Putting Watson to Work


In February this year, we marked one of the most significant events in IBM’s 100 year history as Watson competed with Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge.

I was fortunate to be working with the IBM Research team months before the broadcast as they prepared Watson in a series of sparring matches against previous Jeopardy! champions. Sitting in IBM’s practice Jeopardy! set, with Watson’s racks of POWER7 servers right behind the contestants, I was struck not only by the achievement of the IBMers who had created an optimized system for natural language analytics. But, I was also impressed with the incredible enthusiasm of the people who had come to help IBM. And, that’s been my impression everywhere I’ve been this year. People love Watson, not just because it was a breakthrough in computer science, but also for the fact that it’s underlying analytics technology has limitless potential for new applications.

Watson also really came at the right time for analytics. In our latest IBM study of over three thousand CIOs, 83% said that business intelligence and analytics were at the top of their plan to increase business competitiveness over the next three to five years. Analytics topped all other priorities in the study.

Watson is a great example of workload optimized system design, combining hardware, software and domain knowledge (expertise), in this case tuned to the task of text based analytics. With its multi-core and multi-thread design and 500 gigabyte on chip memory bandwidth, POWER7 was the ideal hardware foundation for the massively parallel processing required for Watson’s complex analytics algorithms.

I wrote a white paper to explain the details Watson’s combination of POWER7 systems and IBM DeepQA software technology. It will help you to understand more about Watson’s workload optimized system design.

Using a commercially available platform like POWER7 meant that Watson’s analytics technology could be rapidly deployed to support new smarter computing solutions in many industries. We have already announced our first partnership with WellPoint to develop Watson for healthcare. As you read more about putting Watson to work, imagine how you can apply POWER7 to your next big data analytics project. As Watson demonstrated, the possibilities are endless.

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