Posts Tagged ‘IBM’

2020 IBM Quantum Gains

January 13, 2020

IBM returned from the holidays announcing a flurry of activity around quantum computing. Specifically, it has expanded its set of Q Network partners, including a range of commercial, academic, startup, government, and research entities.  

IBM Qiskit screen

The Q Network now includes over 100 organizations, across multiple industries, including: Airline, Automotive, Banking and Finance, Energy, Insurance, Materials, and Electronics.  Specifically, Anthem, Delta Air Lines, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and Woodside Energy are among the latest organizations to begin to explore practical applications using quantum computing.

In addition to these industry leaders, a number of academic, government research labs and startups have also joined the IBM Q Network, including the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Stanford University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, AIQTech, Beit, Quantum Machines, Tradeteq, and Zurich Instruments.

These organizations join over 200,000 users, who have run hundreds of billions of executions on IBM’s quantum systems and simulators through the IBM Cloud. This has led to the publication of more than 200 third-party research papers on practical quantum applications.

More quantum: IBM also recently announced the planned installation of the first two IBM Q System One commercial universal quantum computers outside the US – one with Europe’s leading organization for applied research, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, in Germany; another with The University of Tokyo. Both are designed to advance country-wide research and provide an education framework program to engage universities, industry, and government to grow a quantum computing community and foster new economic opportunities.

Growing a quantum computing community should quickly become a critical need and, more likely, a major headache. My own cursory search of employment sites revealed no quantum computing openings  listed. Just a few casual inquiries suggest curiosity about quantum computing but not much insight or readiness or actual skills or openings to generate action. 

Still, even at this early stage things already are happening.

Anthem, Inc., a leading health benefits company is expanding its research and development efforts to explore how quantum computing may further enhance the consumer healthcare experience. For Anthem, quantum computing offers the potential to analyze vast amounts of data inaccessible to classical computing while also enhancing privacy and security. It also brings the potential to help individuals through the development of more accurate and personalized treatment options while improving the prediction of health conditions.

Delta Air Lines joined the IBM Q Hub at North Carolina State University to embark on a multi-year collaborative effort with IBM to explore the potential capabilities of quantum computing in transforming experiences for customers and employees as they encounter challenges throughout the  travel day.

Quantum Machines (QM), a provider of control and operating systems for quantum computers, brings customers among the leading players in the field, including multinational corporations, academic institutions, start-ups and national research labs. As part of the IBM and QM collaboration, a compiler between IBM’s quantum computing programming languages, like Qiskit (see graphic above),  and those of QM is being developed for use by QM’s customers. Such development will lead to the increased adoption of IBM’s open-sourced programming languages across the industry.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory also has joined as an IBM Q Hub to greatly help the lab’s research efforts, including developing and testing near-term quantum algorithms and formulating strategies for mitigating errors on quantum computers. A 53-qubit system will also allow Los Alamos to benchmark the abilities to perform quantum simulations on real quantum hardware and perhaps to finally push beyond the limits of classical computing. 

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

A Blockchain Feast

January 6, 2020

Hope everybody had wonderful holidays and feasted to your heart’s content.  Did you, by chance, think about the data involved in that feast? No, not the calories you consumed but the data that tracked the food you consumed from the farm or ranch through numerous processing and shipping steps to finally arrive at your table.  Well, maybe next time.

Apple Pie: Courtesy of IBM

The IBM Food Trust, which is built on blockchain, enables sellers and consumers to trace their food from farm to warehouse to kitchen, explains IBM. For more eco- and safety-conscious diners, IBM continues, this information is crucial for ensuring a safer, smarter, more transparent and sustainable food ecosystem. The company, unfortunately, hasn’t yet said anything about  Food Trust counting calories consumed.

As IBM describes it, the Food Trust is a collaborative network of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers, and others, enhancing visibility and accountability across the food supply chain. Built on IBM Blockchain, this solution connects participants through a permissioned, immutable, and shared record of food provenance, transaction data, processing details, and more.

To date, IBM reports more than 200 companies participate in Food Trust, the first network of its kind to connect participants across the food supply chain through a permanent and shared record of data. The result, according to the company,  is a suite of solutions that improve food safety and freshness, unlock supply chain efficiencies, minimize waste, and empower consumers who care about where their food comes from. 

Take chicken, for example, if you can  shop at the European grocery chain Carrefour, where chicken is being tracked by IBM Food Trust alongside a mix of other foods, like eggs, milk, oranges, pork and cheese.  This selection of foods will grow by more than 100 over the next year, says the company, but so popular is the blockchain-tracked chicken, claims IBM, that the grocer reports sales growth exceeding that of non-blockchain poultry.

Carrefour shoppers just use their smartphones to scan QR codes on the chicken’s packaging. What they will find is information on the livestock’s date of birth, nutrition information and packing date. Sounds interesting until my wife feels obligated to send the chicken a birthday gift.  Customers also learn about the food’s journey from farm to store, providing additional transparency about the life and times of this chicken. It said nothing, however, about whether it lived a wild youth.

Maybe you wonder if your seafood is correctly labeled and sustainably caught. IBM is turning to  blockchain to bring more trust and transparency to the supply chain of the fish and seafood we consume.  Specifically, the sustainable Shrimp Partnership now uses blockchain to trace the journey of Ecuadorian farmed shrimp and attest to the highest social and environmental standards. 

Similarly, the seafood industry in Massachusetts is tracing the provenance of fresh scallops. It also allows consumers in restaurants to use a QR code to learn about the seafood’s quality and origin. That’s something I might actually do. Finally, the National Fisheries Institute has joined the Food Trust Network in an effort to trace multiple seafood species.

IBM is trying to do the same with coffee, pasta, mashed potatoes, and more. This is something that I might actually grow to rely on if it were readily available and dead simple. One question is how accessible this information will be when a shopper or diner really needs it. OK, we can all use QR codes as long as they are right in front of us. But beyond that, as a diner I’m too impatient to bother to do much more.

This blog has periodically been following blockchain for years, always expecting the technology to take off imminently.  Maybe with Food Trust the technology will finally pick up some traction.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

IBM Cloud Pak–Back to the Future

December 19, 2019

It had seemed that IBM was in a big rush to get everybody to cloud and hybrid cloud. But then in a recent message, it turned out maybe not such a rush. 

What that means is the company believes coexistence will involve new and existing applications working together for some time to come. Starting at any point new features may be added to existing applications. Eventually a microservices architecture should be exposed to new and existing applications. Whew, this is not something you should feel compelled to do today or next quarter or in five years, maybe not even in 10 years.


Here is more from the company earlier this month. When introducing its latest Cloud Paks as enterprise-ready cloud software the company presents it as a containerized software packaged with open source components, pre-integrated with common operational services and a secure-by-design container platform and operational services consisting of  logging, monitoring, security, and identity access management. DancingDinosaur tried to keep up for a couple of decades but in recent years has given up. Thankfully, no one is counting on me to deliver the latest code fast.

IBM has been promoting packaged software  and hardware for as long as this reporter has been following the company, which was when my adult married daughters were infants. (I could speed them off to sleep by reading them the latest IBM white paper I had just written for IBM or other tech giants. Don’t know if they retained or even appreciated any of that early client/server stuff but they did fall asleep, which was my intent.)

Essentially IBM is offering as enterprise-ready Cloud Paks, already packaged and integrated with hardware and software, ready to deploy.  It worked back then as it will now, I suspect, with the latest containerized systems because systems are more complex than ever before, not less by a long shot. Unless you have continuously retained and retrained your best people while continually refreshing your toolset you’ll find it hard to  keep up. You will need pre-integrated and packaged containerized cloud packages that will work right out of the box. 

This is more than just selling you a pre-integrated bundle. This is back to the future; I mean way back. Called Cloud Pak for data system, IBM is offering what it describes as a  fusion of hardware and software. The company chooses the right storage and hardware; all purpose built by IBM in one system. That amounts to convergence of storage, network, software, and data in a single system–all taken care of by IBM and deployed as containers and microservices. As I noted above, a deep trip back to the future.

IBM has dubbed it  Cloud-in-a-box. In short, this is an appliance. You can start very small, paying for what you use now. If later you want more, just expand it then. Am sure your IBM sales rep will be more than happy to provide you with the details. It appears from the briefing that there is an actual base configuration consisting of  2 enclosures with 32 or 128 TB. The company promises to install this and get you up and running in 4 hours, leaving only the final provisioning for you.

This works for existing mainframe shops too, at least those running Linux on the mainframe.  LinuxONE shops are probably ideal. It appears all z shops will need is DB2 and maybe Netezza. Much of the work will be done off the mainframe so at least you should  save some MIPS.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

This is the last appearance of DancingDinosaur this year. It will reappear in the week of Jan. 6, 2020. Best wishes for the holidays.

Syncsort Acquires Pitney Bowes Software & Data

December 10, 2019

It is easy to forget that there are other ISVs  who work with the z. A recent list of z ISVs ran to over a dozen, including Rocket Software, Compuware, GT Software, and Syncsort, among others.  

Syncsort has grabbed some attention of late by announcing  the completion of an agreement to combine Pitney Bowes, the postal metering company, to take over its software and data operations. As a result, Syncsort claims a position of one of the leading data management software companies in the world, serving more than 11,000 primarily z customers.

The combined portfolio brings together capabilities in location intelligence, data enrichment, customer information management, and engagement solutions with powerful data integration and optimization software. About the only thing they haven’t listed is AI.

Over the coming months, teams will be working to combine the Syncsort-Pitney Bowes organizations and portfolios. While there may be some changes within the Syncsort organization, not much will change for its customers immediately. They can still expect to receive the same level of service they have received to support their everyday needs.

Syncsort’s acquisition of the Pitney Bowes software and data business creates a data management software company with more than 11,000 enterprise customers, $600 million in revenue, and 2,000 employees worldwide. Although modest in comparison with today’s Internet tech giants and even IBM, the resulting company brings sufficient scale, agility, and breadth of portfolio to enable leading enterprises to gain a competitive advantage from their data, Syncsort noted in its announcement.

“Enterprises everywhere are striving to increase their competitiveness through the strategic use of data…”  As a result, “organizations must invest in next-generation technologies like cloud, streaming, and machine learning, while simultaneously leveraging and modernizing decades of investment in traditional data infrastructure,” said Josh Rogers, CEO, Syncsort. Now “our increased scale allows us to expand the scope of partnerships with customers so that they can maximize the value of all their data,” he added.

According to Paige Bartley of 451 Research accompanying Syncsort’s announcement:  “The ability to derive actionable human intelligence from data requires ensuring that it has been integrated from all relevant sources, is representative and high quality, and has been enriched with additional context and information. Syncsort, as a longtime player in the data management space, is further addressing these issues with the acquisition of Pitney Bowes Software Solutions’ assets – technology that complements existing data-quality capabilities to provide additional context and enrichment for data, as well as leverage customer data and preferences to drive business outcomes.” 

The combined portfolio brings together much-in-demand capabilities in location intelligence, data enrichment, customer information management, and engagement solutions with powerful data integration and optimization software. These end-to-end capabilities, Syncsort adds,  will empower organizations to overcome ever-increasing challenges around the integrity of their data so their IT and business operations can easily integrate, enrich, and improve data assets to maximize insights.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

IBM Suggests Astounding Productivity with Cloud Pak for Automation

November 25, 2019

DancingDinosaur thought IBM would not introduce another Cloud Pak until after the holidays, but I was wrong. Last week IBM launched Cloud Pak for security. According to IBM it helps an organization uncover threats, make more informed risk-based decisions, and prioritize your team’s time. 

More specifically, it connects the organization’s existing data sources to generate deeper insights. In the process you can access IBM and third-party tools to search for threats across any cloud or on-premises location. Quickly orchestrate actions and responses to those threats  while leaving your data where it is.

DancingDinosaur’s only disappointment in the IBM’s new security cloud pak as with other IBM Cloud Paks is that it runs only on Linux. That means it doesn’t run RACF, the legendary IBM access control tool for zOS. IBM’s Cloud Paks reportedly run on z Systems, but only those running Linux. Not sure how IBM can finesse this particular issue. 

Of the 5 original IBM Cloud Paks (application, data, integration, multicloud mgt, and automation) only one offers the kind of payback that will wow top c-level execs; automation.  Find Cloud Park for Automation here.

To date, IBM reports  over 5000 customers have used IBM Digital Business Automation to run their digital business. At the same time, IBM claims successful digitization has increased organizational scale and fueled growth of knowledge work.

McKinsey & Company notes that such workers spend up to 28 hours each week on low value work. IBM’s goal with digital business automation is to bring digital scale to knowledge work and free these workers to work on high value tasks.

Such tasks include collaborating and using creativity to come up with new ideas or meeting and building relationships with clients or resolving issues and exceptions. By automating these tasks the payoff, says IBM, can be staggering simply  by applying intelligent automation.

“We can reclaim 120 billion hours a year  spent by knowledge workers on low value work by using intelligent automation,” declares IBM.  So what value can you reclaim over the course of the year for your operation with, say, 100 knowledge workers, earning, maybe, $22 per hour, or maybe 1000 workers earning $35/hr. You can do the math. 

As you would expect,  automation is the critical component of this particular Cloud Pak. The main targets for enhancement or assistance among the rather broad category of knowledge workers are administrative/departmental work and expert work, which includes cross enterprise work.  IBM offers vendor management as one example.

The goal is to digitize core services by automating at scale and building low code/no code apps for your knowledge workers. For what IBM refers to as digital workers, who are key to this plan, the company wants to free them for higher value work. IBM’s example of such an expert worker would be a loan officer. 

Central to IBM’s Cloud Pak for Automation is what IBM calls its Intelligent Automation Platform. Some of this is here now, according to the company, with more coming in the future. Here now is the ability to create apps using low code tooling, reuse assets from business automation workflow, and create new UI assets.

Coming up in some unspecified timeframe is the ability to enable  digital workers to automate job roles, define and create content services to enable intelligent capture and extraction, and finally to envision and create decision services to offload and automate routine decisions.

Are your current and would-be knowledge workers ready to contribute or participate in this scheme? Maybe for some. it depends for others. To capture those billions of hours of increased productivity, however, they will have to step up to it. But you can be pretty sure IBM will do it for you if you ask.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

 

IBM Cloud Pak Rollouts Continue

November 14, 2019

IBM Cloud Paks have emerged as a key strategy by the company to grow not just its cloud, but more importantly, its hybrid cloud business. For the past year or so, IBM shifted its emphasis from clouds to hybrid clouds. No doubt this is driven by its realization that its enterprise clients are adopting multiple clouds, necessitating the hybrid cloud.

The company is counting on success in hybrid clouds.  For years IBM has scrambled to claw a place for itself among the top cloud players but from the time DancingDinosaur has tracked IBM’s cloud presence it has never risen higher than third. In 2019, the top cloud providers are AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle, Alibaba, with IBM slipping to fourth in one analyst’s ranking.

Hybrid clouds, over time, can change the dynamics of the market. It has not, however, changed things much according to a ranking from Datamation. “There are too many variables to strictly rank hybrid cloud providers,” notes Datamation. With that said, Datamation still ranked them starting with  Amazon’s Amazon Web Services (AWS), which remains the unquestioned leader of the business with twice the market share as its next leading competitor, Microsoft/Azure, and followed by IBM. The company is counting on its Red Hat acquisition, which includes OpenShift along with Enterprise Linux, to alter its market standing.. 

The hybrid cloud segment certainly encompasses a wider range of customer needs, so there are ways IBM can work Red Hat to give it some advantages in pricing and packaging, which it has already signaled it can and will do, starting with OpenShift. DancingDinosaur doubts it will overtake AWS outright, but as noted above, hybrid clouds are a different beast. So don’t rule out IBM in the hybrid cloud market.

Another thing that may give IBM an edge in hybrid clouds among its enterprise customers are its Cloud Paks.  As IBM describes them Cloud Paks are enterprise-ready, containerized software that give organizations an open, faster and more secure way to move core business applications to any cloud. Each IBM Cloud Pak runs on Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. 

Each pak includes containerized IBM middleware and common software services for development and management. Also included is a common integration layer designed to reduce development time by up to 84 percent and operational expenses by up to 75 percent, according to IBM.

Cloud Paks, IBM continues,, enable you to easily deploy modern enterprise software either on-premises, in the cloud, or with pre-integrated systems and quickly bring workloads to production by seamlessly leveraging Kubernetes as the container management framework supporting production-level qualities of service and end-to-end lifecycle management. This gives organizations an open, faster, more secure way to move core business applications to any cloud.

When IBM introduced Cloud Paks a few weeks ago they planned a suite of five Cloud Paks:  

  • Application
  • Data
  • Integration
  • Automation
  • Multi Cloud mgt

Don’t be surprised as hybrid cloud usage evolves if even more Cloud Paks eventually appear. It becomes an opportunity for IBM to bundle together more of its existing tools and products and send them to the cloud too.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

October 8, 2019

z15 LinuxONE III for Hybrid Cloud

 

It didn’t take long following the introduction of the z15 for a LinuxONE to arrive. Meet the LinuxONE III, a z15 machine with dedicated built-in Linux. And it comes with the primary goodies that the z15 offers: automatic pervasive compression of everything along with a closely related privacy capability, Data Passport.

3-frame LinuxONE III

Z-quality security, privacy, and availability, it turns out, has become central to the mission of the LinuxONE III.The reason is simple: Cloud. According to IBM, only 20% of workloads have been moved to cloud. Why? Companies need assurance that their data privacy and security will not be breached. To many IT pros and business executives, the cloud remains the wild, wild west where bad guys roam looking to steal whatever they can.

IBM is touting the LinuxONE III, which is built on its newly introduced z15, for hybrid clouds. The company has been preaching the gospel of clouds and, particularly, hybrid clouds for several years, which was its primary reason for acquiring Red Hat. Red Hat Linux is built into the LinuxONE III, probably its first formal appearance since IBM closed its acquisition of Red Hat this spring. 

With Red Hat and z15 IBM is aiming to cash in on what it sees as a big opportunity in hybrid clouds. While the Cloud brings the promise of flexibility, agility and openness, only 20% of workloads have been moved to cloud, notes IBM. Why? Companies need assurance that their data privacy and security will not be breached. LinuxONE III also promises cloud native development.

By integrating the new IBM LinuxONE III as a key element in an organization’s hybrid cloud strategy, it adds another level of security and stability and availability to its cloud infrastructure. It gives the organization both agile deployment and unbeatable levels of uptime, reliability, and security. While the cloud already offers appealing flexibility and costs, the last three capabilities–uptime, reliability, security–are not usually associated with cloud computing. By security, IBM means 100% data encryption automatically, from the moment the data arrives or is created. And it remains encrypted for the rest of its life, at rest or in transit.

Are those capabilities important? You bet. A Harris study commissioned by IBM found that 64 percent of all consumers have opted not to work with a business out of concerns over whether that business could keep their data secure. However, that same study found 76 percent of respondents would be more willing to share personal information if there was a way to fully take back and retrieve that data at any time. Thus the importance of the z15’s pervasive encryption and the new data passports.

IBM has previously brought out its latest z running dedicated Linux. Initially it was a way to expand the z market through a reduced cost z.  DancingDinosaur doesn’t know the cost of the LinuxONE III. In the past they have been discounted but given the $34 billion IBM spent to acquire Red Hat the new machines might not be such a bargain this time.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

IBM Introduces 53 Qubit Quantum Machine

September 23, 2019

IBM made two major system announcements within just a couple of weeks: On Sept. 18 IBM announced a 53 qubit guantum machine. The week before, IBM introduced its latest mainframe, the z15. Already buzz is circulating of a z16 in two years, about a normal release cycle for the next generation of  an IBM mainframe. 

Quantum computer up close
IBM’s largest quantum machine at 53 qubits

Along with the 53 qubit machine IBM announced the opening of a Quantum Computation Center in New York state. The new center expands, according to IBM, its fleet of quantum computing systems for commercial and research activity that exist beyond the confines of experimental lab environments. IBM’s offerings run from 5 to 10 to 20 to, now, 53 qubits. These are actual quantum machines hosted by IBM in the cloud, not just simulations. 

The IBM Quantum Computation Center will support the growing needs of a community of over 150,000 registered users and nearly 80 commercial clients, academic institutions and research laboratories to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications. To date, notes IBM, this  global community of users have run more than 14 million experiments on IBM’s quantum computers through the cloud since 2016, and published more than 200 scientific papers. To meet growing demand for access to real quantum hardware, ten quantum computing systems are now online through IBM’s Quantum Computation Center. The fleet is composed of five 20-qubit systems, one 14-qubit system, and four 5-qubit systems. Five of the systems now have a quantum volume of 16 – a measure of the power of a quantum computer used by IBM demonstrating a new sustained performance milestone.

IBM’s quantum systems are optimized for the reliability and reproducibility of programmable multi-qubit operations. Due to these factors, the systems enable state-of-the-art quantum computational research with 95 percent availability, according to the company.

Within one month, IBM’s commercially available quantum fleet will grow to 14 systems, including the new 53-qubit quantum computer, the single largest universal quantum system made available for external access in the industry to date. The new system offers a larger lattice and gives users the ability to run even more complex entanglement and connectivity experiments. Industry observers note that serious work requires a minimum of 200 qubits, probably just a couple more product intros away. 

Advances in quantum computing could open the door to future scientific discoveries such as new medicines and materials, vast improvements in the optimization of supply chains, and new ways computers to model financial data to make better investments. Examples of IBM’s  work with clients and partners, include:

  • J.P. Morgan Chase and IBM posted on arXiv,  Option Pricing using Quantum Computers, a methodology to price financial options and portfolios of such options, on a gate-based quantum computer. This resulted in an algorithm that provides a quadratic speedup, i.e. whereby classically computers need millions of samples, this methodology requires only a few thousands of samples to achieve the same result, It allows financial analysts to perform the option pricing and risk analysis in near real time. The implementation is available as open source in Qiskit Finance. 
  • Mitsubishi Chemical, Keio University and IBM simulated the initial steps of the reaction mechanism between lithium and oxygen in lithium-air batteries. Also available on arXiv,  this represents a first step in modeling the entire lithium-oxygen reaction on a quantum computer. Better understanding of this interaction could lead to more efficient batteries for mobile devices or automotive vehicles.

In the meantime IBM continues to simulate quantum algorithms on conventional supercomputers. According to one 2-year old report: at roughly 50 qubits, existing methods for calculating quantum amplitudes require either too much computation to be practical, or more memory than is available on any existing supercomputer, or both. You can bet that IBM or somebody else will push beyond 53 qubits pretty quickly. Google already claims a 72-qubit device, but it hasn’t let outsiders run programs on it. IBM has been making quantum available via the cloud since 2016. Other companies putting quantum computers in the cloud, include IBM’s Quantum Computation Center.IBM’s Quantum Computation Center. Others include  Rigetti Computing,  and Canada’s D-Wave

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at http://technologywriter.com/ 

IBM Advances Commercial Quantum Computing

August 7, 2019

The reason IBM and others are so eager for quantum computing is simple: money. Recent efforts have demonstrated that quantum analytics can process massive amounts of transactions quickly and accurately, as much as nearly $70 Trillion last year, according to the World Bank.

“These are enormous amounts of money,” says mathematician Cornelis Oosterlee of Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, a national research institute in the Netherlands for a piece in Wired Magazine. “Some single trades involve numbers that are scary to imagine”—part of a company’s pension fund, say, or a university endowment, he continues.

Of course, this isn’t exactly new. Large organizations with access to huge amounts of resources devote inordinate quantities of those resources in an effort to predict how much their assets will be worth in the future.  If they could do this modeling faster or more accurately or more efficiently, maybe just shaving off a few seconds here or there; well you can do the arithmetic.

Today these calculations are expensive to run, requiring either an in-house supercomputer or two or a big chunk of cloud computing processors and time. But if or when quantum computing could deliver on some of its theoretical promise to drive these analyses faster, more accurately, more efficiently and cheaper that’s something IBM could build into the next generation of systems.. 

And it is not just IBM. From Google on down to startups, developers are working on machines that could one day beat conventional computers at various tasks, such as classifying data through machine learning or inventing new drugs—and running complex financial calculations. In a step toward delivering on that promise, researchers affiliated with IBM and J.P. Morgan recently figured out how to run a simplified risk calculation on an actual quantum computer.

Using one of IBM’s machines, located in Yorktown Heights, New York, the researchers demonstrated they could simulate the future value of a financial product called an option. Currently, many banks use what’s called  the Monte Carlo method to simulate prices of all sorts of financial instruments. In essence, the Monte Carlo method models the future as a series of forks in the road. A company might go under; it might not. President Trump might start a trade war; he might not. Analysts estimate the likelihood of such scenarios, then generate millions of alternate futures at random. To predict the value of a financial asset, they produce a weighted average of these millions of possible outcomes.

Quantum computers are particularly well suited to this sort of probabilistic calculation, says Stefan Woerner, who led the IBM team. Classical (or conventional) computers—the kind most of us use—are designed to manipulate bits. Bits are binary, having a value of either 0 or 1. Quantum computers, on the other hand, manipulate qubits, which represent an in-between state. A qubit is like a coin flipping in the air—neither heads nor tails, neither 0 nor 1 but some probability of being one or the other. And because a qubit has unpredictability built in, it promises to  be a natural tool for simulating uncertain outcomes.

Woerner and his colleagues ran their Monte Carlo calculations using three of the 20 qubits available on their quantum machine. The experiment was too simplistic to be useful commercially, but it’s a promising proof of concept; once bigger and smoother-running quantum computers are available, the researchers hope to execute the algorithm faster than conventional machines.

But this theoretical advantage is just that, theoretical. Existing machines remain too error-ridden to compute consistently, In addition, financial institutions already have ample computing power available, onsite or in the cloud.. And they will have even more as graphics processing units (GPU), which can execute many calculations in parallel, come on line. A quantum computer might well be faster than an individual chip but it’s unclear whether it could beat a fleet of high performance GPUs in a supercomputer.

Still, it’s noteworthy that the IBM team was able to implement the algorithm on actual hardware, says mathematician Ashley Montanaro of the University of Bristol in the UK, who was not involved with the work. Academics first developed the mathematical proofs behind this quantum computing algorithm in 2000, but it remained a theoretical exercise for years. Woerner’s group took a 19-year-old recipe and figured out how to make it quantum-ready on actual quantum hardware.

Now they’re looking to improve their algorithm by using more qubits. The most powerful quantum computers today have fewer than 200 qubits, Practitioners suggest it may take thousands to consistently beat conventional methods.

But demonstrations like Woerner’s, even with their limited scope, are useful in that they apply quantum computers to problems organizationz actually want to solve, And that is what it will take if IBM expects to build quantum computing into a viable commercial business.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at technologywriter.com. 

IBM teams with Cloudera and Hortonworks 

July 11, 2019

Dancing Dinosaur has a friend on the West coast who finally left IBM after years of complaining, swearing never to return, and has been happily working at Cloudera ever since. IBM and Cloudera this week announced a strategic partnership to develop joint go-to-market programs designed to bring advanced data and AI solutions to more organizations across the expansive Apache Hadoop ecosystem.

Graphic representing a single solution for big data analytics

Deploy a single solution for big data

The agreement builds on the long-standing relationship between IBM and Hortonworks, which merged with Cloudera this past January to create integrated solutions for data science and data management. The new agreement builds on the integrated solutions and extends them to include the Cloudera platform. “This should stop the big-data-is-dead thinking that has been cropping up,” he says, putting his best positive spin on the situation.

Unfortunately, my West coast buddy may be back at IBM sooner than he thinks. With IBM finalizing its $34 billion Red Hat acquisition yesterday, it is small additional money to just buy Horton and Cloudera and own them all as a solid big data-cloud capabilities block IBM owns.  

As IBM sees it, the companies have partnered to offer an industry-leading, enterprise-grade Hadoop distribution plus an ecosystem of integrated products and services – all designed to help organizations achieve faster analytic results at scale. As a part of this partnership, IBM promises to:

  • Resell and support of Cloudera products
  • Sell and support of Hortonworks products under a multi-year contract
  • Provide migration assistance to future Cloudera/Hortonworks unity products
  • Deliver the benefits of the combined IBM and Cloudera collaboration and investment in the open source community, along with commitment to better support analytics initiatives from the edge to AI.

IBM also will resell the Cloudera Enterprise Data Hub, Cloudera DataFlow, and Cloudera Data Science Workbench. In response, Cloudera will begin to resell IBM’s Watson Studio and BigSQL.

“By teaming more strategically with IBM we can accelerate data-driven decision making for our joint enterprise customers who want a hybrid and multi-cloud data management solution with common security and governance,” said Scott Andress, Cloudera’s Vice President of Global Channels and Alliances in the announcement. 

Cloudera enables organizations to transform complex data into clear and actionable insights. It delivers an enterprise data cloud for any data, anywhere, from the edge to AI. One obvious question: how long until IBM wants to include Cloudera as part of its own hybrid cloud? 

But IBM isn’t stopping here. It also just announced new storage solutions across AI and big data, modern data protection, hybrid multicloud, and more. These innovations will allow organizations to leverage more heterogeneous data sources and data types for deeper insights from AI and analytics, expand their ability to consolidate rapidly expanding data on IBM’s object storage, and extend modern data protection to support more workloads in hybrid cloud environments.

The key is IBM Spectrum Discover, metadata management software that provides data insight for petabyte-scale unstructured storage. The software connects to IBM Cloud Object Storage and IBM Spectrum Scale, enabling it to rapidly ingest, consolidate, and index metadata for billions of files and objects. It provides a rich metadata layer that enables storage administrators, data stewards, and data scientists to efficiently manage, classify, and gain insights from massive amounts of unstructured data. Combining that with Cloudera and Horton on the IBM’s hybrid cloud should give you a powerful data analytics solution. 

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at technologywriter.com. 

 


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