Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

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By Lauren States
CTO, IBM Cloud Computing and Growth Initiatives

Increasingly, companies will access innovations over the Internet– from the cloud. The power of the cloud model comes from the fact that IT complexity is masked from the people who use it. Plug into the cloud and you can get the resources you need on demand. Sounds easy, right?

Not so fast. A recent GigaOm article starts with the premise “Cloud is complex – deal with it.” Author James Urquhart (@jamesurquhart) goes on to describe while cloud is a great way to worry less about your infrastructure, the problems you are eliminating may create new challenges (and opportunities). Urquhart explains the cloud as a complex system, one made of piece parts that are all interdependent and adaptive. He used three lines that stood out for me in his explanation. “Think biology. Think economics. Think ecosystems.”

At IBM, if there’s one thing we do, it is think deeply about complex systems. And we have thought for a long time about adaptive, almost biological IT systems interconnected with our businesses needs. And that’s how we think about the cloud.

In fact, IBM has been working on this since our Research division launched its own grand challenge to create “self-healing, self-protecting, self-optimizing, and self-configuring” Autonomic Computing systems in 2002.

At the time, there was a certain amount of skepticism (see this USA Today piece). But the goal then is the same goal today with cloud computing – take the complexity out of IT management so that you can become more innovative as you focus on your business goals.

IBM’s Autonomic Computing push started as an idea on an IBM researcher’s white board. Through a process of applied science, testing and rigorous real-world proofing, that initial idea spawned much of the current thinking around IT systems today.

Much of what IBM created with autonomic computing was the precursor and is the foundation for today’s cloud systems. Everything from automatic provisioning of servers to sensors for security in the network were born from this effort.

This month, with the release of last year’s U.S. patent office data, IBM became the first company to be issued more than 6,000 patents in a single year.  With a new single-year record of 6,180 patents, it marks the 19th consecutive year that IBM had earned more U.S. patents than any other company.

On its own, this is a remarkable testament of IBM’s continued dedication to advancing state of the art of technology.  But underneath the number of patents themselves is what intellectual property can achieve when it is put to work.  IBM scientists are focused on applying these innovations to solve the unique problems our clients face in every industry, from designing a better healthcare system to alleviating traffic congestion in cities.

In reviewing this year’s patent list, I can’t help but remember the early days of autonomic computing. Just as IBM Research innovations were predictive of a fundamental change in computing, I see the next advances in cloud networking (Patent # 8060878), cloud security (Patent # 7941706) and sensors in the cloud (Patent # 8041772) as having the ability to usher in a new era of computing for businesses around the world.

So while our researchers continue to push the boundaries of IT and reinvent the systems of the future, we have an opportunity to collaborate with our clients in exciting new ways that impact the future for all of us and help drive global competitiveness in the future.

After all, today’s thought could be tomorrow’s cloud.


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January 28, 2012
7:14 pm

I agree with the previous commenter about patents. If companies do patents for protection rather than as a means to launch lawsuits against other companies for the purpose of making money, then I believe that is the proper way to use patents. I have seen many seemingly frivolous lawsuits that have yielded financial settlement.

Posted by: David
January 26, 2012
11:02 am

It’s hard not to wonder about all those patents… Are they stifling real growth; mear excuses to launch lawsuits or actually protecting IBM’s intelectual property.

There has been so much on patent lawsuits in these past few years I think the process of the “patent system” is flawed. It seems many companies are using patents to make money instead of spending their time actually innovating.

I know I’m only taking one small paragraph out of the overall article but it inspired me to comment.

Posted by: John
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