IBM invests in Dublin stream computing R&D centre

14 May 2009

IBM is championing a new form of ‘stream computing’ software that enables massive amounts of data to be analysed in real time, delivering extremely fast, accurate insights to enable smarter business decision-making.

To support the new breed of software, the company yesterday opened the IBM European Stream Computing Centre, headquartered in Dublin, that will serve as a hub of research, customer support and advanced testing for what is expected to be a growing base of European clients who wish to apply stream computing to their most challenging business problems.

The new software, entitled IBM System S, will be used by the Marine Institute of Ireland, for example, which plans to better understand fragile marine ecosystems. As a core component of this collaboration, a real-time distributed stream analytical fabric for environmental monitoring and management is under development.

Acting on large volumes of underwater acoustic data and processing it in real-time, the institute extracts useful information such as species identification of marine life, population count and location.

Future extensions to the analytics platform, using acoustic data sampled at alternate frequencies might allow correlation and modelling in areas such as weather and marine traffic, extending the value of the recently announced SmartBay project.

IBM is also making System S trial code available at no cost to help clients better understand the software’s capabilities and how they can take advantage of it for their business. This trial code includes developer tools, adapters and software to test applications.

System S is built for perpetual analytics – using a new streaming architecture and breakthrough mathematical algorithms, to create a forward-looking analysis of data from any source – narrowing down precisely what people are looking for and continuously refining the answer as additional data is made available.

For example, System S can analyse hundreds or thousands of simultaneous data streams – stock prices, retail sales, weather reports etc – and deliver nearly instantaneous analysis to business leaders who need to make split-second decisions.

The software can help all organisations that need to react to changing conditions in real time, such as government and law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, retailers, transportation companies, healthcare organizations, and more.

“System S software is another example of IBM helping clients through our long-term investments in business analytics and advanced mathematics,” said Dr John E Kelly III, IBM senior vice-president and director of IBM Research.

“The ability to manage and analyse incoming data in real time, and use it to make smarter decisions, can help businesses and other enterprises differentiate themselves.”

The enormous potential of this technology represents a significant advancement in information technology: using computers to rapidly analyse multiple streams of diverse, unstructured and incompatible data sources in real time, enabling very fast, accurate and insightful decisions.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and instrumented, the amount of data is skyrocketing – not just structured information found in databases – but unstructured, incompatible data captured from electronic sensors, web pages, email, blogs and video.

By 2010, the amount of digital information is expected to reach 988 exabytes, roughly the equivalent of a stack of books stretching from the Sun to Pluto and back.

Traditional computing models retrospectively analyse stored data and cannot continuously process massive amounts of incoming data streams that affect critical decision-making. System S is designed to help clients become more ‘real-world aware’, seeing and responding to changes across complex systems.

This first-of-a-kind software platform features a combination of more than 20 years of IBM information management expertise, five years of development by IBM Research, and more than 200 patents to create a powerful high-performance computing system that is adaptable to run on a variety of hardware.

By John Kennedy