Posts Tagged ‘Watson Analytics’

AI and IBM Watson Fuel Interest in App Dev among Mainframe Shops

December 1, 2016

BMC’s 2016 mainframe survey, covered by DancingDinosaur here, both directly and indirectly pointed to increased activity in regard to data center applications. Mainly this took the form of increased interest in Java on the z as a platform for new applications. Specifically, 72% of overall respondents reported using Java today while 88% reported plans to increase their use Java. At the same time, the use of Linux on the z has been steadily growing year over year; 41% in 2014, 48% in 2015, 52% in 2016. This growth of both point to a heightened interest in application development, management, and change.


IBM’s Project DataWorks uses Watson Analytics to create complex visualizations with one line of code

IBM has been feeding this kind of AppDev interest with its continued enhancement of Bluemix and the rollout of the Bluemix Garage method.  More recently, it recently announced a partnership with Topcoder, a global software development community comprised of more than one million designers, developers, data scientists, and competitive programmers with the aim of stimulating developers looking to harness the power of Watson to create the next generation AI apps, APIs, and solutions.

According to Forrester VP and Principal Analyst JP Gownder in the IBM announcement, by 2019, automation will change every job category by at least 25%. Additionally, IDC predicts that 75% of developer teams will include cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications by 2018. The industry is driving toward a new level of computing potential not witnessed since the introduction of Big Data

To further drive the cultivation of this new style of developer, IBM is encouraging participation in Topcoder-run hackathons and coding competitions. Here developers can easily access a range of Watson services – such as Conversation, Sentiment Analysis, or speech APIs – to build powerful new tools with the help of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. Topcoder hosts 7,000 code challenges a year and has awarded $80 million to its community. In addition, now developers will have the opportunity to showcase and monetize their solutions on the IBM Marketplace, while businesses will be able to access a new pipeline of talent experienced with Watson and AI.

In addition to a variety of academic partnerships, IBM recently announced the introduction of an AI Nano degree program with Udacity to help developers establish a foundational understanding of artificial intelligence.  Plus, IBM offers the IBM Learning Lab, which features more than 100 curated online courses and cognitive uses cases from providers like Codeacademy, Coursera, Big Data University, and Udacity. Don’t forget, IBM DeveloperWorks, which offers how-to tutorials and courses on IBM tools and open standard technologies for all phases of the app dev lifecycle.

To keep the AI development push going, recently IBM unveiled the experimental release of Project Intu, a new system-agnostic platform designed to enable embodied cognition. The new platform allows developers to embed Watson functions into various end-user devices, offering a next generation architecture for building cognitive-enabled experiences.

Project Intu is accessible via the Watson Developer Cloud and also available on Intu Gateway and GitHub. The initiative simplifies the process for developers wanting to create cognitive experiences in various form factors such as spaces, avatars, robots, or IoT devices. In effect, it extends cognitive technology into the physical world. The platform enables devices to interact more naturally with users, triggering different emotions and behaviors and creating more meaningful and immersive experiences for users.

Developers can simplify and integrate Watson services, such as Conversation, Language, and Visual Recognition with the capabilities of the device to act out the interaction with the user. Instead of a developer needing to program each individual movement of a device or avatar, Project Intu makes it easy to combine movements that are appropriate for performing specific tasks like assisting a customer in a retail setting or greeting a visitor in a hotel in a way that is natural for the visitor.

Project Intu is changing how developers make architectural decisions about integrating different cognitive services into an end-user experience – such as what actions the systems will take and what will trigger a device’s particular functionality. Project Intu offers developers a ready-made environment on which to build cognitive experiences running on a wide variety of operating systems – from Raspberry PI to MacOS, Windows to Linux machines.

With initiatives like these, the growth of cognitive-enabled applications will likely accelerate. As IBM reports, IDC estimates that “by 2018, 75% of developer teams will include Cognitive/AI functionality in one or more applications/services.”  This is a noticeable jump from last year’s prediction that 50% of developers would leverage cognitive/AI functionality by 2018

For those z data centers surveyed by BMC that worried about keeping up with Java and big data, AI adds yet an entirely new level of complexity. Fortunately, the tools to work with it are rapidly falling into place.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghostwriter. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.




IBM Continues to Bolster Bluemix PaaS

September 10, 2015

In the last 10 years the industry, led by IBM, has gotten remarkably better at enabling nearly coding-free development. This is important given how critical app development has become. Today it is impossible to launch any product without sufficient app dev support.  At a minimum you need a mobile app and maybe a few micro-services. To that end, since May IBM has spent the summer introducing a series of Bluemix enhancements. Find them here and here and here and here.  DancingDinosaur, at best a mediocre programmer, hasn’t written any code for decades but in this new coding environment he has started to get the urge to participate in a hack-a-thon. Doesn’t that (below) look like fun?

Bluemix Garage Toronto 1

IBM’s Bluemix Garage in Toronto (click to enlarge)

The essential role of software today cannot be overestimated. Even companies introducing non-technical products have to support them with apps and digital services that must be continually refreshed.  When IoT really starts to ramp up bits and pieces of code everywhere will be needed to handle the disparate pieces, get everything to interoperate, collect the data, and then use it or analyze it and initiate the next action.

Bluemix, a cloud-based PaaS product, comes as close to an all-in-one Swiss army knife development and deployment platform for today’s kind of applications as you will find. Having only played around with a demo it appears about as intuitive as an enterprise-class product can get.

The most recent of IBM’s summer Bluemix announcement promises more flexibility to integrate Java-based resources into Bluemix.  It offers a set of services to more seamlessly integrate Java-based resources into cloud-based applications. For instance, according to IBM, it is now possible to test and run applications in Bluemix with Java 8. Additionally, among other improvements, the jsp-2.3, el-3.0, and jdbc-4.1 Liberty features, previously in beta, are now available as production-ready. Plus, Eclipse Tools for Bluemix now includes JavaScript Debug, support for Node.js applications, Java 8 Liberty for Java integration, and Eclipse Mars support for the latest Eclipse Mars version as well as an improved trust self-signed certificates capability. Incremental publish support for JEE applications also has been expanded to handle web fragment projects.

In mid-August IBM announced the use of streaming analytics and data warehouse services on Bluemix. This should enable developers to expand the capabilities of their applications to give users a more robust cloud experience by facilitating the integration of data analytics and visualization seamlessly in their apps. Specifically, according to IBM, a new streaming analytics capability was put into open beta; the service provides the capability to instantaneously analyze data while scaling to thousands of sources on the cloud. IBM also added MPP (massively parallel processing) capabilities to enable faster query processing and overall scalability. The announcement also introduces built-in Netezza analytics libraries integrated with Watson Analytics, and more.

Earlier in August, IBM announced the Bluemix Garage opening in Toronto (pictured above). Toronto is just the latest in a series coding workspaces IBM intends to open worldwide. Next up appear to be Nice, France and Melbourne, Australia later this year.  According to IBM, Bluemix Garages create a bridge between the scale of enterprises and the culture of startups by establishing physical collaboration spaces housed in the heart of thriving entrepreneurial communities around the world. Toronto marks the third Bluemix Garage. The Toronto Bluemix Garage is located at the DMZ at Ryerson University, described as the top-ranked university-based incubator in Canada. Experts there will mentor the rising numbers of developers and startups in the region to create of the next generation of cloud apps and services using IBM’s Bluemix.

Members of the Toronto Bluemix Garage include Tangerine, a bank based in Canada that is using Bluemix to implement its mobile strategy. Through the IBM Mobile Quality Assurance for Bluemix service, Tangerine gathers customer feedback and actionable insight on its mobile banking app, effectively streamlining its implementation and development processes.

Finally, back in May IBM introduced new Bluemix Services to help developers create analytics-driven cloud applications. Bluemix, according to IBM, is now the largest Cloud Foundry deployment in the world. And the services the company announced promise to make it easier for developers to create cloud applications for mobile, IoT, supply chain analytics, and intelligent infrastructure solutions. The new capabilities will be added to over 100 services already available in the Bluemix catalog.

At the May announcement, IBM reported bringing more of its own technology into Bluemix, including:

  • Bluemix API Management, which allows developers to rapidly create, deploy, and share large-scale APIs and provides a simple and consumable way of controlling critical APIs not possible with simpler connector services
  • New mobile capabilities available on Bluemix for the IBM MobileFirst Platform, which provide the ability to develop location-based mobile apps that connect insights from digital engagement and physical presence

It also announced a handful of ecosystem and third-party services being added into Bluemix, including several that will facilitate working with .NET capabilities. In short, it will enable Bluemix developers to take advantage of Microsoft development approaches, which should make it easier to integrate multiple mixed-platform cloud workloads.

Finally, as a surprise note at the end of the May announcement IBM added that the company’s total cloud revenue—covering public, private and hybrid engagements—was $7.7 billion over the previous 12 months as of the end of March 2015, growing more than 60% in first quarter 2015.  Hope you’ve noticed that IBM is serious about putting its efforts into the cloud and openness. And it’s starting to pay off.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.


IBM Commits $1B to Drive Watson into the Mainstream

January 10, 2014

IBM is ready to propel Watson beyond Jeopardy, its initial proof-of-concept, and into mainstream enterprise computing. To that end, it announced plans to spend more than $1 billion on the recently formed Watson business unit, an amount that includes $100 million in venture investments to build an ecosystem of entrepreneurs developing Watson-powered apps.

In addition, companies won’t need racks of Power servers to run Watson. With a series of announcements yesterday IBM unveiled plans to deliver Watson capabilities as business-ready cloud services. The announcement focused on three Watson services: 1)  Watson Discovery Advisor for research and development projects in industries such as pharmaceutical, publishing and biotechnology; 2) Watson Analytics to deliver visualized big data insights based on questions posed in natural language by any business user; and 3) IBM Watson Explorer to more easily uncover and share data-driven insights across the enterprise.

DancingDinosaur has been following Watson since its Jeopardy days. Having long since gotten over the disappointment that Watson didn’t run on the Power side of a hybrid zEnterprise, it turns out that IBM has managed to shrink Watson considerably.  Today Watson runs 24x faster, boasts a 2,400% improvement in performance, and is 90% smaller.  IBM has shrunk Watson from the size of a master bedroom to three stacked pizza boxes, and you don’t even need to locate it in your data center; you can run it in the cloud.

Following the introduction of Watson IBM was slow to build on that achievement. It focused on healthcare and financial services, use-cases that appeared to be no-brainers.  Eventually it experienced success, particularly in healthcare, but the initial customers came slowly and the implementations appeared to be cumbersome.

Watson, at least initially, wasn’t going to be a simple deployment. It needed a ton of Power processors. It also needed massive amounts of data; in healthcare IBM collected what amounted to the entire library of the world’s medical research and knowledge. And it needed applications that took advantage of Watson’s formidable yet unusual capabilities.

The recent announcements of delivering Watson via the cloud and committing to underwrite application developers definitely should help. And yesterday’s announcement of what amounts to three packaged Watson services should speed deployment.

For example, Watson Analytics, according to IBM, removes common impediments in the data discovery process, enabling business users to quickly and independently uncover new insights in their data. Using sophisticated analytics and aided by Watson’s natural language interface, Watson Analytics automatically prepares the data, finds the most important relationships, and presents the results in an easy to interpret interactive visual format. As a result, business users are no longer limited to predefined views or static data models. Better yet, they can feel empowered to apply their own knowledge of the business to ask and answer new questions as they emerge. They also will be able to quickly understand and make decisions based on Watson Analytics’ data-driven visualizations.

Behind the new Watson services lies IBM Watson Foundations, described as a comprehensive, integrated set of big data and analytics capabilities that enable enterprises to find and capitalize on actionable insights. Basically, it amounts to a set of user tools and capabilities to tap into all relevant data – regardless of source or type – and run analytics to gain fresh insights in real-time. And it does so securely across any part of an enterprise, including revenue generation, marketing, finance, risk, and operations.  Watson Foundations also includes business analytics with predictive and decision management capabilities, information management with in-memory and stream computing, and enterprise content management packaged into modular offerings. As such it enables organizations of any size to address immediate needs for decision support, gain sustainable value from their initial investments, and grow from there.

This apparently sounded good to Singapore’s DBS Bank, which will deploy Watson cognitive computing capabilities to deliver a next- generation client experience.  For starters, DBS intends to apply Watson to its wealth management business to improve the advice and experience delivered to affluent customers.  The bank is counting on cloud-based Watson to process enormous amounts of information with the ability to understand and learn from each interaction at unprecedented speed. This should greatly increase the bank’s ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to the vast amounts of data it is accumulating.

Specifically, DBS will deploy IBM’s cloud-based Watson Engagement Advisor solution, to be rolled out in the second half of the year. From there the bank reportedly plans to progressively deploy these capabilities to its other businesses over time.

For fans of cognitive computing and Watson, the announcements represent a much awaited evolution in IBM’s strategy. It promises to make cognitive computing and the natural language power of Watson usable for mainstream enterprises. How excited fans should get, however, depends on the specifics of IBM’s pricing and packaging for these offerings.  Still, faced with having to recoup a $1 billion investment, don’t expect loss-leader pricing from IBM.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

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