Wednesday, October 21, 2015

IBM Watson for China would power sales of POWER8 chips and servers

China becomes battleground between IBM and Intel for server business

According to an article in the New York Times entitled "IBM Venture With China Stirs Concerns," IBM is planning to provide a 100% Chinese server solution via a company called Beijing Teamsun Technology.  They are doing this through the OpenPOWER Foundation, an institution through which IBM is offering licenses to its POWER8 chip-and-server technology.  This has stirred some controversy.

Watson, IBM’s “cognitive computer,” originally ran on POWER7-based servers and has now been enhanced by running on POWER8-based systems.

A week ago, on October 14th, IBM announced that it was launching its Bluemix development platform in China, in collaboration with local firm 21Vianet.  “The open-standards-based Bluemix catalog includes over 120 tools and services spanning categories of big data, mobile, Watson, analytics, integration, DevOps, security and Internet of Things."

So it’s in IBM’s interest to release its Watson instances in China, and to help Chinese developers develop Watson-based apps using the Bluemix platform, since they’ll need POWER8-based servers to optimize their performance.  Does making Watson technology available to the Chinese threaten any vital American interests?  Will Watson be put to use by malicious Chinese hackers interested in penetrating American and other cyber-defenses?  IBM Watson Ecosystem partner SparkCognition has built a system using Watson to defend against cyber-intrusion.  Could similar Watson-powered programs be developed by the Chinese using IBM development tools to protect Chinese networks and data assets against American and other entities’ cyber-attacks?

According to an article in Forbes, IBM is making its inner workings transparent to the Chinese so that they (the Chinese) can be satisfied that the systems don’t contain malicious hardware, firmware, or software that would compromise Chinese national security.  Intel, its great competitor in the race to provide the Chinese digital infrastructure, has, according to this same article, refused to open the “black box” of its chip technology.

The Chinese developing indigenous server technology is not the only instance of the U.S. Government being deprived of potential access to others’ data.  Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has been adamant in his stance that Apple product users’ data should be under their exclusive control, despite pleas by NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers to allow more access by government surveillance agencies.


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