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IBM Announces New Watson Group and Opens Up a Developers Cloud

Over the last 70 years, humans have been adapting to the computer. We learn how to use new iterations of devices as they evolve. Today, however, cognitive systems such as IBM Watson* technology are adapting to humans, becoming members of the human team, learning from their interactions and changing as we—and our needs—change. This spring the evolution continues as IBM makes Watson available as a cloud-based development platform, paving the way for developers to build cognitive applications that can change the way business gets done.

Called IBM Watson Developers Cloud, the new marketplace allows application developers and providers to tap into resources for developing Watson-powered apps. The Watson offerings include a developer toolkit, access to Watson’s API, supporting documentation and a developer’s portal. It’s part of IBM’s larger $1 billion investment in a new business unit—the IBM Watson Group, a division helmed by IBM Senior Vice President Mike Rhodin and dedicated to the development and commercialization of cloud- delivered cognitive innovations.

The Watson Developers Cloud is significant because the current iteration of the technology is twice as powerful as the original Watson released several years ago, giving developers the capability to significantly shorten development cycles while increasing their potential to solve problems. It’s also being engineered to be deployed on SoftLayer, a cloud computing infrastructure recently acquired by IBM that features data centers and network points-of-presence in the U.S., Asia and Europe. These elements should lead to compelling ROI for companies, says Rob High, IBM Fellow, vice president and Watson CTO.

Another natural benefit of applications developed using Watson: happier customers. “The fact that an organization’s customers can get their questions answered quickly and accurately without having to read through materials or other people’s opinions will lead to a much higher customer satisfaction level and higher loyalty,” High explains.

Flipping the Development Cycle

Within the classic development cycle, a team would identify a business problem and ramp up a development effort to build an application to solve it. This process could take 12 to 18 months, assuming nothing went wrong. If it did, the team could spend months architecting an application only to discover it was flawed. With cloud-based development, that cycle is turned on its end. “Developers can take an existing system and use it in ways that generate immediate value,” High says. This lets organizations avoid long development cycles and fix today’s problems today. With Watson, the process is accelerated and improved because the application continues to learn and evolve based on current—not past—business problems, he adds.

“Cognos* systems fit into existing development strategies nicely because, as we build them as cloud-based offerings to address the requirement to solve business problems today, it removes risk from the equation. Because a Watson-based application is already conscious and aware of the needs of today’s business requirements, it learns from experience and improves with each interaction and outcome,” High explains. Additionally, because the SoftLayer platform is the industry’s first network- within-a-network topology combining public, private and out-of-band management, Watson Developers Cloud also features unparalleled performance, security and control.

“The Watson Developers Cloud accelerates and reinforces what’s already happening,” High explains. “People have realized they need quick time-to-value. They need to shift the risk so the computing systems they already exploit demonstrate their propensity to solve their problems and it’s not a big gamble.”



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