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June 5, 2015

IBM, UK to Collaborate on Big Data

George Leopold

The British government and partner IBM are investing £300 million (more than $456 million) to promote big data and cognitive computing research aimed at helping U.K. businesses engage with customers and suppliers.

Among IBM’s contributions to the big data project announced this week is a package of technology and “onsite expertise” valued at £200 million, including access to its Watson cognitive computing platform and at least 24 IBM researchers. They will work with U.K. big data scientists.

The British government will kick in the other £113 million.

The collaboration also includes joint commercialization agreement to share intellectual property generated by the big data project, the partners said.

The collaboration also gives U.K. researchers access to IBM’s OpenPower Foundation technology that would be used to analyze large datasets. The foundation was formed in 2013 to allow member companies to customize Power CPUs and system platforms.

IBM noted that U.K. adoption of its OpenPower technology follows the U.S. Energy Department’s recent selection of similar OpenPower technology for next generation of supercomputers at the Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Labs.

The partners said IBM would work with the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council on big data research along with third parties and British universities to develop advanced analytics software that would be applied by academia, industry and government. The collaboration is expected to yield new analytics tools, algorithms and approaches to big data as the government looks to leverage the technology to spur economic growth.

“The research program will leverage OpenPower high performance computing innovations to enable complex analytics on massive amounts of data,” the partners said in a statement announcing the collaboration.

Big data has been identified as one of the British government’s Eight Great Technologies for stimulating economic growth. The government estimates the global market for business data analysis is growing at a 14-percent clip and will reach an estimated $47 billion by 2016.

Along with business and retail applications for big data, the U.K. meteorological office applies the technology to generate about 3,000 tailored numerical weather forecasts a day using a supercomputer platform. These and other applications would get a boost from IBM’s cognitive computing technology along with new OpenPower processor architectures.

The collaborative big data research will be conducted at the U.K.’s Hartree Center supercomputer laboratory. IBM will install a new high-performance computer at the lab and provide software, including Watson cognitive computing technologies via a cloud computing service.

“In our tie-up with the British government, we’re building one of the first computers in the world architected from the ground up based on the principles of data-centric computing,” Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of IBM Research, noted in a blog post.

IBM said it also would work with OpenPower members Nvidia to develop GPUs for the U.K. big data platform along with Ethernet and InfiniBand network specialist Mellanox.

IBM announced last year is would invest $1 billion over several years to extend the technologies underpinning Watson and move them into mainstream products and services.

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