  • A first of-its-kind Watson-based advisor, available through the cloud, that is expected to assist medical professionals and researchers by helping to identify individualized treatment options for patients with cancer, starting with lung cancer.
  • Provides users with a detailed record of the data and information used to reach the treatment options. Oncologists located anywhere can remotely access detailed treatment options based on updated research that will help them decide how best to care for an individual patient.

New WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer 

  • Delivers the first Watson-based cognitive computing system anticipated to streamline the review processes between a patient’s physician and their health plan, potentially speeding approvals from utilization management professionals, reducing waste and helping ensure evidence-based care is provided.
  • Expected to accelerate accepted testing and treatment by shortening pre-authorization approval time, which means that patients are moving forward with the first crucial step toward treatment more quickly.
  • Analyzes treatment requests and matches them to WellPoint’s medical policies and clinical guidelines to present consistent, evidence-based responses for clinical staff to review, in the anticipation of providing faster, better informed decisions about a patient’s care.
  • WellPoint has deployed Interactive Care Reviewer to a select number of providers in the Midwest, and believes more than 1,600 providers will be using the product by the end of the year.

Watson: Then and Now

The IBM Watson system gained fame by beating human contestants on the television quiz show Jeopardy! almost two years ago. Since that time, Watson has evolved from a first-of-a-kind status,  to a commercial cognitive computing system gaining a 240 percent improvement in system performance,  and a reduction in the system’s physical requirements by 75 percent and can now be run on a single Power 750 server.

The transformational technology, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was developed in IBM’s Research Labs. Using advances in natural language processing and analytics, the Watson technology can process information similar to the way people think, representing a significant shift in the ability for organizations to quickly analyze, understand and respond to vast amounts of Big Data.

The ability to use Watson to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence has enormous potential to improve decision making across a variety of industries from health care, to retail, telecommunications and financial services.

For more information on IBM Watson, please visit www.ibmwatson.com.

You can also follow Watson on Facebook here, and via Twitter at hashtag #IBMWatson.

And below, you can see the aforementioned video where I interviewed IBM Watson general manager Manoj Saxena about Watson’s future at last year’s IBM InterConnect event.

The Snowstorm From Hades

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For those of you in the northeast, I feel for you. 

The coming snowstorm sounds like a monster, and reminds me of my first big storm when I was living in the New York area, the “Blizzard of 1996.”

If memory serves, it really kicked in on Sunday, January 7. I was living in the White Plains area, and had walked down to a local bar so I could watch a Dallas Cowboys football game on their TV there.

I remember the snow starting to fall in the first half.  By the end of the game, snow completely covered the sidewalk outside.

I walked home through the snow, and it was still coming down pretty consistently and pretty heavily.

I had no idea.

When I awakened the next morning, I looked outside and snow was piled up halfway up the door of a car parked across the street.

I was speechless. Growing up in north Texas, it was a HUGE deal to ever see ANY snow.  To see it fall like there was an endless supply…well, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.

New York City had pretty much shut down.  Before it was all over, they were dumping snow into the Hudson River, as there was nowhere else to put it.

IBM offices were closed on Monday, and I think Tuesday, that week, but I remember being able to work from home through a phone line.  Yes, a phone line.  You know, with a modem.  Where you dialed up to your server and got that really annoying connecting noise when the modem finally coupled.  

I can still hear that sound today, 17 years later, like it was yesterday.

My recommendation to my friends in New York, Boston and in between: Run to the store, buy yourself plenty of food and water, a bottle of whiskey, some candles and batteries, and just hibernate. 

If it’s good enough for bears, it’s good enough for we humans, especially in a mjor snowstorm.  Sounds like a perfectly good opportunity to read that latest book you’ve been putting off.

Oh, that, and make sure you go out and play in the snow.  You don’t want to let all that white stuff go to waste!

P.S. I’m expecting to fly up to New York City on Monday for a business trip, so I’d appreciate you all clearing the runways at JFK sometime over the weekend.  ‘Kay, thanks!

Written by turbotodd

February 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

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Turbo’s New Hammer

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Image

Turbo’s new “hammer,” a Samsung Chromebook that he loyally bought from IBM client Best Buy when he was supposed to be out just grabbing lunch. Read the full post to determine whether Todd will keep his new hammer and whether or not it’s worthy of a life lived mostly in the cloud.

I’ve not written a personal technology post in a couple of weeks, but I had occasion to acquire some new technology recently, and I decided that must change.

First things first: Never let me loose in a Best Buy with a credit card.  It’s not a pretty sight.

Which is precisely where I found myself last week during a lunch break, when I allegedly stepped out to get some food.

Of course, the place where I was getting the food was also close to where the Best Buy is located.  So, one thing led to another…

And to be fair, if not to myself, then to the telling of the tale, I didn’t wander into the Best Buy without having in my mind’s eye a certain technology I wanted to check out.

Mind you, I never had children, much to my mother’s chagrin, so my indulgence IS the acquisition of new technologies, of all varieties.  I could open a museum dedicated to the long dormant carcasses of technologies past.

Some of them I could make a good argument at the time I needed them, others I would have a difficult time in making that case to a mock court filled with sympathetic nerds.

But regardless, it is my passion and weakness (that, and golf).

Now for my juicy rationalization on this particular lunch break: Though I didn’t need a new computer, I wanted to try something new.

That’s as rational as it’s going to get.

Hey, it’s better than going out and buying a Porsche on a lark, right? Or a motorcycle of some kind, which would surely get me killed!  At least this Chromebook won’t kill me, I thought as I walked through Best Buy the parking lot.

So I walked into the Best Buy and *specifically* wanted to check out the Chromebooks.  That would help me limit the damage.

I already told you, this wasn’t an entirely rational act, although there was plenty of rationalizing as I went through the door.

Also, how’s this: Best Buy is an IBM client! When I buy stuff from Best Buy, I’m helping support a customer who helps support me because they buy our stuff!

That’s pretty good, you must admit.  I was about to close the deal with myself and I hadn’t even yet seen the Chromebook.

By now, I’ve walked past the mobile phone section of Best Buy, which for me is like a person who has a gambling problem having the willpower to walk through Caesar’s Palace without stopping at a blackjack table.

But I did it. And I kept on walking…past the 3D TVs, the Internet-enabled fridges, past the camera section (Wait, I’ve not bought a camera at least in a year!), and on into the computer section.

I asked the friendly sales guy if they had any Chromebooks on display, and he said, in fact, they did. Two models, one from Samsung, and one from Acer.

The Samsung had a 16GB hard drive, and the Acer, I think, a 128GB drive.

Of course, you’re missing the point with a Chromebook if you’re thinking about how much hard drive space there is.

The whole point of a Chromebook is to live almost entirely in the cloud.

And this was my goal. To see what it was like to live in the cloud.  Another rationalization. “I have to go live in the cloud, because…I must know what THAT’S like!”

That and to support one of IBM’s great clients, Best Buy, by buying more stuff from them.  Our client.  Who buys our stuff.

I know, I have a problem. I just want you to know how my mind works.

The nice sales guy answered a bunch of questions I had, machine gun fashion, Amy Poehler style, and then mentioned they had an “open box” of the Samsung, a return.

“Why’d they return it?” I asked him.

“Because, I don’t think they realized what they were getting into buying a Chromebook.”

Then, I saw the price. $216!!!  Aha, even better, I was going to benefit from the misery of another customer who had returned the thing because they didn’t understand they were going to have to live in the cloud.

I could feel my credit card literally melting in my back pocket. Like it was oozing between the seams and burning down my leg like hot wax.

“And can I bring it back if I don’t like it?”

“Thirty days,” he smiled.  Well there you go!  If I don’t like the thing, I’ll bring it back (Fat chance that was gonna happen, but it gave me an out).

The sales guy left me there to play with the Samsung Chromebook some more, but it was a no brainer!

$216 for an item that was listed at $249 and for which I’d seen folks charging close to $300.

So I bought it, the endorphin rush carrying me out the door back to my car.

It was supposed to come with 100 GB of free storage from Google for two years, but because it was an open box, the doofus who bought the thing and returned it, had cashed in the free storage and I was left to buy my own.

That’s okay, because as it turns out, I don’t need a lot of storage. I’m mostly saving small text docs.

And now, let me explain my net summary of the Chromebook experience thus far.

First, I’m a writer, first and foremost. So I like writing on something I like to write on.

Whether a typewriter, in a specific word processing app, or on a keyboard that has just the right feel…well, that’s the point: You know it when you feel it.

The Samsung Chromebook has the right feel, for me.

Second, less is more. For basic productivity, so long as you have a good Internet connection, most everything you need is in the Chrome cloud.

Writing apps, presentation apps, spreadsheets, games, music (Pandora, etc.)…

IF you need anything else that’s specifically hidebound to Mac OS or Windows or even Linux, the SAMSUNG CHROMEBOOK IS NOT FOR YOU!

Third, I haven’t had to try and use it offline yet. Though I’m told a number of the Google apps work great offline, I haven’t yet gone there. So, stay tuned for more on that.

The ONLY thing that doesn’t yet work that I want to work is Netflix…and, I’m told, Google’s working on it (they’re having to do some recoding due to the ARM processor used in the Chromebook).

Everything else has been great, including, as mentioned, job one, the ability to write.

I found an application in Chromebook called “Writer” that’s free and that’s where I’m writing this post. My post saves every few seconds to the cloud, autosave extraordinaire, voila…no lost posts, no local OS or app crashes.

And the Chromebook display is gorgeous.  The multitasking is no problemo, due to the light footprint for Chrome.

And you know something else, I think one of the things I like most about it is its simplicity.  It just works!  The operating system doesn’t get in the way, as it so often does when I’m using Windows or Mac OS or even Linux.

The footprint is SO light there’s really not much there to crash!  And after twenty years of fighting operating systems, I have to say, this is one helluva breath of fresh air.

This is the network computer as it was being banted about in 1998, that’s actually come to fruition because the bandwidth has matched the application capacity.

Ultimately, it’s pushing technology the hell out of my way so I can get real work done.  What a concept!

And yes, this is mainly a “second” computer for me, but it’s a powerful second computer, and because so much of my life is now spent in the cloud, and considering that a computer is for me like a hammer is to a carpenter — well, that’s how I ultimately justified the purchase: I got myself a new hammer for only $216, and I’m out there just hammering away nails like it’s nobody’s business.

So before you go spending $800+ on that 128GB iPad, make sure it’s going to do what you need to do…that can’t be done on a $216 Chromebook!

Written by turbotodd

February 5, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Big Data, Big Security, Big Boxes

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There’s been some substantial “Big Data” announcements over the past week from Big Blue.

Late last week, on the heels of the public disclosure of security breaches at a number of major media organizations, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, IBM announced its new “IBM Security Intelligence With Big Data” offering, which combines leading security intellignece with big data analytics capabilities for both external cyber security threats and internal risk detection and protection.

You can learn more about that offering here.

IBM is also working to make it easier for organizations to quickly adopt and deploy big data and cloud computing solutions.

Today, the company announced major advances to its PureSystems family of expert integrated systems.

Now, organizations challenged by limited IT skills and resources can quickly comb through massive volumes of data and uncover critical trends that can dramatically impact their business.

The new PureSystems models also help to remove the complexity of developing cloud-based services by making it easier to provision, deploy and manage a secure cloud environment.

Together, these moves by IBM further extend its leadership in big data and next generation computing environments such as cloud computing, while opening up new opportunities within growth markets and with organizations such as managed service providers (MSPs).

Big Data Only Getting Bigger

Across all industries and geographies, organizations of various sizes are being challenged to find simpler and faster ways to analyze massive amounts of data and better meet client needs.

According to IDC, the market for big data technology and services will reach $16.9 billion by 2015, up from $3.2 billion in 2010.1

At the same time, an IBM study found that almost three-fourths of leaders surveyed indicated their companies had piloted, adopted or substantially implemented cloud in their organizations — and 90 percent expect to have done so in three years. While the demand is high, many organizations do not have the resources or skills to embrace it.

Today’s news includes PureData System for Analytics to capitalize on big data opportunities; a smaller PureApplication System to accelerate cloud deployments for a broader range of organizations; PureApplication System on POWER7+ to ease management of transaction and analytics applications in the cloud; additional options for MSPs across the PureSystems family including flexible financing options and specific MSP Editions to support new services models; and SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure to ease management of virtual desktop solutions.

New Systems Tuned for Big Data

The new IBM PureData System for Analytics, powered by Netezza technology, features 50 percent greater data capacity per rack3 and is able to crunch data 3x faster4, making this system a top performer, while also addressing the challenges of big data.

The IBM PureData System for Analytics is designed to assist organizations with managing more data while maintaining efficiency in the data center – a major concern for clients of all sizes.

With IBM PureData System for Analytics, physicians can analyze patient information faster and retailers can better gain insight into customer behavior. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) relies on PureData System for Analytics to handle an enormous volume of data in its trading systems and identify and investigate trading anomalies faster and easier.

You can learn more about these and other new PureSystems capabilities here.

To aid in the detection of stealthy threats that can hide in the increasing mounds of data, IBM recently announced IBM Security Intelligence with Big Data, combining leading security intelligence with big data analytics capabilities for both external cyber security threats and internal risk detection and prevention. IBM Security Intelligence with Big Data provides a comprehensive approach that allows security analysts to extend their analysis well beyond typical security data and to hunt for malicious cyber activity.

My Kingdom For A Horse! (Or A Dodge Ram Truck)

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Perhaps the Super Bowl should have blackouts more often.

I thought I was going to fall asleep near the end of the first half, though Beyonce and her friends most assuredly would have awakened me from my slumber at halftime.

I don’t think she lip-synched that performance, and neither, it seems, did Ravens quarterback and MVP Joe Flacco, who actually threw for less yardage than San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick, some 287 of them. But Flacco’s passes garnered a little bit more accuracy and a couple more touchdowns, so it will be he who rides with Mickey and Minnie in the parade at DisneyWorld this time around.

As for the SuperBowl of advertising, well, let’s just say it was a year filled with fair to middling entries, some strong, most anemic, several childish but sometimes fun.

With many of the ads, I got the feeling I was watching the Mike Judge SuperBowl Advertising Film Festival, with a little bit of Sundance throw in for good measure.

For my money — and in the end, that IS what advertising is all about, getting you to spend your money — the Ram truck ad featuring the still life images of farmers and ranchers, underlined by the voice of heartland radio commentator Paul Harvey, walked away with the gold.

Sure, the Tide “Miracle Stain” spot was funnier and more entertaining, and Anheuser-Busch’s “Budweiser Brotherhood” spot may have tickled your sentimental bone a little more, but the Ram spot really hit home. It associated the promises of the product with a broad sweep of American experience — more gut feel than emotion, with images from a remix of Ansel Adams and Norman Rockwell, but unapologetically so, backed by the plainspoken Harvey explaining why “God made a farmer.”

Of course, all those stories have very little lasting power when compared to Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet, the royal dynasty that endured to the end of the Late Middle Ages, and for whom Shakespeare had cry, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”

Turns out Richard could have used a shovel instead, as his remains were recently discovered underneath a parking lot in the English midlands city of Leicester.

What’s even more fascinating, DNA evidence linked with modern ancestors proves the genetic link.

It also turns out that Richard’s body did, in fact, have the historically anticipated hole in his head after all, having been struck by a medieval halberd (think pole ax), along with a scoliated spine.

According to The New York Time’s story, the University of Leicester plans to rebury Richard’s bones in the Leicester Anglican cathedral, and that the reburial will likely take place as part of a memorial service honoring Richard as an English king sometime early next year.

Not to worry about those Tower of London plots where he schemed to have his nephews killed way back when. That’s water under the bridge!

Wait a minute, you might be saying to yourself, how in the world did they find Richard beneath a parking lot in Leicester in the first place?

Ground penetrating radar, of course! This is a technology blog after all — why else would I be bringing up Shakespeare and King Richard!?

In any case, truth in this case is definitely stranger than fiction, and the fiction was pretty strange to start.

As for millions of American football fans around the world lamenting the end of the NFL season, King Richard via William Shakespeare anticipated our frustration in the opening soliloquy of his play Richard III and summed it up quite succinctly: “Now is the winter of our discontent!”

Written by turbotodd

February 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

IBM To Acquire Business Analytics Firm Star Analytics, Inc.

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IBM yesterday announced a definitive agreement to acquire the software portfolio of Star Analytics Inc., a privately held business analytics company headquartered in Redwood City, California.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The combination of IBM and Star Analytics software will further advance IBM’s business analytics initiatives, allowing organizations to gain faster access and real-time insight into specialized data sources.

With growing challenges in gaining a more complete view into varying types of data, companies are increasingly looking for ways to automate and provide business users with self-service access to critical information.

Star Analytics software addresses a rising challenge for organizations — helping to automatically integrate essential information, reporting applications and business intelligence tools across their enterprises, on premise or from cloud computing environments.

The software removes typical custom coding for specialized sources that is hard to maintain. It also eliminates manual processes that are cumbersome and time consuming.

“IBM sees an enormous opportunity for our clients to apply Star Analytics to the information they have stored in their financial applications,” said Leslie J Rechan, General Manager, IBM Business Analytics.  “And to then easily access it within their IBM performance management and business intelligence solutions.”

IBM Business Analytics

IBM has established the world’s deepest portfolio of Smarter Analytics and Big Data technologies and industry expertise, including almost 9,000 dedicated business analytics and optimization consultants, and 400 researchers.

Nearly 500 of the patents from IBM’s record breaking 20th year of innovation will serve as the building blocks for future analytics innovations that will help businesses and governments unlock the power of big data.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.

You can learn more about Star Analytics here. 

Written by turbotodd

February 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm

60 And Counting

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Well, I could hardly let a near milestone on the PGA Tour go unnoticed from yesterday’s opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, now could I?

Golf fans everywhere, Phil Mickelson is back…well, at least he was yesterday, and it was both sporting triumph and heartbreak rolled all into one.

If you remember Phil’s play from last week out in Torrey Pines, which could be hard to do considering how low down on the leaderboard he was…well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Phil’s driver seemed at times like it was poised to try and stretch his drives across the Pacific ocean, and playing from the wilds of the South Course is no fun, as those holes are long and difficult to reach when you’re playing from the middle of the fairways, never mind in from near the condos and office buildings sidling up along the course.

But all that changed when Phil A) put a new driver in the bag and B) flew coach Butch Harmon in for a swing tune up.

So yesterday, in Phoenix, where the crowds love to drink beer and act like they’re at a NASCAR race on the par-3 16th (It’s the only PGA stop I know of where fans actually boo the players if they miss the green on their drive!), Phil brought his new driver and swing and attitude to town!

It went a little something like this: Birdie, Par, Birdie, Birdie, Par Par, Birdie, Par Par.

Then, the back nine went like this: Birdie, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie, Par, Par, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie.

Only, it actually went that way in reverse, because Phil shotgunned his start on the 10th tee.

So here’s where the drama comes in: On hole 8, he needed one more birdie and then par to shoot a 59, something only five other golfers have ever done in PGA Tour history in a professional round.

And, if he birdied 9, he would have shot 58, to my knowledge, a first in Tour history.

He gets to 8 in 2 shots, and has, I’m guessing, about a 20 foot downhiller with a slight left to it. He lines up the putt, strikes it, and the thing runs out of gas centimeters from the hole.

So it won’t be his day for a 58, not unless he eagles 9.

On 9, he once again gets it to the green in 2, and voila, now he has about a 25 footer that takes a little bit more left.

He lines up, thousands surrounding the green, most probably clued into the history that might be made here…the putt’s off and on a gorgeous trajectory to the hole…it comes along the right side of the hole and decides to make a U-turn at the very last second, gravity pulling it against the back of the cup and back around the other side and…up and out of the hole, again centimeters away from the hole.

The golfing gods can be so, so incredibly cruel. It was as if you could hear Zeus roaring down with laughter from up the road in La Jolla.

Phil’s longtime caddie, “Bones,” fell to the green on his knees, ready to sacrifice himself to the great “Caddyshack” gods in the sky to make that putt please, please, please roll back into the hole.

After the round, the Golf Channel correspondent interviewed Phil, and you could see the pain in his eyes.

Yes, of course, he shot a 60, something golfers also don’t get to do very often (and which, I can assure you, I’ll never do, unless it’s on the front nine)…but, that special personal victory was oh so close, and yes, Phil answered, he knew within the first few holes on the front nine there was something special in the air, and that he could well be on his way to a record round.

Phil continues his lead today at 14 under as of this writing, and if it keeps this up, nobody can touch him.

But boy, what he wouldn’t do to have one more shot at that putt, and the PGA Tour history books.

Written by turbotodd

February 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm

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