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Frank De Gilio, Distinguished Engineer, Chief Cloud Architect, IBM

By Frank De Gilio

Patent achievements like the ones we announced yesterday are truly meaningful, but they are about more than metrics and milestones. Beyond the numbers is a vision for the future and a commitment to making that vision a reality by advancing the necessary science and technology.

We’ve long known that to serve our clients means more than delivering products and services they need today. It requires looking two, five, even 10 years down the road to see what challenges and opportunities will emerge that can and must be addressed. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said, the goal is to skate where they puck is going to be, not where it’s been.

Because of this perspective on what’s important for driving long-standing client value, one of our major priorities throughout our 100+ year history has been to make investments in innovation and invention. Currently we invest in people and facilities for research ranging across everything from materials science to cognitive computing, focused on advancing the technology needed to support emerging cloud, mobile, social media, Big Data and analytics, and security applications and workloads.

Some of those investments are focused on specific emerging issues. Last year IBM inventors received a patent for an invention designed to enhance the use of analytics for assessing and directing data in a cloud computing environment, enabling more timely and efficient application processing and management. More and more data is being processed and stored in cloud environments, and not all data is equal – some requires more resources and attention. So this invention creates an “express lane” for data and tasks that can be managed quickly and easily, while channeling data requiring more handling down a path where it will get the attention it requires.

Applications range from sensor-based highway toll collection systems, where some license plates images may be harder to analyze than others because of lighting, camera issues, etc. to analysis of audio files in a call center (“This call may be monitored or recorded for quality-control purposes…”), where some files may contain background noise or other audio quality issues that require more processing. This invention could begin showing up in our products and offerings in the not-to-distant future, most likely as part of our InfoSphere Streams software offering.

Other research efforts are focused on challenges that are larger and more abstract. For example, last year we announced a $3-billion investment over the next five years in two broad research programs to push the limits of chip technology needed to meet the emerging demands of cloud computing and Big Data systems. These applications are placing new challenges on systems – bandwidth, memory, high-speed communication and power consumption — at the very same time underlying chip technology is facing numerous significant physical scaling limits. .

The first research program is aimed at so-called “7 nanometer and beyond” silicon technology that will address serious physical challenges that are threatening current semiconductor scaling techniques and will impede the ability to manufacture such chips. The second is focused on developing alternative technologies for post-silicon era chips using entirely different approaches, which IBM scientists and other experts say are required because of the physical limitations of silicon based semiconductors.

Whether we’re peeking around the corner or peering into the distance, we’re not simply inventing for the sake of invention – we’re investing in innovation to help prepare our clients for whatever the future may bring.

Follow De Gilio on twitter at @degilio.

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