IBM Pushes the Pedal on Cloud, Big Data, Mobile Innovation

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-11-19

IBM Pushes the Pedal on Cloud, Big Data, Mobile Innovation

IBM has been busy of late with several major announcements in areas including cloud computing, big data, security and more.

In any given week, IBM is in the thick of it with new technology announcements, partnerships and other news, but over the last couple of weeks Big Blue seems to have had a little extra going on.

For instance, on Nov. 15, IBM announced that scientists at ETH Zurich, a prominent Swiss university, and IBM Research, in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), have set a new record in supercomputing in fluid dynamics using 6.4 million threads on LLNL's 96-rack "Sequoia" IBM BlueGene/Q, one of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

IBM said the team of scientists performed the largest simulation ever in fluid dynamics by employing 13 trillion cells and reaching an unprecedented, for flow simulations, 14.4 Petaflop sustained performance on Sequoia—73 percent of the supercomputer's theoretical peak.

In the security space, IBM recently announced that it is adding 11 additional schools to its more than 200 partnerships with universities around the globe, focusing on collaborating to bring cyber-security skills into the classroom. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the cyber-security field is expected to grow rapidly, increasing 22 percent by 2020. As organizations transmit and store more sensitive information electronically, the need for employees with experience in cyber-security will be imperative in order to protect data in the cloud, mobile devices and traditional computing.

As part of IBM's Academic Initiative, the company is launching new curriculum and programs focusing on cyber-security with Fordham University, Georgia Institute of Technology, San Jose State University, Southern Methodist University, Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany, Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, Universidad Cenfotec in Costa Rica, Universiti Kebangsaan in Malaysia, The University of South Carolina, University of Texas at Dallas and Wroclaw University of Economics in Poland.

In a move aimed at spurring innovation outside IBM, the company also recently announced plans to open its Watson cognitive computing technology up to developers. IBM said it will make its Watson technology available as a development platform in the cloud, to enable a worldwide community of software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with Watson's cognitive computing intelligence.

The move aims to spur innovation and fuel a new ecosystem of entrepreneurial software application providers—ranging from startups and emerging, venture capital-backed businesses to established players. Together with IBM, these business partners share a vision for creating a new class of cognitive applications that transform how businesses and consumers make decisions.

To bring this vision to life, IBM will be launching the IBM Watson Developers Cloud, a cloud-hosted marketplace where application providers of all sizes and industries will be able to tap into resources for developing Watson-powered apps. This will include a developer toolkit, educational materials and access to Watson's application programming interface (API).

Meanwhile, in another major move, on Nov. 13 IBM announced a definitive agreement to acquire Fiberlink Communications, a mobile management and security company, to boost the IBM MobileFirst platform.

IBM Pushes the Pedal on Cloud, Big Data, Mobile Innovation

With Fiberlink's MaaS360 cloud-based offerings, IBM will expand its bring-your-own-device (BYOD) capabilities to deliver a complete mobile management and security solution through IBM MobileFirst that includes trusted transactions and security intelligence capabilities for mobile apps, users, content and data, IBM said.

"In a mobile first world, clients require a comprehensive mobile management and security offering. Often times they integrate solutions on their own and take on unnecessary risk," said Robert LeBlanc, IBM senior vice president of Middleware Software, in a statement. "To protect and enhance the complete mobile experience, it's crucial to secure the app, user, content, data and the transaction. The acquisition of Fiberlink will enable us to offer these expanded capabilities to our clients, making it simple and quick to unlock the full potential of mobility."

This announcement is another milestone in IBM's strategy to build a comprehensive set of mobile capabilities while eliminating barriers to adoption and accelerating the productivity benefits of mobility. At the same time, IBM is expanding the vision for enterprise mobility management to also include secure transactions between businesses, partners and customers.

"Underlying the solutions gaps that Fiberlink fills in mobile security and management are the delivery capabilities the acquisition enables for MobileFirst," said Matthew Casey, software analyst at Technology Business Research. "The ongoing goal for IBM's software business is to transition traditionally deployed solutions to be more consumable and available through cloud delivery. While SoftLayer enables the actual delivery of these workloads, the native cloud-basis of FiberLink's mobile security and management offerings helps bridge the gap between IBM's traditional MobileFirst solutions and the cloud."

The announcement builds on the IBM MobileFirst strategy of bringing all mobile resources together in one platform. For example, organizations of all sizes will be able to build secure apps by design with IBM Worklight and IBM Security AppScan, deliver trusted transactions through integrated threat intelligence with Trusteer, and improve the user experience with Tealeaf, IBM said. Now organizations can break free from one-size-fits-all security strategies and create more flexible, personalized mobile experiences that balance enterprise security with user privacy.

MaaS360 will become part of IBM's Software as a Service (SaaS) portfolio of more than 100 cloud services. IBM plans to offer MaaS360 on the IBM SoftLayer cloud infrastructure.

"Complementing existing solutions within MobileFirst such as IBM Endpoint Manager, IBM Worklight and IBM Security AppScan, the cloud delivery capabilities of mobile device management and mobile security solutions from Fiberlink will help extend the presence of MobileFirst solutions through new cloud use-cases," Casey said. "For example, the combination of MaaS360 with IBM's Endpoint Manager solution enables IBM to deliver unified device management capabilities in both traditional and SaaS delivered use-cases. Providing flexible consumption models for customers will continue to be a main focal point of IBM, and will be a theme that will characterize future acquisitions within IBM Software."

In the big data and analytics space, IBM announced the IBM Analytics Talent Assessment, an online platform that provides university students with data-driven insights that aim to help narrow the big data and analytics skills gap and foster talent for the next-generation workforce.


IBM Pushes the Pedal on Cloud, Big Data, Mobile Innovation

Using IBM Analytics Talent Assessment, university students can gauge their readiness for public- and private-sector big data and analytics careers and gain guidance on ways to further develop and position themselves for these in-demand jobs through a simple online questionnaire. In addition to benefiting students and universities, talent assessments help organizations identify and hire the right candidate for the right job. They can also enable organizations to more accurately predict performance.

The new initiative was announced as part of a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Big Data event held in Washington. The event is a response to the Obama administration's call for multi-stakeholder partnerships that harness the power of big data to spark advancements in key national initiatives, such as economic growth, education, health, energy and sustainability.

According to IBM, Gartner predicts there will be a need for up to 4.4 million jobs to support big data by 2015.

"Information is a powerful natural resource that will play an essential role in defining and creating the jobs of the future," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of the IBM Software Solutions Group, in a statement. "IBM is dedicated to advancing data-driven insights to transform the skills for our future workforce. By arming them with the necessary tools and resources, we will help enable them to become world-class analytics leaders who will transform industries around the globe."

Showing its cloud computing expertise, IBM also recently announced it had patented a technique that enables cloud computing data center operators to dynamically redistribute workloads to lower-powered or underutilized systems, thereby minimizing the environmental footprint and impact of cloud services.

IBM's patented cloud computing invention is similar to how energy utilities offer consumers ways to automatically access and pay for alternative energy sources such as wind or solar to reduce their impact on the environment. With this approach, a cloud will be tuned to automatically route service requests through network devices, systems and software that process the service while consuming the least amount of electricity.

IBM received U.S. Patent #8,549,125: Environmentally sustainable computing in a distributed computer network for the invention.

Finally, IBM opened its first research center in Africa with an inauguration ceremony at the facility in Nairobi, Kenya, featuring the country's president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

IBM's twelfth global research lab—supported by the Kenyan Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Authority and located at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi—will conduct applied and exploratory research into the grand challenges of the African continent by delivering commercially viable innovations that impact people's lives.

IBM said the 2,000-square-meter facility features one of Africa's most powerful cloud-enabled computing hubs, giving IBM researchers the ability to analyze and draw insight from vast amounts of data in the search for solutions to Africa's most pressing challenges such as energy, water, transportation, agriculture, health care, financial inclusion and public safety.

The lab's research agenda will include the development of cognitive computing technologies that integrate learning and reasoning capabilities, enabling experts to make better decisions in areas such as health care delivery and financial services.


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