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55 posts categorized "Web/Tech"

July 09, 2014

Does IBM have future in Vermont?

Here's a little chunk from a well-researched, long article written by Paul Heintz from Vermont's alt paper, Seven Days.

While there is no direct link (as far as I know) between the fate of the Vermont campus and the one in Rochester, this does sound familiar. For anyone interested in the what is happening with Big Blue, this is a pretty worth-while read.

You can read the full article at this link.

What we're looking at is a city," Frank Cioffi says, nodding at a sprawling landscape of industrial buildings, electrical transformers and storage tanks on the banks of the Winooski River.

The 59-year-old economic development guru steers his black Nissan Maxima toward a guard shack that stands sentry at the northeastern entrance to IBM's Essex Junction campus.

"We're not going to Bildebe able to get in," he says, pulling a U-turn and retreating from the fortress. "Security is watching us."

In more certain times, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president might easily escort a reporter through the 725-acre campus, which GBIC developed from farmland 60 years ago. But with Big Blue reportedly nearing a sale of its chip-making division to Emirate of Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries, IBM Vermont is on lockdown.

Even Cioffi, its loudest local cheerleader, is in the dark about what a sale might mean for the 4,000-plus jobs remaining at the facility. Like many, he suspects IBM will reveal its intentions next week when it releases its second- quarter earnings report.

"We're dealing with two public corporations that aren't going to tell us anything, because they can't," he says.

Clouds of uncertainty have lingered over Essex Junction for more than a decade, as the company has retrenched and its Vermont workforce dwindled from a 2001 peak of 8,500. But never have the skies above the industrial park looked so dark.Ibm-logo

As IBM repositions itself as a services-oriented company focused on cloud computing, it has jettisoned less profitable hardware operations. In January, it struck a deal to sell off its low-end server business to China-based Lenovo for $2.3 billion.

Though GlobalFoundries specializes in the very chip-manufacturing work conducted at the Essex Junction plant, reports in the financial press have indicated that the company is interested in IBM's patents and engineers — not its aging facilities.

May 13, 2014

LSI becomes Avago, impact on Roch. office uncertain

05132014avagomainsignLSI Corp., which designs semiconductors and software, officially became part of Avago Technologies last week as the $6.6 billion acquistion officially closed.

That change reportedly has LSI/Avago employees in Rochester wondering about their future.

05132014avagoinsidesignUnofficial buzz around the change is that a decision is being made this week about keeping the Rochester jobs here or moving them out of state.

It's unclear how many people currently work at the site here at 3033 41st St. N.W., though LSI has employed between 10 to 30 people here at different times over the years. LSI also has Minnesota facilities in Bloomington and Mendota Heights.

LSI has had an "on again, off again relationship" with Rochester dating back to 2002, when it leased 20,000 square feet of space in the Valley Business Center II at 3425 40th Ave. N.W. It had about 29 employees.

On June 30, 2006, LSI closed its Rochester site. It had 11 employees, when it closed.

AgeremailboxThen in November 2006, Allentown, Penn.-based Agere Systems opened a 6,000-square-foot office at 3033 41st St. N.W. Agere hired a team of 10 local storage design engineers that formerly worked for Maxtor Corp.’s Rochester office. That office closed in 2006 when Maxtor was acquired by Seagate Technologies.

LSI re-appeared in Rochester in December 2006, when it bought Agere Systems. Soon the signs at 3033 41st St. N.W. turned into LSI.

That's where everything stood until the arrival of Avago. In the press release announcing the acquistions, Avago stated that it anticipates saving $200 million by Nov. 1, 2015. That might be interpretated as plans to close some of LSI's 26 facilities.

I'll do my best to keep an eye on this to see what happens next. If anyone has information, official or otherwise, about this, I'm interested in hearing it.

March 31, 2014

Lots of construction cooking at Big Blue

Lots of construction is in the works on IBM's sprawling Rochester campus.

IBM buildinglogoSome final work still is underway in buildings 333 and 002 for Charter Communications. The cable-television provider is leasing those buildings to house an estimated $3.5 million expansion of Charter Business, its business-to-business division.

Charter says the expansion will add more than 140 jobs to its Rochester operations. The company is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for April 15 in Building 002 on the IBM campus.

While neither Charter nor IBM are discussing it yet, a permit also has been submitted to the city planning department for interior demolition of IBM's Building 005. Charter-business-logo

The permit describes the demolition as preparing the building for "Future Charter Business."  The value of this project is listed as $3.25 million.

Without information from Charter or IBM, it's unclear what this permit signifies. However, Building 005 is connected to Building 002, so it's possible Charter needs more space for its expansion and it possibly is leasing a third building from IBM.

HgstLook for more details about this project in the near future.

Meanwhile, HGST has construction of its own cooking in one of the buildings it leases from IBM. Western Digital's HGST, formerly owned by Hitachi, is working on a Crossfit workout center and locker room. That project is valued at $325,900.

Big Blue also has some construction in the works on its Rochester campus.

A permit has been filed for an "acoustic chamber upgrade" valued at $195,000 in IBM's Building 020.

January 28, 2014

Mayo Clinic to ramp up link to Dept. of Defense

My colleague Jeff Hansel is writing an article about Mayo Clinic opening an office called Mayo Clinic Department of Defense Medical Research Office to better connect with Dept. of Defense for contracts and research.

Watch for Jeff's article on this soon.

I've touched on this topic in past years, so I dug up some info about recent DOD contracts with Mayo.

MayodefenseSince 2000, Mayo Clinic in Rochester has received about $41 million from the DOD. About $37 million of that $41 million was paid out for "Research and Development - Missile/Space Systems - Advanced Development," according to federal government records.

The majority of that work is done at the Dept. of Defense Medical Research Office, which is in the Mayo Support Center on West Circle Drive. That office has long been spearheaded by Dr. Barry K. Gilbert.

Some of the recent projects, according to federal contract records, include:

• R&D Services for Development and Demonstration of Capabilities of Hybrid Supercomputer

• Development of Ultra-High Linearity X-Band Mixers

• Study of Energy Harvesting Concepts, Evaluation of Quantum Orbital Magnetic Resonance Technologies

•R&D Services for Study of Energy Harvesting System Concepts

• Optical Communications: Monte Carlo Model - Preparation of Full-Scale Optical Communications Test.

I can't pretend to know what much of that means, though I believe the hybrid computer deal has something to do with immunizations and fighting virulent outbreaks. The optical communcations, I think, has something to do with transmitting medical information between hospital sites.

I confess this side of Mayo has always fascinated me. Hopefully, the creation of this new office will mean more of a spotlight will shine on Mayo Clinic's interesting military work.

November 11, 2013

Mayo Clinic, U of M startup ready for software rollout

Rochester's Evidentia Health got some press last week about its impending rollout at Fairview Health Systems.

Evidentia Health was one of the first tenants of Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator when it opened early this year.

Its billed as a health care IT company with licensed expe02272013mayoaccelerator1rtise and medical content from both Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota

It was co-founded by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Jeremy Friese in early 2012.Friese, an interventional radiologist, is the medical director for new ventures and business development in the Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine.

Evidentia was profiled on Wednesday by TechdotMN, a non-profit business media group. Here's some from that piece by Yael Grauer:

As new provisions from the Affordable Healthcare Act take effect, Minnesota startup Evidentia Health is poised to help patients better understand their electronic health records (EHRs) while helping physicians meet criteria for “meaningful use” of EHR technology to improve patient care.

To receive EHR incentive pay under Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, healthcare providers must show they are meaningfully using EHRs by meeting various objectives.  Patients are required to be able to access their medical information within three days of when it’s created, and in 2014, this will be within one day.

The problem is that viewing EHR material and doing research online can be confusing to patients. They can jump to the wrong conclusions, worry unnecessarily and often have questions for their care team that may not be applicable.

Evidentia provides reports to both patients and physicians. The reports for patients include the most important sources of information, as well as secondary information for those interested in even more. In addition to the material in patient reports, physicians also receive recent medical research for evidence-based medicine studies.

----

Founded in October 2012, Evidentia is funded by Mayo Clinic Ventures and the University of Minnesota. A pilot program is taking place at the Family Practice Internal Medicine groups in Rochester, and Evidentia is prepared to deploy within Fairview at University Hospital.

As new provisions from the Affordable Healthcare Act take effect, Minnesota startup Evidentia Health is poised to help patients better understand their electronic health records (EHRs) while helping physicians meet criteria for “meaningful use” of EHR technology to improve patient care.

To receive EHR incentive pay under Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, healthcare providers must show they are meaningfully using EHRs by meeting various objectives.  Patients are required to be able to access their medical information within three days of when it’s created, and in 2014, this will be within one day.

The problem is that viewing EHR material and doing research online can be confusing to patients. They can jump to the wrong conclusions, worry unnecessarily and often have questions for their care team that may not be applicable.

Evidentia provides reports to both patients and physicians. The reports for patients include the most important sources of information, as well as secondary information for those interested in even more. In addition to the material in patient reports, physicians also receive recent medical research for evidence-based medicine studies.

“Evidentia brings together all of the information that you need to know and get it in your hands in a way that’s both credible and trustworthy, has been reviewed by physicians, and is applicable to your situation,” says CTO Brent Backhaus.

When patients access their electronic medical records, they’ve often confused about certain key phrases or conditions. Evidentia looks at the text of the reports, highlights key phrases, and presents individualized information to the patient. The information selected is both algorithmically selected and reviewed by a physician.

“We pick information to present to both to the patient and the physician that make the most sense for them to see at that point in time about their specific condition,” Backhaus says.

In addition to Backhaus, who was the founding CTO of Virtual Radiologic, Evidentia’s team includes CEO Jeremy Friese, a Harvard MBA and Associate Chair of Radiology at Mayo Clinic, and chief product officer Dan Steinberger, a U of M physician and technology leader, and founder of ProVation Medical (which had a $100m exit in 2006).

Founded in October 2012, Evidentia is funded by Mayo Clinic Ventures and the University of Minnesota. A pilot program is taking place at the Family Practice Internal Medicine groups in Rochester, and Evidentia is prepared to deploy within Fairview at University Hospital.

- See more at: http://tech.mn/news/2013/11/06/evidentia-health-mayo-clinic-ventures/#sthash.tL8tSBOX.dpuf
Yael Grauer
Yael Grauer
Yael Grauer
Yael Grauer

As new provisions from the Affordable Healthcare Act take effect, Minnesota startup Evidentia Health is poised to help patients better understand their electronic health records (EHRs) while helping physicians meet criteria for “meaningful use” of EHR technology to improve patient care.

To receive EHR incentive pay under Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, healthcare providers must show they are meaningfully using EHRs by meeting various objectives.  Patients are required to be able to access their medical information within three days of when it’s created, and in 2014, this will be within one day.

The problem is that viewing EHR material and doing research online can be confusing to patients. They can jump to the wrong conclusions, worry unnecessarily and often have questions for their care team that may not be applicable.

Evidentia provides reports to both patients and physicians. The reports for patients include the most important sources of information, as well as secondary information for those interested in even more. In addition to the material in patient reports, physicians also receive recent medical research for evidence-based medicine studies.

“Evidentia brings together all of the information that you need to know and get it in your hands in a way that’s both credible and trustworthy, has been reviewed by physicians, and is applicable to your situation,” says CTO Brent Backhaus.

When patients access their electronic medical records, they’ve often confused about certain key phrases or conditions. Evidentia looks at the text of the reports, highlights key phrases, and presents individualized information to the patient. The information selected is both algorithmically selected and reviewed by a physician.

“We pick information to present to both to the patient and the physician that make the most sense for them to see at that point in time about their specific condition,” Backhaus says.

In addition to Backhaus, who was the founding CTO of Virtual Radiologic, Evidentia’s team includes CEO Jeremy Friese, a Harvard MBA and Associate Chair of Radiology at Mayo Clinic, and chief product officer Dan Steinberger, a U of M physician and technology leader, and founder of ProVation Medical (which had a $100m exit in 2006).

Founded in October 2012, Evidentia is funded by Mayo Clinic Ventures and the University of Minnesota. A pilot program is taking place at the Family Practice Internal Medicine groups in Rochester, and Evidentia is prepared to deploy within Fairview at University Hospital.

- See more at: http://tech.mn/news/2013/11/06/evidentia-health-mayo-clinic-ventures/#sthash.tL8tSBOX.dpufis it will roll out its technology this year.

October 17, 2013

IBM's Watson + Cleve Clinic and Mayo + Optum

Improving healthcare is an ongoing project, particularly here in Rochester.

Here are a couple locally linked tidbits I came across this week about efforts that are using technology to attack this issue.

IBM-Watson-Jeopardy-500x285First, everyone remembers IBM's Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson. Much of its development occured here in Rochester. I remember the UMR hosting a big viewing session for local business leaders and Mayo Clinic execs, so everyone could watch the celebrity computer answer Alex Trebec.

These days Watson is specializing in helping doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. They announced some developments this week.
Ibm-watson-david-ferrucci-2IBM Research unveiled two new Watson-related cognitive technologies that are expected to help physicians make more informed and accurate decisions faster and to cull new insights from electronic medical records (EMR).

The projects known as "WatsonPaths" and "Watson EMR Assistant" are the result of a year-long research collaboration with fa culty, physicians and students at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Both are key projects that will create technologies that can be leveraged by Watson to advance the technology in the domain of medicine.

• WatsonPaths explores a complex scenario and draws conclusions much like people do in real life. When presented with a medical case, WatsonPaths extracts statements based on the knowledge it has learned as a result of being trained by medical doctors and from medical literature.

WatsonPaths can use Watson's question-answering abilities to examine the scenario from many angles. The system w Watson2orks its way through chains of evidence -- pulling from reference materials, clinical guidelines and medical journals in real-time -- and draws inferences to support or refute a set of hypotheses. This ability to map medical evidence allows medical professionals to consider new factors that may help them to create additional differential diagnosis and treatment options.

----

Of course, Mayo Clinic's involved in many projects to improve medical treatments and healthcare in general.

One such project is the "strategic research alliance" Mayo Clinic formed in January with OptumHealth, a technology and consulting division of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based health insurer UnitedHealth Group.

Together they launched Optum Labs in Cambridge, Mass. Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher spoke about what they are doing at a conference this week.

Mayo_optum_690Optum Labs will use claims and clinical data to answer pressing health questions. It will use a database that includes 149 million patient records from UNH, electronic medical records covering 5 million lives from Mayo Clinic, and 12 million electronic medical records from Humedica.

Speaking at the recent StrataRx conference in Boston, Optum Labs CEO Paul Bleicher, M.D., Ph.D., said Cambridge, Mass.-based Optum will use advanced analytics and data visualization techniques to support research and innovation projects that will improve patient care and lower cost.

The new partnership of Mayo Clinic and OptumHealth also represents a source of new opportunities for healthcare entrepreneurs, said Bleicher, who expects new health IT companies to emerge from this effort. "That is one of the goals," Bleicher said. "We want to develop technologies and innovations that could be spun off into companies, in collaboration with venture capitalists."

He said Optum Labs is actively seeking other partners and "accepting applications from anybody doing research who is willing to do so with complete transparency, in a non-commercial fashion." The mission is "very public, publication research that will advance the cause of healthcare and anyone who participates." Influencing healthcare policymakers is also one of the goals, he said.

ViewMediaAnother priority of Optum Labs is enlisting "new partners who will bring additional data of high value," Bleicher said. "We want other payers - and everybody - to be in the tent, because if all of the data is in one place, there is opportunity to dive deep into it." It will also be important that "the findings don't stay stuck in 'silos' but are distributed widely, so they become valuable for more than just a few organizations."

The cost of some of the projects Optum Labs undertakes could be shared by National Institutes of Health grants or by partnering with life sciences or IT companies, Bleicher added.

Mark Hayward, administrator of Mayo Clinic's Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, said there will be "information technology that will come out of our labs that will spin off new technologies and methodologies."

August 29, 2013

Scraps of IBM news on servers, chips

Here's a sort of round-up of IBM news tidbits. They are mostly about the chip and server struggles, but I end on a brighter note about the Power8 chips. No word on how all of this could directly impact Rochester, but I am pursuing a story what the Power consortium means for the Rochester campus.

• Here's the take from the IDG News Service in PC World on the latest server sales report.

The server business continued to slide in the second quarter with worldwide revenue and unit sales down, IDC said Tuesday.

Revenue was down 6.2 per cent to $11.9 billion in the second consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline, as demand for servers continued to soften in most geographic regions, the research firm said. Unit shipments were also down 1.2 percent to 2 million, after also falling in the previous two quarters.

5115638122_5bf17912ccThe highest fall in revenue was in midrange systems, which dipped by about 22 percent year-over-year, while volume systems had a 2.4 percent revenue decline and revenue from high-end systems dipped 9.5 percent in the quarter ended June.

IBM held the number one position in the server market with a 27.9 percent share of revenue, but its share was down from over 29 percent last year. The company’s server revenue fell in the quarter by 10 percent year-over-year because of low demand for System x and Power Systems. IBM’s System z mainframe running z/OS, however, had a third consecutive quarter of growth, with revenue up by 9.9 percent year-over-year to $1.2 billion. The mainframe accounted for 9.8 percent of server revenue in the quarter.

• Here's some from a gloomy overall commentary from EE Times' Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Rick Merritt with the headline "IBM's Last Stand in CPUs?"

The Open Power Consortium could become IBM's last stand in microprocessors with huge implications for the future of Big Blue.  

Years ago, IBM took a shot at the mainstream PC market when it forged its PowerPC alliance with Motorola. Intel won, and the partners retrenched into the embedded market with the Power.org consortium. These days, their embedded partners -- LSI, Freescale, and others -- are all shifting to ARM cores.

-----

IBM buildinglogoExacerbating IBM's woes, the company appears to have been designed out of at least two of the three next-generation game consoles where it once provided its Cell multicore processor, ASIC technology, and other goodies. Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4 both use AMD's cores. The muscular, custom console processors once were significant drivers of process technology and profits for Big Blue.

Now IBM is left to defend its main stronghold, the high-end server. This, too, is under siege.

These days the massive scale-out datacenters of web giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are increasingly driving server technology and volumes. The x86 rules here along with an emerging streamlined style of design that's in opposition to the muscular scale-up style IBM practices for its classic customers in banking, government, and scientific markets.

Even in the Top 500 Supercomputers, IBM's old turf, it is losing ground to scale out designs using Nvidia GPUs paired with racks of x86 systems. Now Intel is coming on strong here with its own multicore Xeon Phi, which some say is offering higher performance, lower cost, and easier development than Nvidia GPUs.

In the coldest cut of all, Amazon recently won a deal to supply computer services to the CIA, encroaching on the business of IBM's federal systems division, the bluest of Big Blue business units. Like everyone else, the government is under pressure to try out cloud computing services such as Amazon to reduce cost.

• On a more upbeat note, IBM rolled out its new Power8 chips at the Hot Chips conference this week. Timothy Prickett Morgan covered it for The Register and IT Jungle.

Big iron sales are still generating $6bn to $7bn a year for IBM - which is enough to justify designing its own Power processors and building its own wafer baker.

At the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University on Monday, some of the chief architects behind the Power8 electronics were on hand to show off the feeds and speeds of the next-generation motor for the company's Power Systems lineup.

Significantly, the Power8 chip is also the foundation for Big Blue's OpenPower consortium - an effort to make it easier to hook networking, accelerators and other features into Power processors by allowing third parties to license chunks of intellectual property in the style of ARM Holdings and its RISC cores.

Ibm_power8_die_shotIBM announced the OpenPower effort earlier this month, with GPU maker Nvidia, network chip maker Mellanox Technologies, motherboard maker Tyan, and advertising moneymaker Google all lending their support to the cause.

Whether or not the OpenPower effort gains traction remains to be seen; the Power8 is so clearly engineered for midrange and enterprise systems for running applications on a giant shared memory space, backed by lots of cores and threads. Power8 does not belong in a smartphone unless you want one the size of a shoebox that weighs 20 pounds. But it most certainly does belong in a badass server, and Power8 is by far one of the most elegant chips that Big Blue has ever created, based on the initial specs.

August 26, 2013

Fool speculates on IBM's end being nigh

The MoUrltley Fool financial services firm posted an interesting take about IBM and its possible future on its website today.

Analyst Adrian Campos wrote an article called, "Why IBM's End Could Be Near." Kind of scary sounding. I'm sure Big Blue and investors aren't too worried since it was written by a card-carrying Fool.

FYI, here's why the firm uses the Motley Fool name:

The company's name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused, and could speak the truth to the king -- without getting their heads lopped off.

Here's some from Campos' article:

IBM is having a rough year, producing a negative 6% return so far. The company had a wonderful come-back in the 90s thanks to its cost reductions and shift toward software and consulting, wh130110ibmwalljan10jkich led to amazing financial performance for a decade.  And since 2002, revenue, gross profit, and operating profit have compounded at annual rates of 3%, 6%, and 12%.

However, the current situation is totally different. IBM may need a transformation and re-engineering of its business. According to many IBM fans, that shouldn't be a big problem because IBM has been able to change several times in the past: this is just another time. Bears, on the other hand, keep reminding us that this time is different. What kind of future awaits IBM shareholders in the short and long run?  

Is IBM's end near?

In the first quarter of 2013, for the first time in 8 years IBM missed earnings expectations: sales declined 5%, posing a strong risk to IBM's long-term business, as two-thirds of its revenue base is recurring.

Full-year earnings guidance of $16.70 were just $0.07 below the consensus. But these $0.07  reflected long-term changes in the main markets IBM addresses: a contraction in global demand for IBM's high-end systems & hardware, and growth limits in the private cloud computing segment. These long-term trends started hurting IBM's cash flow already in 2009 and the $0.07  should have been seen as the beginning of a series of disappointments and pain for shareholders. 

Unfortunately, the second quarter results did not show the kind of substantive change that investors were looking forward to. IBM did beat the consensus by a tiny margin.

That was just not enough.

Ibm-logoAnalysts had kept estimates low but their expectations were actually higher: they tacitly were expecting a major change in business focus, which did not seem to happen. As a result, institutions from Credit Suisse to UBS downgraded the stock. It's simple to understand the downgrades: margins were down 3% from last year. The elephant is spending the same or more money, but making much less than before. 

Now, similar results coming from other companies in the software and services sector, like Oracle, show that the whole industry is in trouble. But to make matters worse, IBM still has 34% (hardware + System Z server sales) of its revenue coming from the commodity-like hardware segment, which is even riskier than the services segment, because of increasing competition from Intel's cheap machines.

Wrong focus?

In "IBM: The End is Near,  investor Arne Alsin identified a massive paradigm shift as the root of all of IBM's problems. The industry is moving to the public cloud: low-cost yet powerful computing architecture. IBM's main products (e.g. System Z and private cloud solutions), on the other hand, depend on the old paradigm--the private cloud, a soon-to-be legacy business.

----------

Final foolish thoughts

I agree with Alsin in the sense that the demand for expensive, multi-million dollar systems (let them be private clouds or something else) is contracting. Companies are moving to the public cloud instead. Expensive frameworks and commodity-like x86 servers are becoming endangered species.

That being said, I also don't want to underestimate the ability of IBM to change its business radically. Big Blue has done it several times. The latest time was when it exited the PC business in 2004 by divesting its PC unit to Lenovo. This was done 2 years after HPQ acquired Compaq and at a moment where the PC business was still strong. The elephant prioritized the sustainability of the business rather than meeting the street consensus for the next quarter.

A similar strategy and radical changes of focus are in great need again. This goes beyond acquiring companies with strong exposure to the public cloud (IBM recently acquired SoftLayer for $2 billion, 5 times revenue).

Finally, there will always be demand for expensive private clouds, for institutions willing to pay 100% more in price for an additional 5% safety improvement. What IBM needs to do is to reduce the exposure to such business, as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, the safety of having institutional clients and its vast resources will allow Big Blue to survive, but don't expect superb returns during the transition. It's gonna take a while, since it's just starting!

April 04, 2013

Plug pulled on IBM's record breaking computer Roadrunner

IBM's record-breaking Roadrunner supercomputer was the fastest computer in the world when introduced five years ago.
But this week, it was retired and soon will be dismantled, surpassed by other machines in the fast-evolving world of supercomputers.
The Roadrunner, which owed much of its hybrid design and manufacture to Big Blue's Rochester campus, was the first machine to break the computer industry's "sound barrier" in 2008 by clocking a petaflop or one quadrillion calculations per second.

Roadrunner_1“We just all looked around and said, ‘We made it,’” stated Peter Keller, who was part of the Rochester manufacturing team that recorded that historic milestone on May 25, 2008.

The plug was pulled on the $121 million supercomputer on Easter Sunday at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"Roadrunner, while I would not define it as strictly obsolete, it has been surpassed by newer technology," said Kevin Roark, of Los Alamos. "It's perfectly normal. …This is the natural progression."

Roadrunner's duties are being shifted over to Los Alamos' Cielo supercomputer, which is made by Seattle-based Cray Inc. Two years younger than Roadrunner, Roark describes it as faster, smaller, less expensive and more energy-efficient than its IBM predecessor.

Until it was shut down, Roadrunner ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week since being delivered to the laboratory via 25 trucks.

While it now is being experimented on as it waits to be dismantled and shredded, Roadrunner took Los Alamos' work on the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile to a new level.

"It has performed remarkably well. It has really helped us solve some fundamental problems that were essentially unsolvable before a computer of its speed," Roark said.

It wasn't just its speed that made Roadrunner so groundbreaking. The revolutionary hybrid design that coordinated the use of different types of computer chips, including Cell chips originally designed in Rochester to be used in Sony's PlayStation 3 video game system.

"Roadrunner was a truly pioneering idea," said Gary Grider, of Los Alamos' High Performance Computing Division, in a statement. "Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer."

Los Alamos teamed up with IBM to build Roadrunner from commercially available parts. They ended up with 278 refrigerator-size racks filled with two different types of processors, all linked together by 55 miles of fiber optic cable.

The supercomputer has been used over the last five years to model viruses and unseen parts of the universe, to better understand lasers and for nuclear weapons work. That includes simulations aimed at ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation's aging arsenal.

Roadrunner was the world's fastest computer for 18 months. At its peak, it was two times faster than Blue Gene/L, which was IBM’s star machine and the fastest computer in the world in 2007.

Its historic speed kept Roadrunner on the Top 500 Fastest Computers list, despite being outdated. It still ranked as 22nd fastest machine in the world in November.

IBM had four of the top 10 fastest computers on that November list, and all had roots in Rochester. Sequoia, a BlueGene/ Q, took the No. 2 spot behind Cray's Titan. Other BlueGenes — Miram JUQUEEN and Fermi — locked up the fourth, fifth and ninth spots.

February 27, 2012

IBM layoffs under way, numbers rolling in

Shouts of "R.A." (Big Blue-speak for layoff or firing) are ringing through the halls of IBM sites across the country, including Rochester's campus.

Workers are posting on the Alliance@IBM union site about being cut after 10, 15 years or more on the job.

Here's one comment from a soon-to-be unemployed IBMer:

Comment 02/27/12: Just received RA at the Rochester MN site at 9:00 am....I am in shock but also a little happy to be out of the hell of "Big Blue" -Anonymous-

F19d5528-747f-4f66-b426-59f07edaaf53I'd love to hear from any area IBMers who were slashed during this round of cuts.To protect severance and possible work at IBM as full employer or contract worker with firm CTG, I am offering to keep such sources anonymous, if the person so desires.

The challenge here for a reporter is that IBM gave up  saying anything about employee numbers let alone cuts back in 2008/2009. Not that they were real chatty before that, but it possible to accurately track general trends.

Now the media can only speculate and work from information from emotional people who have just lost their jobs and/or groups with an agenda to organize a union at IBM.

Not sure how that benefits IBM, but I guess that is a moot point because the Big Blue Wall blocking the flow of official information is now more well established than the Berlin Wall ever was. It seems no numbers ever get over this wall.

Most official sites, like the City of Rochester and Rochester Economic Development, Inc. still list IBM as the second largest employer in this city. However, the last time IBM released any specific local numbers was at the end of 2008, when it reported that 4,200 people were employees in the Med City.

Do they still have more 4,000? Do they have more 3,500 or 3,000 workers in Rochester? I haven't been able to find a reliable to confirm such a number.

I'm uncomfortable listing it as the second highest employer, since there is no proof for that. However, that is generally the accepted belief.