IBM Opens Up Watson, and More Importantly, Watson’s Data Stores

Loraine Lawson
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Big Data: Not Just for Big Business Anymore

Is there really any point in talking about anything other than Watson today?

Watson Is Going To Be Open For Public Use on the Cloud BAM!” tweeted James Governor, a.k.a. Monkchips of RedMonk, today. That about sums it up.

If you’ve read about the new announcement, you’ve probably heard that this is about cloud computing and making Watson widely available to developers with APIs. That’s a pretty significant testimony for cloud computing, when you consider something as simple and easy as API can now leverage the computing power of one of the most famed and powerful supercomputers ever.


This is a huge cloud power play, aimed at challenging Amazon Web Service’s current domination in cloud computing.

IBM sent their complete—and incredibly comprehensive—press package last night under a non-disclosure agreement. So I perused IBM’s package last night, and I waited to check out the news coverage today.

I was a surprised at how much the discussion focused on computing power.

That’s not to say the computing power isn’t a key part of Watson, but as CNBC points out, Amazon and Google are still innovating. Amazon is still very much a major cloud computing powerhouse, maybe still the main powerhouse.

No, two facets of this announcement strike me as even bigger news for everybody:

  1. Cognitive Computing—Watson is leaner, meaner and more scalable, but what really differentiates the cognitive computing? Watson was designed to do something no other computing systems can do so well: Provide an answer to a question. In a world overloaded by data and thousands of ways of viewing the data, I can’t help but think that actually being able to have specific answers to specific questions in natural language is a big deal for data and analytics.

    As IBM points out, it has already used this computing approach to improve patient care and operational efficiency for health care.

    I doubt it will be easily duplicated, either. IBM has been refining Watson for 14 years, and the system relies on 40 different technologies, according to GigoOm’s Derrick Harris.

    If you want further details, PC World has the best discussion about Cognitive Computing and how it will change computing.
  2. Data—You want Big Data? Watson has it. You want to add your data? It can do that, too. The news coverage of this event didn’t dwell on this nearly enough, in my humble opinion. But IBM does, and it’s clear from their focus around this announcement that they see Watson’s Content Store as a major selling point:

    “Since Big Data is the fuel that powers Watson's capabilities, IBM will give app providers the option to use their own data, or provide them with access to the IBM Watson Content Store, which can supply data-rich content that—when crunched by Watson—can augment an app's capabilities.

It adds that Watson’s Content Store features “third-party content that offers data-rich resources that can fuel Watson’s ever expanding knowledge.”

It’ll be interesting to see what the next few days reveal as analysts and consultants delve beyond the “power computing” story to really explore what this could mean for data and how we turn it into information.



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