IBM: AI 101

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A recent article from Tech Crunch by Devin Coldewey highlights an RFI response from IBM regarding artificial intelligence (AI). Mr. Coldewey writes, “The field of artificial intelligence is so huge, and the potential applications so numerous, that it would be folly to try to explain it all in one — no, wait, IBM just did.” Today we will look at some of the highlights from IBM’s response.

First, artificial intelligence vs. augmented intelligence. IBM prefers to speak to augmented intelligence which is the process of creating systems that enhance and scale human expertise rather than systems that attempt to replicate human intelligence.  IBM further describes their approach as cognitive computing or “a comprehensive set of capabilities based on technologies such as machine learning, reasoning and decision technologies; language, speech and vision technologies; human interface technologies; distributed and high-performance computing; and new computing architectures and devices. When purposefully integrated, these capabilities are designed to solve a wide range of practical problems, boost productivity, and foster new discoveries across many industries.”

How is AI currently being used?  IBM provides the follow highlights by industry:

  • Healthcare – AI is advancing precision medicine through its ability to “ingest” patient information and run it against vast stores of medical research
  • Social Services – AI can be used to predict resource needs from specific population groups
  • Education – AI provides new capabilities to design true personalized learning plans
  • Financial Services – AI is being used to ensure financial resources are utilized well. This can come from the advancement of the applicant approval process or through efficient weighing and processing of insurance needs against risk, costs and regulations

In particular for IBM what started as a contestant on Jeopardy, IBM Watson, is now full blown cognitive computing that can be applied to practical problems in a variety of industries.

Next week, we will feature more on the blog from IBM’s AI 101. Be sure to check back. Until then you can also read more on AI and cognitive computing here.

The Olympics in the Cloud

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With the 2016 Olympics in Rio fast approaching, today, let’s take a look at how cloud computing  is impacting athletes around the world and the fans who cheer them on.

First, staying steady is everything when it comes to archery and this summer fans will be able to see in real-time the archer’s heart rate as they take aim, according to the official news outlet for the Rio 2016 Games.  Wearables used for payment will also be part of Olympic venues. Visa is working with a Brazilian bank on not only a bracelet for fans but also a “payment ring” which will be given and used by 45 sponsored athletes. Finally, to support the technology needs of the games, the official IT partner of the Olympic games has been working to migrate many of its operations to the cloud to reduce its hardware needs.  For example, they expect to have 250 servers for Rio down from 719 servers used during the London 2012 games.

Laura Gargolinski for IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud writes, “even more interesting is the way cloud technology is revolutionizing the way athletes (whether they are Rio-bound, or just regular people like you and me) eat, sleep, and train to improve their overall health, eliminate injury, and achieve optimum performance.”  In her article she highlights Team USA Cycling which has developed an application that provides real-time data analytics to cyclists while they workout or train.  IBM’s application allows the cyclist to make “on-the-spot” adjustments so they can optimize performance.  Even “regular” athletes as she describes herself, an avid runner, can take advantage of cloud-powered apps that track and help plan your training regime.

Cloud technology not only supports apps and wearables that allow athletes to perform better but it also opens up new experiences for fans and helps to make supporting tech operations more efficient.

IBM Shares The 3 “Cs” of Big Data

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There are the “Vs” of big data: volume, variety, velocity and veracity, but also Chris Nott of IBM in a recent article introduces us to the three “Cs” of big data. What are they? Confidence, context and choice. Today let’s look at his explanations on what each of the “Cs” mean.

Confidence.  Big data comes from many sources and most of the time to be useful it must be combined. Combining data is not an exact science.  There can be different data formats, definitions and variations in which the data is managed or stored. But, Mr. Nott points out a “confidence level” can be assigned so that leaders making decisions with the data can judge the quality and risk associated with the results. He adds, “the level of confidence that is acceptable is a judgment that a business needs to make based on the risk and effect of actions. And that judgment is a balance between what might result from poor decisions that arise from inaccurate data and the cost of making improvements in the provision of data.”

Context.  Big data grows fast and moves fast within an organization. Context is important not only for delivering the right information to the right person but also for granting the right access to the right person. Mr. Nott writes, “Understanding context requires understanding who is asking the question and why. And part of that grasp includes the role of the person, where that person is asking the question, what the questioner is trying to do and the purpose to which the results will be applied.”

Choice. There are a variety of tools and platforms available to crunch big data. IT must examine each tool and determine if it fits the purpose and needs of the business user. This “choice” is not one-size-fits-all and should be weighed against each groups’ needs as well as the organization’s governance policies so users have confidence in the platform choice that is offered.

The 3 “Cs” of big data help users develop a trust level with the data by first allowing them to understand the risks (confidence), then knowing the data is being delivered with their needs in mind (context) and finally being confident that they are utilizing a reliable set of tools.

3C's of Big Data - IBM

What’s Next for Big Data in Healthcare

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“Big Data will leave no sector untouched as it continues to change the way we think about everything from sales to human resources, and medicine and healthcare are no different,” writes Bernard Marr for Forbes.

Handling data is nothing new to the healthcare industry.  But, in recent years, increased abilities to share and access data plus new data from sensors and wearables has created not only more data but better data according to Mr. Marr.  In his article he outlines several ways big data will make an impact:

Prevention.  Mr. Marr writes, “smartphones and other popular smart devices including Jawbone, Fitbit and others, now have the capacity to help people track their progress towards a healthier lifestyle. Apps and devices to help track and monitor physical fitness but also chronic ailments like diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease are also being developed.”  Not only do these devices track more data but this data can be more reliable than traditional patient led tracking and reporting methods.

Diagnosis. Improvements are being made to how big data is stored and shared in the healthcare industry with the goal of  bringing medical providers more access. Systems, such as IBM’s Watson, are also looking at test results, recognizing patterns and learning in order to aid in diagnostics and improve early detection.

Treatment.  To get to more personalized medicine and better patient  treatments you first have to start big, as in big data.  The results of big data analytics, predictive modeling and new systems crunching vast amounts of information will help to better inform doctors about the needs of each patient.

Big data is definitely a “game changer” for the healthcare industry both now and in the future.

CIO Big Data Obstacles

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“Most CIOs and other senior IT executives believe their companies are not prepared to make full use of the waves of data coming into their organization” Bain Insights leaders Steve Berez, Paul Callahan and Rasmus Wegener report for Forbes.

Big data, when accessible, can lead to more meaningful and actionable insights, but there is also the management and processing of that data behind-the-scenes and that is the place where many companies feel they are not quite ready.  Bain Insights finds that consolidating and cleaning data, simplifying access and rights management and improving access to external data sources are all commonly cited by CIOs as big data obstacles.  These are pretty specific but there are also cultural obstacles that are playing a role and sometimes even preventing some companies from working towards using big data.

Here are the culture or mindset obstacles that companies face with big data as identified by Bain Insights:

  • Owners of the data (business) and stewards of the data (IT) still make decisions with little interaction or understanding of the other group’s needs
  • IT focuses on storing and securing data versus focusing on getting data to the right hands for gaining insights
  • The company continues to apply old processes to new challenges and needs

How to overcome? One recommendation is to form closer relationships between business and technology teams. Once a relationship is established, balance business priorities with the technology investments that help productivity long-term.  DataOps is the term Bain Insights uses, “a DataOps mentality focuses the organization on improving the way that business leaders, data scientists and IT managers work together to discover insights.”

Share what big data obstacles your company faces? Does your company also have to make a mindset shift in order to capitalize on big data?

Current Cloud Trends

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In Monday’s blog post, we discussed why small and medium-sized businesses should consider the cloud, especially when it comes to data protection and disaster recovery. Today, let’s again look at a recent cloud trends webinar featuring Joe Lyden, Evolving Solutions Cloud Sales Specialist, and James Keating III, Evolving Solutions Business Technology Architect. Below we focus on what the key trends are in the marketplace.

Some current cloud trends of note are:

  • A growing focus on management of Amazon Web Services (AWS) workloads by traditional co-location providers. Companies who at one time may have been seen as AWS competitors are actually now offering AWS management
  • Public cloud vendors: “a two-horse race.” Network World reported Gartner research showing that Amazon and Microsoft Azure are by far the clear dominant players in the public IaaS market
  • People want to talk cloud. The Evolving Solutions team, as James Keating points out in the webinar, is seeing this first hand. More companies have someone who is responsible for cloud and Gartner reports that 6 out of 10 Fortune 500 companies have hired or are looking to hire a director-level person to oversee cloud strategy
  • Cloud as part of the technology tool belt.  No longer is cloud consider “new” or “something for that project in the future,” instead the cloud is seen as a standard tool that the technology team can tap to improve current operations, meet new demands and drive innovation

Here are also specific use-cases our team is seeing. First, more businesses are turning to the cloud for disaster recovery, because disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) provides businesses more protection and resiliency at an affordable, pay-as-you-go price. More businesses are also looking for an integrated monitoring service – cloud and on-premise systems together. Finally, businesses are also developing what we call a “private hybrid.” In other words, companies are asking what applications work best on-premise and which applications work best in the cloud without intention to bursting into the cloud. This is neither a true hybrid or public cloud.  This scenario is what our James calls, “a private cloud with a side of public cloud storage or backups.”

Want to talk more about how current cloud trends are shaping up and what that might mean to your company? Contact Evolving Solutions to discuss. You can also listen to Joe and James’ full cloud trends webinar here.

Why SMBs Should Consider the Cloud

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Last month Joe Lyden, Evolving Solutions Cloud Sales Specialist, and James Keating III, Evolving Solutions Business Technology Architect, discussed current cloud trends during a lunch webinar. Over the next two blog posts, we will look at several parts of that discussion. Today, let’s focus on cloud solutions for data protection and important factors for cloud success.

How important is your data?

  • 81% of companies that have experience an outage in the past 2 years were down for more than 2 days
  • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster
  • 51% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) have an IT business continuity plan in place. Flip that number and it could mean that 49% are not fully prepared
  • $10,000 is the estimated average cost of a single data loss incident

In today’s marketplace where you are expected to be “on” 24/7, data protection and business continuity are key to staying competitive.  Through the cloud, SMBs can now more than ever access cutting-edge, reliable data protection, disaster recovery and business continuity solutions at an affordable price point. Disaster recovery as a service is becoming an important and affordable entry point for many businesses when it comes to cloud adoption.

Small and medium-sized businesses especially are stretched when it comes to time and resources, but in today’s marketplace you are still expected to provide reliable, always on service. Cloud solutions allow SMBs to do just that – providing any-sized businesses with enterprise-class technology.

Take a step back.  The cloud is “not magic pixie dust” as Joe Lyden points out in the webinar.  Just like with other technology projects, you must have a clear cloud strategy, specific objectives and a clear understanding of what will integrate well. Testing is also extremely important.  The right cloud partner can help SMBs navigate cloud solutions available and weigh in on what would work best for your situation.

Look for our next blog post on Wednesday, April 27th where we will cover current cloud trends. You can also listen to Joe and James’ full Cloud Trends webinar here.

Business Phones Moving to the Cloud

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More and more businesses are looking to the cloud for phone lines and to support mobile.  In his article on Inc., “Why Traditional Products Are Moving to the Cloud Faster Than Ever,” Chirag Kulkarni walks us through why this change is happening, and if you haven’t, why you should consider cloud.

Mr. Kulkarni reports that “cloud apps are expected to make up 90% of all mobile data within the next few years.”  Why the move? First, what started as a few early adopters has now with ever better technology become an every day conversation at the water cooler. Cloud solutions are now part of the normal make-up of IT and teams in every industry are looking for how to bring cloud benefits to every aspect of their business -even the traditional phone.

Why consider cloud phone solutions? Mr. Kulkarni outlines the following reasons:

Your business operates in multiple locations. Cloud phone solutions allow your company to use the same product at every location, allowing for more integration, reliability and an increased ability to scale as you expand and grow.

Your business has become increasingly mobile. Whether it is your employees or your customers, mobile has become a touch and access point for many organizations. Cloud phone solutions can provide better mobile integration.

Finally, you should consider cloud phone solutions, because you have a tight budget. Now what IT team doesn’t face a tight budget? This is where cloud solutions can really make a difference. For some organizations going it alone requires not only money but also expertise. With cloud solutions you can tap into leading solutions that provide reliable service at an as-you-need-it pricing model. In the specific case of phone service, Mr. Kulkarni points out, “traditional phone networks require you to put forward thousands of dollars upfront, and you may not receive the benefits of this system for many months to come. Cloud phone systems are incredibly cheap to install because they’re fully scalable.”

Cloud solutions are not just for that “big project” you are planning. Instead, cloud solutions can now be applied to the everyday operations within your organization.

It’s Here: IBMi 7.3

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“From the web interface used to order a birthday gift to the mobile interface used for paying bills, companies need modern capabilities like cloud solutions and deeper analytics to run their businesses in a secure environment,” writes Alison Butterill for IBM System’s In the Making blog.  Companies across all industries have a long history of turning to IBM i on Power Systems to meet their needs.

And just last week, IBM announced the release of IBMi  7.3.  Ms. Butterill reports the new release will allow you to better:

  • Conduct accurate analysis of data within a specific historical time period and provide an outlet to compare the insights against current data with DB2 for i temporal support.
  • Analyze data to plan ahead and build new strategies that improve business operations with newly enhanced OLAP functionality.
  • Optimize system management and security with the security authority collection.


IBM i 7.3Chief Architect for IBM i operating systems, Steve Will, also discusses the IBMi  7.3 release for IBM Systems Magazine. In his article, he writes the new release will have features that simplify insight, provide intelligent security and bring new open source options to developers.  Mr. Will provides several links to bloggers who dig deeper into each aspect of the new release. Here are the articles of note:

  • For more on IBMi 7.3 DB2 enhancements such as temporal support and OLAP functions, check out Mike Cain’s post on DB2fori blog.
  • Dawn May on IBM Systems Magazine dives into the security enhancements for 7.3, specifically the Authority Collection feature
  • IBM Business Architect for Application Development, Tim Rowe, takes a developer’s look at new integration with open source on System i Developers blog

Are you interested in talking specifically about what IBMi 7.3 can bring to your business? Contact our team at Evolving Solutions.

In the News: Digital Transformation

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Digital TransformationAs digital technology touches more aspects of our business operations it not only changes the way businesses interact with customers but can also completely change the business model.  Supporting these changes are IT systems and operations, utilizing cloud, mobile and big data to drive innovation.

Ann Bednarz writes for Computerworld, “tech pros are at the center of these changing business models that blend digital and physical worlds in order to better serve customers, drive revenue and increase productivity.”  How can your own IT team be proactive and take the lead on digital transformation?

First, recognize that some of these changes are taking place outside of IT, such as mobile, social media or cloud. Don’t automatically be afraid and throw up roadblocks, instead become a strategic partner that listens to the challenges and lends IT expertise to overcome. Ms. Bednarz article points out that the ongoing challenge for IT is to ensure a partnership with business.  Look for ways to be part of the strategic conversations and lend your technology expertise to drive innovation.

Dion Hinchcliffe of ZDNet recommends looking to early pioneers of digital transformation, “I believe that most organizations can learn enough from the pioneers and their successful experiments, to pull together a plan of action that will work for them.”  What can you learn from how these digital leaders operate and the choices they make?  Mr. Hinchcliffe notes that from his own study one thing he has learn from early adopters is that the ones who are successful with digital transformation don’t focus on any one technology, he writes, “instead, they fundamentally rethink the business by exploring the fresh potential that the digital world enables.”

Share what digital plans are in the works at your company and what role is your team taking in the conversations.