12.27.2010

An inside look at the Power behind IBM Watson

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Tilak Agerwala, Vice President, Systems, IBM Research.

The IBM POWER7 processor behind Watson is specifically designed to meet the demands of workloads, like IBM’s DeepQA natural language processing technology. POWER7 is an ideal system for running thousands of analytical tasks at once, which is what the Watson Deep QA software requires. In order to answer a Jeopardy question in under 3 seconds, the system run thousands of breakthrough analytical tasks at once.

Watson uses POWER7 to deliver massive parallelism of multiple complex tasks that execute simultaneously on individual processor threads. Watson relies on multiple IBM Power 750 servers clustered together, each with four processor sockets with eight POWER7 cores per socket, and four threads per core. Combined, they make a workload optimized system that can answer questions posed in natural language in seconds. No other system in the world can do this.

While the Power 750 server provides excellent capabilities to support the IBM Watson Deep QA software, the Power 750 server was not specially designed for Watson. In fact, the same Power 750 servers are ideal for running many types of analytical tasks and available today to help answer practical business challenges across many industries, such as healthcare, financial services, and call center environments.

Power Systems Driving Progress for a Smarter Planet



Rice University in Houston uses IBM Power 755 systems for their cancer research. The challenge for Rice was to accelerate the understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies. The researchers used POWER7 systems to provide more flexibility and efficiency in how they analyzed a range of problems.

“The POWER7 architecture has enabled us to pursue a broader range of research problems on a single system than was possible before.” – Dr. B. Kim Andrews, manager of Research Computing.

At GHY International, a customs brokerage firm in Canada, they needed to be better prepared for clients increasing engagement in international trading. GHY needed to quickly deploy new services – and the infrastructure to support those services. So they migrated to a new Power 750 running Power AIX, Power i and Power Linux. And with PowerVM virtualization, they were able to deploy new capabilities in as little as five minutes to support their new-found growth.

Nigel Fortlage, vice president of IT, said that with PowerVM they went from spending 95 percent of their time managing or reacting to their environment, to now only 5 percent.

Today, Power Systems based on POWER7 processors are already helping thousands of businesses deliver services faster, with higher quality, and superior economics. By harnessing the processing prowess of POWER7, Watson and IBM DeepQA give businesses a new dimension in how to solve their most-complex challenges.

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