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IBM Elastic Storage brings a touch of Watson to big data

Potentially bigger than the sum of its parts
Mon May 12 2014, 15:23
ibms-watson-supercomputer

IBM HAS ANNOUNCED a portfolio of what it called "Software Defined Storage" products based partially on the software that its supercomputer Watson used to beat all comers on a US TV game show.

One product, Elastic Storage, works on the principles of using virtualisation techniques to pool all the available data across multiple systems, arranging it into virtual systems on a user by user basis.

As well as providing pooling and virtualising, Elastic Storage also allows the storage to be moved around to prioritise data that is often used into faster storage such as flash solid-state disk (SSD) drives, while moving less frequently accessed data to slower archive hard disks.

IBM believes that this technique can cut the cost of storage by up to 90 percent. Its research team recently demonstrated scanning 10 billion files inside 43 minutes, with the limit of the scale involved stretching to a yottabyte, or a trillion terabytes, more than the contents of every human brain on the planet, since a human brain is said to hold around 2.5 terabytes.

The potential uses for the software are many. While Watson's appearance on Jeopardy was something of a gimmick, it highlighted the machine's capabilities for recalling facts quickly and expressing them in understandable ways.

It is almost inevitable that Elastic Storage will be integrated into either a new or an existing personal digital assistant such as Google Now or Siri, or even the newly acquired Intel Ginger.

Whichever one gets there first will have a serious advantage, with enough speed and power behind it to search the entire world's knowledge in seconds and present answers in understandable ways. µ

 

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