Wednesday, July 9, 2014

IBM announces research programs committed to the future of post-silicon systems

 By Rich Ptak

IBM is no stranger to committing large sums of research and development funds for longer term benefits. Want some examples? There was their early investment in massively parallel computing (Deep Blue and Blue Gene) to reach commercial viability. Their investments in multicore systems such as Power 4 and 5, which facilitated and sped the consolidation of the Unix market. Most recently was their investment in cognitive computing with the Jeopardy winning Watson, that is now yielding commercial as well as societal advances and benefits in the fields of finance, banking, retail, medical and healthcare.

Now, for the first time, IBM has unveiled its plans to invest $3 billion dollars over 5 years into a research program to enable and develop the next generation of semiconductor technologies and chips that are the building blocks of computer systems. Countering rumors of its abandoning hardware and systems based on its sales of business lines to Lenovo, IBM provides concrete proof that it has no intention of getting out of the systems business. The challenges relating to energy, heat, processing time, bandwidth, size, storage, etc. driven by applications for cloud and big data are emerging just as foreseeable physical and manufacturing limits of existing technologies are being reached. 

These investments will extend IBM’s innovation beyond today’s semiconductor technology breakthroughs into the leadership position in advanced technologies required to deal with evolving and emerging challenges.  Such efforts are necessary to develop and deliver in the next ten years the as yet unknown, fundamentally different systems needed to overcome physical and scaling limitations of techniques and technology.

IBM is sponsoring two research programs to address the challenges. The first will address the challenges of the physics that limits using and manufacturing existing silicon technology. Scaling down from today’s 22 nanometers to 10 nanometers is doable for the next few years; moving beyond that to 7 nanometers and smaller requires new manufacturing tools and techniques currently being researched.

The second program looks to the develop ways to manufacture and apply computer chips using radically new technologies in the post-silicon era. New materials and circuit architecture designs are being researched along with techniques for manufacturing, development and application. In addition, to avoid disruption, systems are required to bridge between existing and new technologies.

Projects are underway or beginning in areas that include quantum computing, neuron based systems, carbon nanotubes, silicon photonics, neurosynaptic computing, etc. IBM’s Research team will consist of over a thousand exiting and newly hired scientists and engineers. Research teams will be located in Albany and Yorktown, NY, Almaden, CA and Zurich, Switzerland.

 The Final Word

IBM has been a leader with an enviable track record in creating breakthroughs and innovation in CMOS and silicon technology including inventing or first implementing single cell DRAM, chemically amplified photoresists, High-k gate dialectrics, etc. They aren’t alone in addressing the problems of existing semiconductor technology and researching new technologies. But, they are certainly among the leaders in the breadth and depth of their efforts. In addition to its own projects, IBM continues and will continue to fund and collaborate with university semiconductor research as they continue to support such private-public partnerships as the NanoElectronics Initiative (NRI), Semiconductor Research Network (STARnet), and the Global Research Consortium (GRC) of the Semiconductor Research Corp.
Such efforts will all contribute and combine to create the next level of processing power that will enable and facilitate the move to eradicate blocks to progress and eliminate boundaries compute capabilities. Such innovation is necessary to drive a new class of transactions, create the capability to process a sensor-based world, enable a new level of encryption, etc. and make it possible for a new generation to identify and solve previously inconceivable or unsolvable problems. The investment and effort that IBM is making gives clear proof of their continuing interest in and dedication to delivering innovative systems.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

HP HAVEn: Big Data/Analytics Platform enabling enterprise advantages

By Rich Ptak

About a year ago, HP introduced HAVEn to the market as capability to be used to work with HADOOP to gain insight and information from analyzing structured and unstructured data. This spring, HP launched HAVEn as an extended, true data analysis platform and available as a cloud-based service. We spent some time with HP to get greater insight into HP’s positioning of HAVEn as a platform for Big Data/Analytics that works across multiple data formats.
The HAVEn name comes from the multiple analytics engines – Hadoop, Autonomy, Vertica, Enterprise Security and any number of HP and the customer’s own applications used to gain more customer-relevant information and insight. Help is available to determine which of the engines is needed, as we’ll see.  

As announced, HAVEn per se is a collection of data handling and analytics engines that combined with an enterprise’s own applications can used to tease information and insight from virtually any conceivable data set the user can access. HP offers HAVEn engines for use by the customer. It takes a pretty impressive service to allow virtually any enterprise or organization get useful insight and information from their available data. It is even more so, if it is targeted for use by an audience that includes data processing/IT (even business) professionals, but who are specifically not required to be professional data ANALYSTS to quickly realize value. And, HP has customers who will testify to their successes with HAVEn. However, to help the first-time user faced with figuring out where and how to get the most benefit from their data, HP has skilled service experts available for projects.
HP also previewed the HAVEn workbench at Discover. The workbench is a unifying layer on top of the engines. It allows developers to access the functionality of any of the underlying engines through a common interface. It also allows access to a library of services which expose the functions of the engines. Developers, data scientists and the like can add new services to the library. or “mash-up” two existing services to create a new service. Over time, as more services are added, the ability to explore your data or rapidly prototype new applications will increase exponentially.

One of our major themes with our clients (vendors as well as end-users) for the last decade or so has been that it is a major responsibility of vendors to make the full power of all technologies (existing and emerging) accessible and useful to their customers. The is increasingly critical as those customers are increasingly non-technical in nature – they have no idea, and less interest in how a Monte Carlo Simulation works, what a regression analysis is or accomplishes, nor any of the benefits revealed by the use of Chebyshev’s inequality. They just want to get any and all information and insight from their data that they can use to achieve their goals. Satisfying that need and demand appears to be one of the driving forces behind HAVEn.

HAVEn is also part of HP’s efforts to speed and spread the adoption of Big Data/Analytics to the widest possible audience. Having spent between $10 and $20 billion (between organic R&D and acquisitions) on HAVEn, HP believes it and its associated services can be effectively leveraged by customers. HP sees broad market potential for HAVEn. At this time, it has identified several broad market segments of specific interest including:

  1. Business Analysts – enterprise IT, data analytics specialists and experts who can use HAVEn as a tool to operate more effectively and efficiently to speed results and improve quality of their analysis.
  2. Developers – looking to build a business or service around analytics - including entrepreneurs, ISVs, partners, startups – interested in developing analysis-based solutions and services.
  3. Solution Buyers – those looking to get more insight from the data they have; such as marketing/sales executives, product managers, inventory and resource managers and suppliers - for example, those who want to learn more about buying patterns as it relates to various environmental factors such as time, weather, events, etc.

HP offers two free trials to encourage potential customers to experiment with HAVEn. The free downloads are for the Vertica Community edition and a free trial of ArcSight Logger. Learn more by going to:

HP clearly has invested a lot of time and effort into the HAVEn platform. The single significant drawback we found was the lack of an integrated, ‘single pane of glass’ UI. Integration packs are available among the engines which do help.

HP is continuing an aggressive development program as it encourages customers and partners to enhance and extend the reach of the product with connectors. We think that HP is definitely enabling and easing the move of Big Data analytics into the larger marketplace. Customers can learn more about HAVEn and how it is being used by visiting We think anyone with any significant data available to them would be wise to investigate what HAVEn might be able to do for them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IBM Bluemix – Good news for cloud enterprise-class application development, testing and deployment

By Rich Ptak

Bluemix is IBM’s extensively featured cloud platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for building, managing and running applications of all types. In February of 2014, IBM began an Open Beta of the platform, providing access for interested developers, students and researchers.  We described the platform, support and training programs available at that time here: (  Bluemix offers a complete, robust, Dev/Ops environment, built on open standards, equipped to develop and run apps in any cloud-friendly language with integration services to existing systems of record. Developers can access a rich library of IBM, 3rd party and open source runtimes, services and APIs.

Over the last three months, IBM, partners and 3rd party participants have added a range of extensions to the platform in the run-up to a General Availability (GA) announcement. With the June 30th GA, (a full quarter before IBM originally planned), Bluemix enters the market fully tested by IBM and customers with documented success of its benefits and impressive support provided by IBM and partner staffs. Applications written using the open source services in Cloud Foundry could be moved between compatible Cloud Foundry implementations. Applications can also be developed/tested/tuned on Bluemix then moved to another platform, as well as vice versa.  Both of these capabilities have been done by users.

New services from IBM include Workflow, Geospatial Analytics, Application User Registry, MQ Light, Gamification, Embeddable Reporting, Appscan Mobile Analyzer, and Continuous Delivery Pipeline. Services from 3rd Party partners include Mongo Labs, Load Impact, BlazeMeter, SendGrid, RedisLabs, ClearDB (MySQL), CloudAMQP (RabbitMQ), ElephantSQL (PostgreSQL), etc. It is also worth highlighting that Bluemix includes a strong environment for the development, testing, and management of mobile as well as other applications.

Developers have access to the infrastructure resources, tools and assets they need (and know) – on-demand and when they need it. They don’t have to worry about or wait for infrastructure availability virtual or otherwise. Everything needed for app development, test, deployment and management is available in the cloud.

IBM’s intends Bluemix to be used for developing all kinds of applications. However, it is optimized for the cloud-centric nature of mobile, web and big data applications.  The environment’s open standards nature allows customers to move apps (as long as they only use open standard services). As an incentive to stay, IBM will provide compelling value from its middleware portfolio (e.g. mobile, Watson, analytics, etc.) only on Bluemix.

IBM continues to offer 30-days of free-trial use to encourage developers to become familiar with Bluemix services and tools. After that, fees are based on usage. This means you pay only for the amount of resources consumed. Runtime charges are based on the GB-hours an application runs. During the free 30-day trial, you get a maximum of 2GB. Once usage fees begin, you still get 375GB hours per month free. Pricing for services and add-ons can be flat-rate or metered; some have a free allowance each month. Details including pricing are here: The pricing appears to compare favorably against the competition.

Where’s the Value?

Bluemix is a true Platform-as-a-Service offering, designed with the interests of both the developer and enterprise in mind. It focuses on allowing the developer/enterprise to focus completely on creating and delivering value in terms of new products and services for their customers – while IBM takes all the responsibility to provide and maintain the infrastructure, development, testing and management tools and software.

For the enterprise, additional value comes from the ability to quickly access and deploy their services on a global infrastructure. Also, since Bluemix is built on top of SoftLayer, applications can be easily moved to the SoftLayer environment if you want to have control over the infrastructure. Applications can also be moved from one IBM datacenter to another at no cost. Bluemix provides a globally-supported environment for the deployment of a service. It dramatically expands the geographic reach of a company without the adding the expense of a remote presence.

The Final Word
Part of IBM”s goal with Bluemix was to ease and speed the transition of IT and enterprises (of all sizes) to the cloud environment. It does so by providing the tools, functionality and infrastructure that allows the developer the flexibility to use the language, tools and techniques they are most familiar with. This speeds development, testing and delivery of new solutions which increases developer productivity and enterprise agility. We recommend that potential evaluate the benefits and cost of IBM’s Bluemix against. As we said earlier, we expect that: “many will decide to increase and expand their participation to their own as well as their employer’s significant benefit.”