Addressing Climate Change with the Cloud

February 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

Across the world the effects of pollution and climate change are impacting the way people live. From increased traffic to large-scale industrial manufacturing, the tools that have enabled economic growth now create health hazards for the citizens they benefit. Traditionally, combating these harmful elements has required reactive efforts to decrease further pollution by either limiting or quantifying the impact of human actions on air quality. While this has helped the world understand the scope of pollution and its impact on climate change, proactive action has been limited by siloed data compiled based on limited variables and historical patterns. This does not include insights from unstructured data, which makes up 80% of the world’s data. Instead, what if real time analysis of sensors, traffic cameras, weather imaging, and even satellite photography was used to cognitively understand pollution and help users make better decisions?

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Leveraging the “Agile Edge” for Innovation within a Hybrid IT Model

November 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

The agile edge capability within a Hybrid IT model is what we are calling the environment that allows for both rapid experimentation and elastic scaling to cope with exponential adoption. It enables faster IT delivery and increasing innovation from both internal employees and external partners or ecosystems. This requires major change of culture, procedures and technologies. Enterprises will need to shift away from rigid methodologies and processes to those which enable agile and collaborative development (e.g. hackathons). Besides Platforms as a Services (PaaSs), this could include the use of IBM Design Thinking (learn more here) which is based on user focused development and highlights the user experience rather than the product itself though frequent updates and feature releases. Additionally, for an enterprise with mature Agile Edge capabilities, venture funding partnerships may be created which allow new growth models.

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Digital Transformation in the Cognitive Business Era

November 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

by Russell Hargraves and Sumit Patel

Nothing is more difficult to undertake, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its outcome, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things. For the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old and lukewarm defenders amongst those who may do well under the new. Niccolo Machiavelli (1523)

The world is entering into a new era of computing that will enable the digital transformation of society and business based on the advancement and personalization of cognitive computing. Cognitive computing systems learn and interact naturally with people to extend what either a human or machine could do on their own. Cognitive systems like IBM Watson are redefining society, business and human interaction in the increasingly pervasive digital economy by helping everyone and everything make better decisions.

Today, the world is being rewritten in software code igniting the explosion of big data enabled by apps, mobile devices, social networks and the internet of things (IoT) ushering in the new Cognitive era. The cloud and the emergence of the industrial hybrid cloud are the platforms on which the new digital builders, developers, business professionals, governments and individuals are reimagining everything from education, banking, retail, healthcare, transportation and beyond as seen in the figure below.
Variety of devices in the Internet of Things (IoT)

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Understanding Non-core Projects within OpenStack

October 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

OpenStack projects are an important part of the greater OpenStack vision. Projects can be thought of as subcomponents covering various parts of the cloud environment and are known more commonly by names such as nova for compute, neutron for networking, or cinder for block storage. The focus is more about tying together resources from a software level, while vendors such as IBM focus on enabling their infrastructure to be OpenStack compliant. As this is open source, projects follow a self-organized model where a designated Project Team Lead (PTL) seeks to carry out a vision of the project in the sense that complete functionality is delivered. Before I had a chance to take part in an IBM OpenStack Dojo a few weeks back, I had always assumed these projects were tightly coupled meaning that an ideal OpenStack implementation couldn’t have one component without another, but I’m beginning to realize this was incorrect.

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Embracing Shadow IT and Disruptive “as a Service” Technologies

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

In a great article posted here, author Mike Foden, makes a point about the “waves of change” facing the IT industry. Just as how Amazon disrupted the brick and mortar booksellers and music stores, and Google and Apple changed the face of mobile, as a service technologies are poised to disrupt traditional IT as we know it.

as-a-Service functionality

Key features associated with as-a-Service technologies

I believe this will be true not only for IT vendors (see Mike’s article for more information about this), but those who manage internal IT teams as well. Why should an internal customer face delayed infrastructure provisioning times or the politics associated with procuring software licenses when they can swipe a credit card and have access to the latest software and support? This practice of bypassing internal IT teams to get access to the needed tools is known as Shadow IT and it is typically associated with using software as a service (SaaS) technologies . It should be noted that there are often Shadow IT users running infrastructure as a service (IaaS) without approval, but it is becoming increasingly common with lines of businesses who no longer have to rely on traditional IT for procurement, deployment, or even support as using a SaaS often means these elements are managed by the external vendors.

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Using PaaS to Understand the Value of Services

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Like Randy and Russell, I recently had the opportunity to join a Bluemix Bootcamp at Galvanize in San Francisco. Some of the topics we covered included extreme programming, IBM Design Thinking, and obviously, Bluemix. One of my favorite topics in this class was node red which is a GUI based drag and drop framework involving nodes and flows. This is a built in boiler plate in Bluemix and basically you can think of it as snippets of code (in nodes) which are connected by lines (flows) which indicate how information passes from one element to the next (see image below for a sample app). This style of developing code made sense to me as I was able to design each node as an object containing basic functionality and reuse it in multiple applications. You still need some coding background to develop robust functionality, but for the most part it was a better way to be introduced (or re-introduced) to code rather than using a text editor.

Node Red App with Nodes and Flows

Related to the overall theme of the class, I enjoyed using the services within Bluemix because it was so simple to increase the capabilities of your code. As an example, one of the apps we built in the class was a basic application which analyzed the sentiment of WordPress commenters (don’t worry, not implemented on this site… yet). Since my application did not initially contain a database element, I assumed that a fair bit of coding would be required to set up a database within Bluemix and then connect it to my application. Instead, I was presently surprised that it took one drag and drop and three clicks; since Cloudant is already built in to Bluemix, I dragged the node into my application space, clicked it to edit, and another click to save the information. Within seconds, data from WordPress was being saved into the Cloudant database I had set up just minutes before (in the image below, my service was the Cloudant database I set up and the database field is where I entered the name of my new database where I wanted this information inserted).

Cloudant Form with Fields for Database Name

Platforms like Bluemix are always marketed for the ability to help enterprises innovate, but I didn’t appreciate how easy it can be to prototype new ideas until I had this hands on experience. As an example, by the fifth day of the class, we had a 4 hour hackathon where the following applications were built (or very close to being completely built) and presented:

  • An image uploading service which uses Cloudant to store the image and a Watson service to identify element of the picture
  • A calorie counting application which allows user to select what they ate from a sample menu and receive a text message containing their total calorie counts
  • A question and answer service which users could use to ask basic health questions and receive answers (powered by Watson).

I have always understood that using Platforms as a Service (PaaSs) means not having to worry about infrastructure and therefore one can focus on developing, but I think the greater value was the third party services and tools which are supported by the platform. As these services accomplish basic tasks and you are simply bringing them together to accomplish something greater, it becomes easier to think in terms of composable development. From a Bluemix perspective, services meant using built in Watson capabilities or Twilio to send and receive text messages, but third party APIs are also important (note I’m using the terms API and service interchangeably based on the idea that all APIs are services, but not all services are APIs – for more information on this specifically see this link)

From an enterprise perspective, the main point becomes how are key internal services being exposed to their developers so they can create innovative applications? As an example, if a bank has a rewards system for their customers, the service used to manage and use points could be published so that developers could create mobile peer to peer payment apps (i.e. pay a friend with points). There are obviously many things to think about before internal services are opened up for use (security will be the primary concern), but from my experience this week, I feel that exposing these capabilities is key in allowing the greatest innovation.

As more companies adopt PaaSs, I think the quality and quantity of services available for use will determine the value this technology brings from an innovation standpoint.

Using OpenStack Trove for On-Premise DBaaS

August 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

One of the basic elements of cloud computing is flexibility in deploying resources as needed within hours if not minutes. With database as a service (DBaaS), the concept of flexible deployment extended to non-infrastructure elements of the stack including software. While there are already numerous DBaaS providers which host multiple types of databases off premises, the question of on premises database deployment for cloud infrastructure has been answered more so by patterns or images which require a decent amount of configuration before a working database image is available for end users. In addition to the pre-deployment work, on-going database monitoring requires some understanding of the underlying VM (i.e. how to scale or network with other VMs for clustering) which may defeat the purpose of a DBaaS for users who didn’t want to worry about the infrastructure to begin with.

OpenStack Trove Architecture Overview « Read the rest of this entry »