If IBM Watson (AI) is so smart, why isn’t Watson able tell IBM how to make billions dollars?

“If IBM Watson (AI) is so smart, why isn’t Watson able to tell IBM how to make billions dollars? Can’t you just ask Watson how to make more money?” It was an earnest question from a skeptical client. We all want an oracle we can ask.

I answered “IBM Watson can’t just know how to make money. It has to be taught first by humans. A person must teach Watson the knowledge and then Watson can expand on it.” The simple answer is IBM Watson is similar to all Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. It is just a tool and not an all-seeing, all-knowing oracle. Buying a chef’s knife does not make me a chef. The old saying is “a fool with a tool is still a fool.” Watson, or any AI, can’t just imagine ideas, create new solutions, or create new solutions. While it isn’t an oracle, it is highly useful tool.

The real purpose of this tool labeled as Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Intelligence, or Assistive Intelligence is to provide computers with more human like interactions and understanding. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, seeing, and feeling are very human experiences. We define our world this way via our senses and sense of self being. At IBM, we have Watson focus more on the cognitive (thinking and feeling like a human) and being more supportive via assistive intelligence. The cognitive capability provides the computer a better and more natural way to move, communicate, interact, and learn in our human focused world.

A good example is Watson Cancer Diagnostics. It first was taught how to diagnose and treat cancer. The cognitive capabilities allowed it to speak, listen, write, and read both questions and answers. I even learned to read radiographs (visual). That gave the solution a baseline capability. Now it is moving onward by reading printed journals. We as humans think of it as nothing to extract information out of reading a book, but this is unstructured data which only a few years ago, computers couldn’t understand. Now with Watson, they can. Today Watson Cancer Diagnostics can work with doctors and suggest treatments, but ultimately, we still rely on the doctor to make the final diagnosis and treatment.

Water is the universal solvent. Humans are the universal problem solver. Computers are wonderful tools to enable humans. By adding cognitive capabilities, computers become even better and easier to use tools to assist us in shaping our world and hopefully for better.

 

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Why I believe IBM will succeed

I believe IBM will succeed even in this next era of rapid innovation. There is no doubt IBM is founded on innovation. Whether you measure it by 23 years of leading in number of patents or by sheer number of innovations found in its history (DRAM, Hard drives, Tabulation Machines, System 360, major innovation around relational datbases, etc.), IBM is innovative.

I think the question is not “can IBM innovate”, but can IBM innovate with enough speed and follow through. It is tough for any large company to move fast with heirarchies, communities, and sheer mass. It can be done.

One key is having a clear vision. IBM’s vision is Cloud, Cognitive, and Industries. Cloud in all it’s forms including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Recent announcements like putting IBM Box, IBM’s cloud for file sharing, on Amazon shows a willingness to follow requirements of the market. Clients are saying no one cloud solution, even IBM’s cloud, is enough. Speed and diversity are as important as cost, or more.

Cognitive is the peak of IBM’s data strategy. Beneath is everything from ETL to IoT to cloud based integration. Getting to Watson is rarely a first step for most clients. Rather we find we need to do a lot of data hygene just to be ready for standard analytics. Eventually, they do get to Watson and Cognitive services. It is a journey.

I really find Watson on Bluemix especially interesting. IBM is offering access in nibble size chunks access to Watson via standard APIs. It is an amazing shift to see IBM offering the power of its flagship product for pennies. It is a new model for IBM. IBM has always ruled in the realm of big projects with high margins. To take on the tiny, an API at a time and a penney at a time, is huge change in business model for IBM. You can check out the services, via RESTfull API’s, on the developer cloud and for modest use it is even FREEhttp://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercloud/services-catalog.html

Under the banner of Cognitive is IoT. The ability to interact and understand our world via the digital world seems like a SciFi dream. The possibilities are endless. We see capabilities like controling our environment just by thinking about it. I love the story about the IBMer who is using his mind to control a Sphero toy. I confess, I want one. https://developer.ibm.com/bluemix/2015/12/18/the-force-bb8-emotiv-insight-bluemix/  or Youtube (~3 mins).

Industries runs through everthing at IBM. IBM’s entire organization is organized by Sector (Industrial, Distribution, Financial, etc.) and below that into Industries. Every go to market effort is passed through an industry focus and a lot of the investment in new ideas is based on the question of “what does this industry require.” You can even filter our Institute for Business Value by Industries to find unique value for your business. Watson even has its own Watson Healthcare division – another focus on an industry.

In the fast moving world of IT innovation, being innovative last year is not going to save you; however, IBM has a long history of remaining an innovation leader. We working to see how we can leverage all IBMers’ great minds.  I’m optomistic as we are now working on innovations for rapid innovation at cloud speed and beyond. Cloud, Cognitive, and Industries is great springboard into our future.

 

Achieving your personal destiny through mentoring

You can achieve your destiny with the help of a mentor and by being a mentor.

There is no topic closer to my heart, dare I say emotional, than seeing individuals achieve their destiny. Even the most special person doesn’t reach their potential without some help from others. No one gets to where they are by themselves including me. I’ve been fortunate to have some super people in my life, both as mentors and as mentorees.

Vijay Vijayashankar gets applause during the keynote.

I confess my pride swelled as I saw Vijay Vijayasankar (Vice President, Global Channels and Business Development at MongoDB) (blog | linkedin), someone I mentored, step up on the SAP TechEd/D-Code conference keynote. It has always been a goal of mine to mentor / manage someone who makes it to the most senior level of corporation. As Vijay has risen, I’d say we each consider each other peer mentors which is interesting. More than anything, Vijay has taught me the value of seeing the situation from the most positive light possible. It is skill I admire in him.

I’ve always believed the mentor gets as much from the relationship as the mentoree. Just having fresh eyes on the problem and the solution can reveal a lot. Now, I know Vijay and I are peers, but I think he’s actual become my mentor which I think is terrific. By the way, you certainly can have a mentor who is at “lower” level in the management hierarchy than you.

Another mentoree, Tomas Krojzl (linkedin | website | blog) sought me out. I think he called or e-mailed me 2x week for a month or more before I agreed. It was some kid in the Czech Republic who was fairly low level and wanted to be a Distinguished Engineer in 3 years. A Distinguished Engineer at IBM is quite an honor and considered one of the harder ways to become an executive at IBM. I thought anyone who can be that persistent and even thinks they can make that level in 3 years will certainly become something special and indeed Tomas is special. Tomas Krojzl won the best of IBM. That is amazing honor only given to 100 people a year in IBM out of more than 400K employees. Tomas is an SAP Mentor and SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer. I’m confident Tomas will achieve his goal of becoming an IBM Distinguished Engineer although it may take few more years, but it will be sooner than most.

Cincinnati Zoo

I’ll just mention a few of my key mentors in my life. Barry Wakeman, former Director of Education at the Cincinnati Zoo, brought me into Cincinnati Zoo’s Junior Zoologist and  saved me from being a miserable outcast. I didn’t fit into any of the peer groups at school like the jocks, scholars, burn outs, etc. He taught me it was OK to be smart, find critters in streams, do research, collect insects, crawl in caves, explore oceans, think critically, give back to the world, and study the natural world. Barry inspired a lot of kids in greater Cincinnati area. I would not be where I am today without him. I’ve got a long list who I know feel the same way. Barry is deceased, but he embodied Stephen Covey’s quote of “Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy”  with his life.

When I was at Illinois Power Company (IPC) (since acquired) in Decatur, IL, David Peterson, Director of Networking, helped me evolve technically and as person. He’d literally would sneak me into the IPC HQ to talk with me since I’d been banned from the facility. That is a story for another day, but let me just say “you can be 100% correct and dead wrong.” David introduced me to networking. Together with him, we got IPC onto new networking standards and got it connected to the Internet for the first time. It took 2 years of writing business cases in 1990-1991. Unfortunately, I’ve lost track of David.

Skipping over a lot of years and good people, Adolf Allesch (linkedin | website) , was my manager, but even more importantly a mentor. He often called me when I’d been on call and missed the mark to coach me. It never was a matter of content, as I said, I was usually 100% correct, but in how I’d presented the topic or even the tone in which I responded was more important. Telling someone their idea is foolish, even if it is, or solving the problem in 5 minutes when they’ve spent 5 months on it, is probably not going to make them want to work with you. Adolf was key to my achieving Distinguished Engineer at IBM. In the SAP world, I know lot of people who owe him a debt as well.  Adolf is now off working on his own at Emergence Advisor.

Today, I keep a running list of people I mentor. I try to make sure I touch base with them at least once every quarter. I increasingly find I don’t talk about technology, but about shaping their non-technical skills so they are more effective in achieving their goals, much the way Adolf did for me. Some of it is simple as just asking “what do you want to be in 2 and 5 years?” and “what are the big steps do you need to do to get there?”. Frequently, I’m just a sounding board, give them options, or more connections. I confess, it is one of the best parts of my job.

Mentoring is a “pay it forward” (movie | book) so when people ask what they can do to repay me for my time, I ask who are they mentoring? So now, two pieces of advice. Become a mentor to several others and go get at least one mentor. Mentoring will not guarantee you achieve your destiny, it does help and you’ll be surprised how much it adds to the quality of your life.

Faster SAP BW

Faster SAP BW

Everyone wants faster information.  Even if you are not sure about why or what should be faster, in this recent post I describe ways to HOW to make BW faster.  I focus on the non-HANA based solutions.

Please STOP using meaningless terms for cloud like Private, Public, and Hybrid

There are 2 dimensions that have meaning when discussing cloud solutions and the terms public, private, and hybrid contains too many overlaps and ambiguity.  Is a cloud private if it is hosted?  Is a cloud public because I access it over the internet and does that mean my corporate data center accessed via VPN is public?  Worse, the term Hybrid Cloud gets bounced around so many different ways that is no longer relevant at all.   I could have SAP ERP and SuccessFactors  or SAP ERP production in a corporate data center and the non-production SAP ERP systems on a IaaS cloud provider such as IBM’s SmartCloud IaaS  or it could mean I do some ERP functions on SAP ERP on premise and some using SAP Business-by-Design (BbyD) or on NetSuite ERP.   In the end, it only means  is I’m using more than one type of solution.

There are meaningful dimensions to describing cloud solutions.  The two (2) dimensions that matter are: 1) location, and 2) separation.

First is location.  Where is the solution residing?  Is it on my premise, site or facility that I own or at least consider part of my corporate network of locations.  Alternatively, is it away from the bulk of my IT assets such  that I need a WAN to access it.  For clients with highly distributed data centers this becomes a moot point since everything connects over the WAN; however, most clients have consolidated their corporate application and data centers into just a few locations.  IBM runs its corporate business in just a few data centers with SAP in just 2 of them globally.

Second is separation.  What separates the resources.  Are the solution resources separated by physical boundaries such as server, application, or database or is the solution separated by layers of software?

The trend is clearly towards SaaS where location is off premise and all the infrastructure and application components of the solution are software separated.  In a SaaS solution, it is clear you are using the SaaS providers data center of choice and not your own.  You also are accepting that the secured division of servers, network, and storage.  Even more importantly, you are accepting that your data in flight (within the application) and at rest is kept secured and separated from others including your competitor.  I have seen numerous cases where direct competitors use the same SaaS solution.  In fact, most SaaS providers count on competitors using their application to scale since you can’t build a SaaS business on single client.  Clearly, we do believe in software separation has come of age.

Software divided applications and infrastructure is becoming a the rule.  If you want to take the software divided and secured environment on premise, IBM calls it Software Defined Environment (SDE) ().  Another major player, VMware, calls it Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).  Regardless, each is an attempt to virtualize the infrastructure for more effective use of all assets.  This is good for both cost savings and for agility.  Deploying virtual infrastructure is far faster than physical.  Often clients think the value of the business case is in the cost savings, but ultimately it is found in the agility that translate into real application and business value.

So, next time someone comes to you with a hosted semi-private cloud infrastructure offering with hybrid capabilities, just ask them 2 questions.  Where is the solution residing?  What is separating the infrastructure and applications?  Concise answers will reveal a lot about the solution and you’ll have more time to do something beautiful like grow your hybrid tea roses and find PEACE.

HANA Enterprise Cloud expands to IBM

Great news, IBM is now a HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) certified vendor.  According to Bruce Otte (Otte@us.ibm.com), Director IBM Platform and Workload Services, in IBM GTS, we are now good to officially sell HANA for non-production and production. 

It [HEC] means that SAP agrees to support IBM in deploying and managing SAP HANA deployments in SCE+, both HANA stand alone and HANA with the applications running on it.  Wolfgang Knobloch (wolfgang.knobloch@de.ibm.com) [GTS Global Offering Manager, SAP Cloud Offerings]  will be coordinating the details.

This is a “certification” from SAP that is required for SAP to support production environments given by a third party, just like we have certification for running SAP in the cloud.  As we move through SCE+ release 1.4 [next release in early 2014], we will continue to increase the capabilities and management of the HANA environments.

While other vendors have made more noise in the market, IBM is more than capable of providing HANA environments at competitive features and prices.  If you have requirements, please reach out to Bruce or Wolfgang for support.

For a more general discussion of HEC, please read the following blog on SDN (http://scn.sap.com/community/services/blog/2013/09/05/hana-enterprise-cloud-hec). 

For HANA on cloud it is important to understand 2 things.  First, the client is responsible for bringing their own license often referred to as Bring Your Own License (BYOL).  Second, HANA can be run in virtualized environment such as VMWare for non-production ONLY.  For production, HANA must be run on HANA appliances which can then virtualize or host multiple HANA database instances.    Personally, I don’t consider the production architecture of HANA cloud based any more than I consider the fact that a DB2 or Oracle server can have multiple database instances today.  I guess every company is entitled to some leeway for marketing purposes.

I hate it when corporate security is correct!

My laptop runs slow due to encryption.  I can’t use public file sharing sites like dropbox, google drive, etc.  Only some of the mobile functionality is enabled on my smartphone and it is not evenly distributed by operating system such Blackberry, iOS, and Android (due to security).  I don’t even know what we do with Windows Mobile OS?  All of this overhead, oversight, and security is cramping my style and agility and they are correct!

“When everyone is out to get you, paranoia is only good thinking. – Dr. Johnny Fever – WKRP in Cincinnati.

Corporate Security was correct in their thinking.  It looks like there are not just individual criminals and some less than ethical corporations out to get our corporate secrets, but the Chinese Government is actively working to steal them.  I found the NY Times article below unnerving.

I fully understand why governments feel they have the right to protect themselves from other governments.  And I’m willing to acknowledge that technology is part of warfare, but it appears China has bonded its defense strategy to its corporate strategy.  To me, a line has been crossed.  If you want to read the full Mandiant Security report, it is available, but I don’ think you sleep any better at night.  (http://intelreport.mandiant.com/).

Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.

On the outskirts of Shanghai, in a run-down neighborhood dominated by a 12-story white office tower, sits a People’s Liberation Army base for China’s growing corps of cyberwarriors.

:

Mandiant’s report does not name the victims, who usually insist on anonymity. A 2009 attack on Coca-Cola coincided with the beverage giant’s failed attempt to acquire the China Huiyuan Juice Group for $2.4 billion, according to people with knowledge of the results of the company’s investigation.

As Coca-Cola executives were negotiating what would have been the largest foreign purchase of a Chinese company, Comment Crew [Chinese Army Hacker Unit] was busy rummaging through their computers in an apparent effort to learn more about Coca-Cola’s negotiation strategy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/technology/chinas-army-is-seen-as-tied-to-hacking-against-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

It appears to me, that if you are going to approach cloud for your corporate assets, you better be very sure that your cloud provider is as focused or even more focused on security measures as your own company.

Losses due to hacking have big dollars associated with them. According to HotForSecurity site, recent reports showed hackers earned $12.5 billion in 2011.  The top 5 incidents that were known are below.  I’m sure many others went unreported.

  1. $171 million – Sony
  2. $2.7 million – Citigroup ($4B in total losses)
  3. $2 million – Stratfor
  4. $2 million – AT&T
  5. $1 million – Fidelity Investments, Scottrade, E*Trade, Charles Schwab

http://www.hotforsecurity.com/blog/top-5-corporate-losses-due-to-hacking-1820.html

I can’t say what other cloud providers do or don’t do.  I can say that IBM, we always take security very seriously and push it down to the seemingly innocuous layers not just in the cloud data centers, but throughout the company.  And yes, that even means my laptop, iPhone, iPad, etc.  Keep in mind, it only takes one nasty e-mail or one invaded file from shared site to start the rift in your corporate security.

Yes, I still believe the future is cloud – IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.  We just need to make sure we do it responsibly.  Later, I’ll discuss what we are doing at high level with our two public cloud solutions – SmartCloud Enterprise and SmartCloud Enterprise+ – to make them secure for enterprise computing including SAP.