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IBM's Watson Takes to Cloud for Big Data

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Posted March 13, 2012 By Pedro Hernandez     Feedback

A year after schooling former Jeopardy! champs, Watson gears up for crunching Big Data on the cloud.

Watson started as an IBM research project that famously ended up clobbering its human competition on "Jeopardy!" a year ago. Today, the supercomputing technology is gearing up to do the same to Big Data over the cloud.

Following an announcement that IBM and Citi Corp are exploring "possible uses for IBM Watson," Big Blue this week let slip that it is working on making Watson's advanced data analysis capabilities available as a cloud-based service. IBM took to Twitter to make the reveal by first teasing that Watson's future involved more than a stint on a game show.

During a tweet chat, the official @IBMWatson account posted the following:

#cloudchat #IBMWatson is a new class of industry specific analytic solutions that use deep content analysis and evidence based reasoning

That Watson is emerging as a brand is not surprising. IBM is capitalizing on a technology that grabbed the attention of both average citizens and the tech elite alike. Follow-up tweets revealed that Watson is combining two hot area in information technology today -- Big Data and cloud computing -- to bring its analytical prowess to organizations.

According to IBM:

#cloudchat IBM will work with clients on deployment preferences but intends to deploy #IBMWatson on both private and hybrid cloud #cloudchat

And erasing any doubt as to whether IBM has Big Data in its sights, IBM added that Watson "is best suited for use cases involving critical decision making based on large volumes of unstructured data."

First up for Watson: Healthcare and Banking

It's not the first time Watson is venturing beyond the lab or out from in front of studio cameras. Some of Watson's technology formed the basis of IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare software. Fittingly, Wellpoint, a managed healthcare company, has been running a Watson-based pilot hosted on IBM's infrastructure.

Last week, IBM and Citi entered into an exploratory agreement to see what insights Watson can pick out from huge amounts of financial data. In a company statement, Citi hints at new customer experiences using "Watson’s deep-content analytics, natural language processing, decision support, and evidence-based learning."

Watson's knack for tearing through Big Data in a hurry will do more than delight customers, however.  The pilot program "will explore how applying Watson in the consumer financial market could help empower financial professionals to make better business decisions," according to Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Software Solutions.

As for giving Watson the headroom it needs to do its work, IBM's seems to be settling on the SmartCloud platform. IBM stated that while the Wellpoint pilot is small now, it is considering SmartCloud as it expands.

IBM said there are no plans for public and consumer "use cases" on the horizon. Watson will strictly be available as a service for its IT clients.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of IT-related websites and as the Green IT curator for GigaOM Pro. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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