Hey Supercomputer, Pause and Smell the Roses! Enjoy these Fall Colors!

I received an email on my Smart Phone  a while ago from Herb Schultz (Marketing Manager, IBM Systems and Technology Group for Technical Computing and Analytics) with the agenda for IBM’s Technical Computing IT Analyst meeting the following week in NYC. I was having lunch then at one of my favorite restaurants in Duchess County, New York – McKinney and Doyle.  While munching some delectable crispy calamari and realizing that the agenda covered Cognitive Computing, a train of thoughts sprouted in my mind. Was IBM planning to brief us on supercomputers that can smell, see, hear, touch and taste?

Roses and Fall

Savoring that Crispy, Crunchy Calamari!

I was told once by a gourmand that fine food must appeal to all our five basic senses. As our waiter came from behind me and brought the food, I first smelled a pleasing aroma. Then, the calamari served over citrus coleslaw with sweet and sour chili sauce was a gorgeous sight. Each calamari piece that I touched was perfect – not soggy or oily. When I placed the warm, crispy and coarse calamari on my tongue, it produced a delightful tingle. I then began slowly munching each piece; enjoying the gentle rhythmic crackling sound with every crunch while simultaneously savoring the mouthwatering taste.  I thought – Is IBM going to tell me that all these fine sensations will soon be replaced by a computer? Being a foodie, that prospect was disappointing!

Fortunately No! – It’s Also about the Next Evolution of Big Data Analytics!

When I went for the briefing the following week in New York, I realized what IBM’s vision and path to Cognitive Computing  is not illusory, exotic and far out into the future. But it is a natural evolution of a Big Data trend that’s happening today in areas such as healthcare and in other industries that are leveraging Big Data for Insights, Knowledge and Wisdom. In many ways, this vision of Cognitive Computing is similar to the Georgia Tech Cognitive Computing Laboratory vision.

A few weeks later at the IBM Edge Conference, when I was having a dinner (again savoring another delectable appetizer) with Jay Muelhoefer (Worldwide Marketing Executive, IBM Platform and Technical Computing) and his team, I learnt that IBM had won a major competitive deal with an Asian Communications Service Provider (CSP) running a Big Data workload. Jay suggested that it would be good to write up this case study to highlight the use of Big Data in Telecommunications and how IBM improved Customer Service for this CSP.

For the customary Cabot Partners’ fee, I signed up to write this paper – Big Data: Delivering an Agile Infrastructure for Time-Critical Analytics in Telecommunications – which you can download by filling out a simple form.

Supercomputing: It’s more than Just About Absolute Performance

Just like the right balance of the five senses satiates and heightens an individual’s dining experience, to maximize business value, supercomputers must possess five critical elements – performance, reliability, manageability, efficiency and serviceability. This requires – as illustrated by the Telecom example – a combination of hardware, software and skilled people all working in tandem to maximize a client’s business value – just like a memorable dining experience requires fine food made with the freshest ingredients, a nice ambiance and great company.

As We Hurtle Towards Supercomputing 2013, Chill! There’s Value in Slowness!

When the world’s fastest supercomputers are unveiled next month in Denver, Colorado, there will undoubtedly be much media hoopla around the Top500 list. IT vendors will compete fiercely as they always do.  They will incessantly brag about their position in this list and how fast their systems are in the Top500 benchmark.  But amidst all this noise, you should also be cognizant of the other key elements (senses) that must also be measured and highlighted for supercomputers (cognitive computers).

But pause, let’s step back, take a deep breath and realize that according to some philosophers this sensory world is just an illusion – They call it Maya! In a Mayan world, does it matter that computers can smell, see, touch, hear and taste?

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Let’s Venerate the Centenarian Duo: One in Duodecimal the other in Regular Decimal

I called my parents in India this morning.  I do this almost every day.  But I realized that today (Oct/2) is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and his 144th birth anniversary. Then, during my morning jog, in the neighborhood park, on this lovely autumn day in Connecticut, a train of thoughts rushed through my mind. I want to keep this short — especially since I am now reading a book titled How to Write Short  – and post it on the Cabot Cloud Computing blog because everything is in the cloud these days!

In addition to my parents and grandfather, growing up as a young boy and attending the St. Vincent’s School in Pune, India, I was influenced by two centenarians who recently celebrated their centennial birth anniversary:  Rev. Fr. Rudolf Schoch  (100 years) and the other Mahatma Gandhi   (144 (12 * 12) years – “100” in the Duodecimal  (base 12) number system). Mankind decided to broadly adopt and popularize the decimal system out of sheer serendipity and convenience instead of alternative systems such as the duodecimal system. So today, we have ten digits instead of a possible twelve digits in the duodecimal system or sixteen in the hexadecimal system, etc.

Fr. Schoch was a great admirer of Gandhi.  I have fond memories of listening to him teach classes on Gandhian thought and values. He was our principal at St. Vincent’s when I first entered St. Vincent’s in Grade 1. Then he returned as principal again when I was in Grade 10.   I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to learn about Gandhi from Fr. Schoch. I paid close attention to his classes despite my singular fascination, those days, with math – even at the risk of failing at other subjects. Today, I am glad to have listened and learned from Fr. Schoch. He and his many Jesuit contemporaries built the strong educational system (schools and colleges) in India. Their efforts continue to make our world a better place.

So, let’s celebrate the centennial birthdays (in two different number systems) of two great men who each toiled to uplift mankind – one very personal  to me – a Jesuit priest who dedicated his life to educate the poor and needy “making gentlemen out of boys” and the other a freedom fighter and an apostle of non-violence “shining light on a nation”.  Yes – the intense focus of modern educators these days is on numbers and letters (reading, writing and arithmetic) and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  But when the cloud clears, the enduring lesson from these two centenarians is pure and simple: focus on building enduring values.  

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To Tame the Onslaught of Big Data, Better Drink Your V8. It will make You Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.

After a brief restful working vacation in India with my parents, things have become hectic.  In Feb-early March/2013, I had the privilege to attend several meetings focused on Emerging Computing Technology:

  1. IBM Global Entrepreneur SmartCamp in New York City.
  2. Wharton Emerging Technology Day
  3. IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference
  4. Pulse 2013

In our previous blog, we discussed, in some detail, several synergistic emerging computing technologies including #Social #Mobile #Cloud #HPC #BigData and #Analytics that will make profound business impact in 2013.  We articulate this coalescing rainbow shine in this video. Over the course of the next several weeks, as time permits, we plan to detail this mosaic of emerging computing technologies through several new blogs.

But now, I want to delve deeper into how you as an IT professional can make your organization wiser by leveraging #BigData, #Analytics and #Optimization.  This topic is vast, impacting many stakeholders and roles in the modern enterprise. But here, I restrict the discussion to areas most relevant to IT professionals – CIOs, Directors of IT and their staff.

V8: Combating the Challenging Attributes of Big Data

The IT professional must have a deep understanding of several Big Data attributes and invest in solutions to address these challenges.

In recent years, the following four (V4) attributes have been discussed extensively in the IT industry literature:

Volume: This is the amount of data generated in bytes and provides insights on how data is growing and/or expected to grow over time. Today, many enterprises generate tremendous amounts of data that is unstructured and the associated metadata alone can quickly reach thousands of terabytes.

Variety: This indicates the type of data generated including structured or unstructured. Understanding data variety aids in decision-making and provides greater process insights.

Velocity: It determines the speed and efficiency in capture, storage and retrieval of data and often drives performance and availability requirements.

Veracity: This establishes the authenticity of data that is available to perform analytics and to arrive at useful insights. Data veracity shapes the final strategic actions and is dependent on the accuracy of data.

To this list we add Vulnerability.  In today’s #mobile era, with a proliferation of numerous access points and devices and a distributed workforce, IT has become even more concerned with data security.

Vulnerability: This establishes how susceptible corporate data assets are to a plethora of possible malicious attacks. Very comprehensive security solutions are needed to protect strategic data assets.

Beyond deploying comprehensive security solutions, to combat all the Big Data challenges listed above, IT should also invest in solutions for:

Visualization: This helps IT Managers better fathom data growth and patterns and produce actionable insights to better optimize their IT environment. Users can also visualize and traverse enormous data quickly – even in real time – to draw actionable insights and steer subsequent analyses for better business outcomes.

Virtualization: This allows the integration of large data volumes with already-stored data to perform new forms of analyses and predictive modeling. All the data is typically stored in a centralized data warehouse that provides storage and integration for multiple data sources. Virtualization offers the right technique for reuse of datasets across multiple applications and improves data management efficiencies.

Finally, IT must enable users and the business to leverage data to create Value.

Value: Enterprises can unlock the business value by leveraging existing data assets to create information, insights, knowledge, and ultimately greater profits.  Using advanced software tools and technologies, enterprises can analyze huge amounts of data to reveal unseen patterns, links across various domains to drive new levels of innovation and customer intelligence.

“By drinking this V8”, IT can enable the entire organization to be more resilient; make faster, better and wiser decisions; and transform the business.

Juicer

 

My Masticating Juicer 

Beyond V8: Veni Vidi Vici!

But to constantly enhance organizational Vitality, you must “drink fresh V8” and make it an organizational routine. Aged data is like canned juice which often loses many vital nutrients and Vitamins. When my son demands and drinks his fresh apple juice with a twist of ginger and lime from the masticating juicer shown above, he has a sated contended smile on his face. That smile makes all my angst from Big Data and life Vanish!

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Cliff, Cliff on the Hill: Which Emerging Computing Technologies (ECT) to Watch in 2013?

Our best wishes to you, your families and friends for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year. Much of 2012 was a stimulating hike through the emerging computing technology (ECT) landscape; with the last month or so being an exciting steep ascent culminating at the ECT Cliff. Our year-end climb started with our participation at the exciting annual Supercomputing 2012 event (#SC12) in Salt Lake City in Utah. Then, we attended the annual #IBM Software Analyst Insights conference in Stamford, CT. And finally, we attended the monthly Connecticut Chief Technology Officers (CTO) club in mid-December before winding down for our annual holiday in 2012.

Already, 2013 is shaping to be an exciting year here in Connecticut. Fortunately, we did not fall over the cliff – fiscal or otherwise. It is refreshingly cold and crisp here. And after this morning’s stimulating hike, I pause and reflect on what the hike through ECT landscape in 2013 may look like from the edge of this ECT cliff while relishing a breathtaking view that is truly amazing – gazing at the horizon taking in the first rays emanating from the rising sun. Reflections on what the ECT landscape may look like 2013 are almost as wondrous and awesome as the rising sun. But unlike the sunrise that can be predicted with great accuracy, ECT predictions even for a relatively near-term horizon i.e. only 2013 could be far off-target!

But rather than just provide my undoubtedly biased individual view, I thought, it may be valuable to share what a small group of Southern Connecticut CTOs viewed as key ECT items to watch in 2013.

December 2012 Connecticut CTO Club Meeting Informal Survey – 2013 will be the Year for Analytics!

At our last CTO club meeting for 2012, we had a vigorous and stimulating discussion on what the group assembled there considered were the key emerging computing technologies to watch in 2013. We put up a list and then this group of about 18 individuals representing technical leaders across various companies – large and small – in southern Connecticut and New York – voted on whether they thought these technologies were Over-Hyped, Under-Hyped, or Just Right.

Some items in the list were broad areas i.e. Storage and Analytics. While others were very specific technologies i.e. Automatic Identification Technologies, Personalized Genomic Testing, and In-Memory Computing. So, there was considerable variance in this list. Nevertheless, being an informal list, it covered considerable ground in the ECT landscape.  We even listed broad mature categories like Storage as they have emerging technologies to watch i.e. Solid State Disks, Flash Memory, etc. Clearly, Extreme Low-energy Servers are just emerging as a category.  Here are the informal survey results.

ECT 2013

Some key observations from the above chart: The topics most thought were over-hyped were Cloud Computing and Tablets.  The ones they thought were most under-hyped was Software-Defined Networks, followed by Dynamic Simulation Models and Automatic Identification Technology, along with Non-Traditional Hardware Architectures (GPU computing and ARM) , Extreme Low-Energy Servers, In-Memory Computing, and the Internet of Things.

When asked what were the technologies that would have the most impact in 2013, Analytics won in a landslide (58% mentioned it).   Cloud Computing (35%), Big Data (29%) and BYOD (also 29%) also did well.   So perhaps, 2013 will be the year of Analytics!

Greater the Impacts When Several ECT Trends Combine …..

We are always awed by the potential impact of any one ECT trend, but we become ecstatic when several ECT trends combine together to significantly improve our personal and professional lives….each ray of the rising sun is lovely, but when these rays coalesce and illuminate the vast gorgeous valley below the cliff, that view is breathtakingly stunning!

First, let’s just consider four larger ECT category trends: mobile, cloud, analytics, and social. When mobile and cloud combine, we get the CloudMobile!  With Software Everyware and in the CloudMobile we can leverage the power of SocialAnalytics. Next, with a High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure, which someone aptly said is constantly emerging, we can support mankind’s ECT journey. And with Storage, Personalized Genomics Testing, and Non-Traditional Hardware Architectures capable of large In-Memory Computing, we could develop Novel Next Generation Genetic Sequencing solutions that could significantly change the Economics of Healthcare!

….. Under the Leadership of Enterprising Individuals

But we need enterprising doers, managers, and leaders to invent, develop, nurture, evangelize, adopt, and use these Emerging Computing Technologies. In 2012, we have been very fortunate to interact with several enterprising individuals. Clearly, the members of the Connecticut CTO club and the Faculty, Staff and Industry Members of the Wharton Emerging Technology Center are enterprising individuals with a passion for ECT. But I wanted to specifically call out others who we recently met or interacted with at #SC12 or the IBM Software Analyst Insights event. These individuals (doers, managers, and leaders all in one) have enriched our lives with their passion for ECT.

Combining the promise of Big Data with the power of High Performance Computing and Analytics is Gord Sissons, Sr. Marketing Manager at IBM Platform Computing for the IBM Platform Symphony offering. Joe Landman, CEO of Scalable Informatics is pushing the envelope in very high performance storage. Gord and Joe are classic examples of entrepreneurs and technical innovators.  Chad Harrington, VP of Marketing at Adaptive Computing – a HPC and Cloud Software Company is a top-notch evangelizer of the business value of ECT as is Karl Freund, VP of Marketing at Calxeda, a company building extreme low-energy servers. Last but not the least is Jim Corgel, General Manager of IBM’s Developer Relations organization. At the IBM Analyst Insights event, I had the unique opportunity to listen to Jim talking about how he plans to expand the very successful IBM Global Entrepreneur Program. While I was definitely in agreement with the content and strategy of Jim’s presentation, I was even more impressed with Jim’s passion and zeal to drive innovation in the partner ecosystem with targeted initiatives around four ECT areas: cloud, social, mobile and analytics. Jim’s body language and presentation exuded the passion and optimism of a doer typically found in technology entrepreneurs and innovators. This, in my opinion, is rare especially given Jim’s immense responsibilities of managing a partner ecosystem worth over tens of billions of dollars to IBM.

2013: The Best Year for Emerging Computing Technologies Yet – Let’s All Smile.

Despite Connecticut’s (and the entire Tristate area’s) travails with the recent devastation caused by hurricane Sandy and the absolutely horrific shooting in Newtown, CT (this is just a few miles away from my home), 2013 will be good a year. This is almost as definite as tomorrow’s magnificent sunrise – I remember vividly sitting at the deck of my friend’s (Bob DeLuccia – a Biotech entrepreneur himself and now co-founder of DiPexium Pharmaceuticals ) home on the shore at Long Beach Island in New Jersey this past summer discussing how delightful it is to witness the splendor of the rising sun. Fortunately, Bob’s house suffered minimal damage from hurricane Sandy.

Entrepreneurs and the enterprising individuals involved with ECT are, by nature, optimistic. One of the greatest compliments I received, in a prior life as CEO of a startup software company, from our lead investor – just as he was pushing us towards a Chapter 11 bankruptcy – was that I remained optimistic about the immense market potential of our startup’s software technology. That is probably a manifestation of the Karmic values and the Gandhian outlook that were part of my upbringing. Gandhi was clearly a rare transformational leader in a millennium. But almost every day for an hour or so, he as a doer, sat silently and intensely concentrated on his manual task of making cloth with a Spinning Wheel.

Our job, as IT analysts, is to similarly concentrate and meticulously observe with awe and analyze and catalog the wonderful impacts of these marvelous emerging computing technologies in 2013. But nothing makes me more euphoric than to witness one of my twin boy’s mischievous smiles. And when both twin boys smile mischievously together, that euphoria more than doubles!

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Ratcheting up the “Flops”, the US regains Supercomputing Leadership. Keep the Innovation Flame on!

This week’s big supercomputing story – It’s Red, White and Blue and … Green too!

This past Monday (June/17), as I was sitting outside; reading and enjoying the nice sunny weather on the East Coast, I received an email alert that delighted me and put me on a joyous reflective state. At ISC 2012, the Top500 list of supercomputers worldwide firmly established that, after a span of almost three years, the United States has regained that envious and prestigious floating point performance leadership position in supercomputing or High Performance Computing (#HPC) – wresting this away from other world-class manufacturers.

Blue is Green Too!

The fastest supercomputer in the world is the IBM BlueGene/Q (Sequoia), installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and achieved an impressive 16.32 petaflops/s on the Linpack benchmark using 1,572,864 cores. The BlueGene/Q is also the top system in the Graph500 list, which ranks supercomputers by a data intensive benchmark that mirrors workloads common in graph applications including social networks, cyber security, and medical informatics. And the BlueGene/Q is also the Greenest supercomputer according to the Green500 list that ranks supercomputers by energy-efficiency benchmarks! Moreover, the fastest supercomputer in Europe is the SuperMUC, an IBM iDataplex system installed at the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum in Germany and cooled by warm water.

You can get more details from the Top500, the Green500, and the Graph500 lists of supercomputers. But if you want to truly get a detailed (the what, how and why) perspective on the innovations that underpin these spectacular results, please read our recent papers on the BlueGene/Q and the iDataPlex:

  1. IBM Blue Gene/Q: The Most Energy Efficient Green Solution for High Performance Computing
  2. Beyond PetaFlops: Scalable, Energy Efficient IBM System x iDataPlex dx360 M4 powered by Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 Product Family
  3.  The IBM System x iDataPlex dx360 M4: Superior Energy Efficiency and Total Cost of Ownership for Petascale Technical Computing

The Eternal Flame of Innovation

This is a great testament to US innovation in the computer industry. Going forward, one fundamental question/challenge in supercomputer design is; how can we keep heat away and cool these systems to run reliably and efficient as we scale up performance?  For this, innovations in cooling technologies, low-power processors, and the rest of the technologies must all come together to build that gigantic jigsaw puzzle – the exascale system! The center of gravity of this pursuit, while historically firmly entrenched in the US since the dawn of the information age, seems to be lately seesawing between the US and Asia. Today, it is in the US. One question is how can the US reinforce and sustain this edge and arrest this seesawing jigsaw?

However, a bigger question is how can the US keep the flame and heat on the escalating tussle for an edge in innovation and on the seesawing race for leadership in today’s global knowledge economy? Today (June/21/2012) this heat is literally on.  It is not only the longest day in the northern hemisphere but it is also the hottest day here in Connecticut! The sprint towards exascale is just one proxy for this larger battle.

To win, we must flex our neurons. For this we need relentless focus and continuing investment in education – particularly in math, science, and language. Our teachers are our personal trainers and the classroom is the gym. But beyond, traditional classroom education, we must experiment, constantly learn on the job and not be afraid to make and learn from Brilliant Mistakes. Moving on and learning from these Brilliant Flops (a.k.a. Mistakes) is of greater benefit to innovation than merely ratcheting up the supercomputing Flops! May the Olympic Torch of Innovation continue to shine on the United States!

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Simply Pure and Purely Simple – Systems, Stacks and Clouds

I recently attended the IBM IMPACT conference.  During the keynote, an IBM executive remarked (and I am paraphrasing) – It is very hard to make technology simple. This is a very profound observation.

This morning (May/2), comfortably perched in my aisle seat on the plane, as I return back to the wonderful state of Connecticut, several impressions from IMPACT start to swirl in my mind. So I thought I would clarify or purify these impressions and articulate them as simply as I can.  So that I can purge them from my conscious mind-cache yet make them persist in words through this blog post.  

Tomorrow, at the strike of dawn in Connecticut, I want to start with a clear and pure mind and continue with my day job (IT Analyst and Consultant) of gathering and analyzing and articulating additional ideas and thoughts to benefit my paying clients who sponsor my consulting projects. I must do that to make a living and ensure the continuing well-being of my children. This is pure and simple.  

PureSystems   - Patterning and Partnering

IMPACT was quite packed – over 8500 attendees. The solution center opened on April 29 in the evening. I was fortunate to leisurely examine the demos that perked my interest. I spent a significant amount of time examining the various PureSystems exhibits. In particular, I was very impressed seeing the internals of an operating PureFlex system with its dense packaging – servers, storage, and networks.

But I was even more impressed when I spent a significant amount of time with Manhattan Associates – a PureSystems Application Provider partner that focuses on delivering Supply Chain solutions – both for planning and execution. Their very smart and enthusiastic lead technical expert told me that Manhattan Associates has over 15 software products that they have been able to integrate with the PureApplication System using a combination of IBM patterns and Manhattan patterns. This simplicity, he said was a pure delight to clients in retail, logistics, and other areas where optimizing the supply chain is critical for enhancing operational efficiencies.

To date, IBM has over 100 such partnerships and expects to deliver hundreds more similar PurePatterns across various industries with even more partnerships. It will be interesting to quantify the collective ROI that clients receive both in ease of deployment and in ongoing operations from this PureEcosystem.

It is well known that IT operational costs in labor are one of the fastest growing components of the total cost of ownership (TCO).  What PureSystems along with the growing portfolio of PurePatterns do is to tackle this head on to make IT simpler to use –similar to the value proposition for cloud computing which has been front and center in the minds of IT organizations worldwide.  This brings me to my second set of takeaways from IMPACT.

Cloud OpenStack – Molecules Matter

During the IBM Analyst deep-dive sessions, I got the opportunity to understand the scale and focus of IBM’s Cloud OpenStack initiative. One primary motivation behind this open source initiative is to simplify and standardize Cloud Use Cases and Workloads by building a technology stack using open source and standards to instantiate these use cases. IBM used a very nice chemistry analogy to explain this: system components and their functions are like elements in the periodic table while real-life workloads are like molecules that provide higher level business function and are composed of several pre-wired components (elements).

Then we witnessed a very feature rich demo that depicted a fairly comprehensive cloud business use case. This consortium plans to produce many more of these cloud business use cases and members plan to contribute code and other resources to this initiative. In the next few months, IBM plans to work with other consortium members on governance and process related matters in addition to growing this Ecosystem to include more end-users and application providers.

All this will make these molecules matter even more in the industry. It will further that magical chemistry that continues to fuel the Open Source movement that was born at the dawn of the Internet era.  Are we poised to witness another spike in the IT industry with the impending confluence of open source solutions in Big Data, Analytics, and Cloud? The mathematics and technologies for this exist. The bigger question is do we have the knowledge and human capital and the collective wherewithal to leverage all of this? I think so. The first movers have already spoken. The rest will follow. It’s that simple!

OpenStack the PureSystem

IBM was asked several times during the analyst session if there was a plan to extend the Cloud OpenStack to PureSystems. While no formal commitments or announcements were made, I felt from a business strategy perspective, this is a purely simple matter. It will only enhance the PureEcosystem. This chemical bonding will deliver a macro-molecule that could help enterprises deploy clouds in much the same way Enterprise Linux did almost a decade ago. It should also further the collective benefits of Open Source for one and all – pure and simple.

The plane has landed at Westchester Airport. For me the simple act of comfortably flying will now be replaced by the laborious act of having to navigate the traffic on the busy highway (I – 684) that goes north to Danbury, Connecticut. Too bad automobiles are not yet self-navigating and autonomic. But this is bound to happen as cars increasingly become computers in the next decade or so and they get all the intelligent capabilities of sensing and responding in real-time. But this labor of driving through traffic will be very well worth it as I will experience the pure joy of being back at home. After all as a wise man once said Home is where the heart is!  That, my dear friend, is pure and simple!

To extend what the IBM executive said at IMPACT – Let us make technology homely!  We as IT analysts do – in our own small way – contribute to this goal by trying to communicate as best as we can the value of technology in simple terms.

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The Pure Thing

Yesterday, I watched from the comfort of my home office, IBM’s PureSystem“Unveiling of a New Computing Era” announcement in New York City. After the initial background business discussion by Mr. Steve Mills – Sr. Vice President and Group Executive for IBM Systems and Software, the curtain was lifted by Mr. Rod Adkins, IBM Senior Vice President, Systems and Technology Group. At that very instant, with a wide grin, Steve made a comment that I am paraphrasing, “Unlike software with systems, you can actually see the real thing”.  When the curtain was lifted, there stood that gleaming blue PureFlex system. This sparked a train of thought that gelled this morning under this spring’s cool Connecticut sun during my customary jog in the park.  

What is a Thing?

During my spare time and sometimes to get a real good night’s sleep, I read. One book that does an admirable and efficient job of “accelerating the time to deep slumber” is entitled “What is a Thing?, by Martin Heidegger, one of the greatest 20th century philosophers. I’ve had the pleasure to be about 1/3 the way.

But this morning, reflecting on Steve’s comment, I thought: What is IT (information technology) today? Why is the word “Pure” so relevant? What does this all mean? This created an energizing stream of shedding “thought-vortices” whose trajectories like their fluid mechanics counterparts are difficult to model and predict much less tame and transcribe. But here is where Martin and some reflection come to rescue.

Material and Abstract Things

You see – a system like the PureSystem is something that you can see, touch, and feel. It’s a material thing. Data (even BigData) you cannot see, touch, or feel. But then you can visualize data through software. Software is not a material thing (actually like data it is an abstract thing) but it makes a material impact especially when grounded and optimized on a material thing like a system and then used to solve a business or scientific problem.

Likewise, mathematics (one of the most abstract things) has its profound impact when its purest form is applied to solve the challenging problems of the day especially those that have a material impact, for example, the impact of shedding vortices on aircraft operating performance or the calculation of the best available airfare between two cities. All this is of course done in software that runs on a system.

The Everything and Nothing Route to Profound and Pure Insights

But perhaps the most abstract thing, philosophy, and the philosophers who pursue these thought-vortices may take “this thing (whatever that thing is)” and argue that it’s nothing.  Just as their other philosopher colleagues could argue that it is everything. That is the duality of zero and infinity. For instance, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle was once asked how he was able to come up with such profound insights. It is rumored that Aristotle answered that he sat in a room and opened all the windows and an avalanche of thoughts came flying into his head which he then curated and came up with profound “pure” insights. That’s BigInsights from BigData.

Contrast this with Buddha who sat in total isolation and completely “emptied” his mind of all thoughts and meditated and came up with yet another set of profound and “pure” insights. That’s starting with a “clean slate”.

The surest (and perhaps purest) thing that I think I know is that I am. But do I really know that? That’s an entirely new and different question for another day.

When Aristotle (West) Meets Buddha (East) in the Cloud

I was told during the IBM PureSystems announcements that IBM worked on this initiative over the last four years; taking input and learnings from thousands of client engagements around the world and came up with this highly optimized, cloud and analytics ready family of systems and platforms. I was also told that the technical architects started with a “clean slate”. That is like marrying East with West to get the best of both worlds and this should be great for clients everyware!

Now lest I get fired from my day job of doing IT analyst work, I must move on to my next “thing” which is finishing up the white paper that my employer wants me to write! That is very material my dear friend! To my children – who read my blogs – note your survival and well-being depend on my finishing this next thing!

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