At IBM Think, Watson Expands “Anywhere”

At IBM Think in February, IBM made several announcements around the expansion of Watson’s availability and capabilities, framing these announcements as the launch of “Watson Anywhere.” This piece is intended to provide guidance to data analysts, data scientists, and analytic professionals seeking to implement machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities and evaluating the capabilities of IBM Watson’s AI and machine learning services for their data.

Announcements

IBM declared that Watson is now available “anywhere” – both on-prem and in any cloud configuration, whether private, public, singular, multi-cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment. Data that needs to remain in place for privacy and security reasons can now have Watson microservices act on it where it resides. The obstacle of cloud vendor lock-in can be avoided by simply bringing the code to the data instead of vice versa. This ubiquity is made possible via a connector from IBM Cloud Private for Data that makes these services available via Kubernetes containers. New Watson services that will be available via this connector include Watson Assistant, IBM’s virtual assistant, and Watson OpenScale, an AI operation and automation platform.

Watson OpenScale is an environment for managing AI applications that puts IBM’s Trust and Transparency principles into practice around machine learning models. It builds trust in these models by providing explanations of how said models come to the conclusions that they do, permitting visibility into what’s seen as a “black box” by making their processes auditable and traceable. OpenScale also claims the ability to automatically identify and mitigate bias in models, suggesting new data for model retraining. Finally, OpenScale also provides monitoring capabilities of AI in production, validating ongoing model accuracy and health from a central management console.

Watson Assistant lets organizations build conversational bot interfaces into applications and devices. When interacting with end users, it can perform searches of relevant documentation, ask the user for further clarification, or redirect the user to a person for sufficiently complex queries. Its availability as part of Watson Anywhere permits organizations to implement and run virtual assistants in clouds outside of the IBM Cloud.

These new services join other Watson services currently available via the IBM Cloud Private for Data connector including Watson Studio and Watson Machine Learning, IBM’s programs for creating and deploying machine learning models. Additional Watson services being made available for Watson Anywhere later this year include Watson Knowledge Studio and Watson Natural Language Understanding.

In addition, IBM also announced IBM Business Automation with Watson, a future AI capability that will permit businesses to further automate existing work processes by analyzing patterns in workflows for commonly repeated tasks. Currently, this capability is available via limited early access; general availability is anticipated later in 2019.

Recommendations

Organizations seeking to analyze data “in place” have a new option with Watson services now accessible outside of the IBM Cloud. Data that must remain where it is for security and privacy reasons can now have Watson analytics processes brought to it via a secure container, whether that data resides on-prem or in any cloud, not just the IBM cloud. This opens the possibility of using Watson to enterprises in regulated industries like finance, government, and healthcare, as well as in departments where governance and auditability are core requirements, such as legal and HR.

With the IBM Cloud Private for Data connector enabling Watson Anywhere, companies now have a net-new reason to consider IBM products and services in their data workflow. While Amazon and Azure dominate the cloud market, Watson’s AI and machine learning tools are generally easier to use out of the box. For companies who have made significant commitments to other cloud providers, Watson Anywhere represents an opportunity to bring more user-friendly data services to their data residing in non-IBM clouds.

Companies concerned about the “explainability” of machine learning models, particularly in regulated industries or for governance purposes, should consider using Watson OpenScale to monitor models in production. Because OpenScale can provide visibility into how models behave and make decisions, concerns about “black box models” can be mitigated with the ability to automatically audit a model, trace a given iteration, and explain how the model determined its outcomes. This transparency boosts the ability for line of business and executive users to understand what the model is doing from a business perspective, and justify subsequent actions based on that model’s output. For a company to depend on data-driven models, those models need to prove themselves trustworthy partners to those driving the business, and explainability bridges the gap between the model math and the business initiatives.

Finally, companies planning for long-term model usage need to consider how they plan to support model monitoring and maintenance. Longevity is a concern for machine learning models in production. Model drift reflects changes that your company needs to be aware of. How do companies ensure that model performance and accuracy is maintained over the long haul? What parameters determine when a model requires retraining, or to be taken out of production? Consistent monitoring and maintenance of operationalized models is key to their ongoing dependability.

Data Science and Machine Learning News Roundup, February 2019

On a monthly basis, I will be rounding up key news associated with the Data Science Platforms space for Amalgam Insights. Companies covered will include: Alteryx, Amazon, Anaconda, Cambridge Semantics, Cloudera, Databricks, Dataiku, DataRobot, Datawatch, Domino, Elastic, Google, H2O.ai, IBM, Immuta, Informatica, KNIME, MathWorks, Microsoft, Oracle, Paxata, RapidMiner, SAP, SAS, Tableau, Talend, Teradata, TIBCO, Trifacta, TROVE.

Four Key Announcements from H2O World in San Francisco

At H2O World in San Francisco, H2O.ai made several important announcements. Partnerships with Alteryx, Kx, and Intel will extend Driverless AI’s accessibility, capabilities, and speed, while improvements to Driverless AI, H2O, Sparkling Water, and AutoML focused on expanding support for more algorithms and heavier workloads. Amalgam Insights covered H2O.ai’s H2O World announcements.

IBM Watson Now Available Anywhere

At IBM Think in San Francisco, IBM announced the expansion of Watson’s availability “anywhere” – on-prem, and in any cloud configuration, whether private or public, singular or multi-cloud. Data no longer has to be hosted on the IBM Cloud to use Watson on it – instead, a connector from IBM Cloud Private for Data permits organizations to bring various Watson services to data that cannot be moved for privacy and security reasons. Update: Amalgam Insights now has a more in-depth evaluation of IBM Watson Anywhere.

Databricks’ $250 Million Funding Supports Explosive Growth and Global Demand for Unified Analytics; Brings Valuation to $2.75 Billion

Databricks has raised $250M in a Series E funding round, bringing its total funding to just shy of $500M. The funding round raises Databricks’ valuation to $2.75B in advance of a possible IPO. Microsoft joins this funding round, reflecting continuing commitment to the Azure Databricks collaboration between the two companies. This continued increase in valuation and financial commitment demonstrates that funders are satisfied with Databricks’ vision and execution.

Why It Matters that IBM Announced Trust and Transparency Capabilities for AI


Note: This blog is a followup to Amalgam Insights’ visit to the “Change the Game” event held by IBM in New York City.

On September 19th, IBM announced its launch of a portfolio of AI trust and transparency capabilities. This announcement got Amalgam Insight’s attention because of IBM’s relevance and focus in the enterprise AI market throughout this decade.  To understand why IBM’s specific launch matters, take a step back in considering IBM’s considerable role in building out the current state of the enterprise AI market.

IBM AI in Context

Since IBM’s public launch of IBM Watson on Jeopardy! in 2011, IBM has been a market leader in enterprise artificial intelligence and spent billions of dollars in establishing both IBM Watson and AI. This has been a challenging path to travel as IBM has had to balance this market-leading innovation with the financial demands of supporting a company that brought in $107 billion in revenue in 2011 and has since seen this number shrink by almost 30%.

In addition, IBM had to balance its role as an enterprise technology company focused on the world’s largest workloads and IT challenges with launching an emerging product better suited for highly innovative startups and experimental enterprises. And IBM also faced the “cloudification” of enterprise IT in general, where the traditional top-down purchase of multi-million dollar IT portfolios is being replaced by piecemeal and business-driven purchases and consumption of best-in-breed technologies.

Seven years later, the jury is still out on how AI will ultimately end up transforming enterprises. What we do know is that a variety of branches of AI are emerging, including

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The Evolution of IBM’s Cloud, Watson, and Analytic Consulting at IBM Vision

In mid-May, Amalgam Insights (AI) attended IBM Vision, an event focused on business performance, both as an attendee and a presenter. This has been my favorite IBM tradeshow for several years, as it focuses directly on key concerns that I have looked at throughout my career: financial management, enterprise governance, and compliance. Because everyone at this show is focused on some form of BI, performance management, or risk, it is easy to speak with a business user, consultant, or IBM professional at this show and to quickly find common professional ground.

This year, I took three key findings away from IBM Vision that should be of ongoing value for financial departments within the enterprise.

• The Maturity of IBM’s Cloud Analytics Capabilities
• Promontory Digital’s Role for IBM and IBM Watson
• IBM’s DataFirst Method for Analytic Consulting

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Cloud, Watson, & Blockchain: Amalgam Insights’ View of IBM Interconnect

Diamond - Immutable and Hardened
From Pixabay
From Pixabay

Amalgam Insights (AI) recently attended IBM Interconnect under the Social Influencer program with the goal of understanding how IBM is planning to position itself in context of technology market changes, investor demands to increase revenue, and the challenges of embracing innovation as one of the largest enterprises on the planet.

In observing IBM over the past few years, AI investigators have noted in the past that IBM faces the challenge of needing to create billion-dollar businesses just to maintain existing revenue. It is not enough for IBM to create a single startup such as Pivotal or Airwatch that ends up becoming a market leader in analytic application development or enterprise mobility. To drive 80 billion+ dollars in annual revenue, IBM needs to grow enough businesses to maintain pace while simultaneously divesting cash cows and declining margin businesses that are not strategic to future growth. Over the past couple of years, this has meant selling off assets such as Salary.com and semiconductor chip manufacturing (and possibly its mainframe division) while investing deeply into systems and capabilities that will drive upcoming business capabilities.

At Interconnect, IBM provided its vision for upcoming success focused on three areas: IBM Cloud, Cognitive computing services highlighted by Watson, and the promise of Blockchain.

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