Mark III Systems Blog
Day One at IBM InterConnect 2017 is in the book and was an incredible success. Thank you again to everyone who attended our session on VideoRecon and our expo booth during the reception!
For Day Two, we’ll have another session, this time focused on data protection and the IBM Software-Defined Storage (SDS) portfolio, namely Spectrum Protect and data protection in the Cognitive and Cloud Era. In addition, our Expo booth will be open all day from 8:30am until 7:30pm, so please come see us if you haven’t already (or come again if you’d like to keep talking and bouncing ideas off of us!).
Here’s our Tuesday session:
IBM InterConnect 2017 officially kicks off today (Monday) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas! As part of InterConnect, Mark III is serving as a Bronze sponsor and will have sessions every day that will cover a variety of topics in the IBM stack from IBM Watson to IBM Bluemix to IBM Systems and Storage. You’ll hear a recurring theme from us this week about our unique focus around supporting our clients with a “Full Stack” approach by giving them truly valuable assistance at each layer of the IBM stack, depending on what they are trying to accomplish. We do this with our diverse team of developers, data science professionals, DevOps engineers, and System Engineers, all of whom have honed their respective crafts by being in our clients’ shoes. Whether you’re looking to partner on a cognitive platform to open up new revenue streams or if you’re looking to modernize your datacenter or core ERP system, we can help.
Our first session for the week is today at 4:15pm (Mandalay Bay North, Level 0, South Pacific H) and focused on how our BlueChasm digital development unit built VideoRecon, a video analytics platform that incorporates elements of IBM Watson, Bluemix, Cloudant, and Cloud Object Storage. In addition, the original prototype was actually built on top of IBM Spectrum Storage (SDS) as well, although we’ve since moved to an IBM Cloud model as part of our move to offer VideoRecon as a consumable SaaS platform.
Here’s a description of our session below:
Have a specific use case for video analytics? Let us know! Part of utilizing VideoRecon as a platform is an interactive relationship with our team, including our devs, and your specific use cases, so let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
Also, if you’re just interested in making the IBM stack work for you (even if you have no interest in video analytics), this is definitely something that the greater Mark III/BlueChasm team can help with as well… our experience in building our own stacks can help you with yours.
For the conference, we’ll also have a booth in the Expo (#687) where we’ll be showing demos that feature the IBM stack and just having a great time. Come join us!
We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at IBM InterConnect in Las Vegas!
This year, we’ll be doing 4 different breakout sessions that cover topics ranging from IBM Watson to IBM Bluemix to IBM Systems & Storage.
Come see one of our sessions OR come visit us at our booth (Booth #687) in the Expo Center… we’ll be located in the center back, just to the left of the DevZone! Come see what the Mark III “Full Stack” is all about…
Here’s a quick rundown of our sessions and date/times (one per day):
OR feel free to reach out to us on Twitter (@MarkIIISystems) while you’re out there and we can meet up!
IBM held its annual IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference (PWLC) this week in Las Vegas from February 13-15. As part of PWLC, Mark III was fortunate to pickup two of the prestigious 2017 IBM Beacon Awards for the categories of Outstanding Storage Solution and Outstanding Solution Developed on Bluemix.
IBM Beacon Awards are given each year at PWLC to the top IBM Business Partners worldwide for each of 19 different solution categories. For Mark III, with the many thousands of IBM partners worldwide, winning two of these categories is a very significant milestone for us and an honor we share with our incredible clients.
From our point of view, being honored with two Beacon Awards is especially important this year, as all industries are in the middle of a significant transformation, led by rapidly changing digital and cognitive initiatives that are literally rewriting the winners and losers in each industry. At Mark III, we see our role as helping to guide both our new and long-time clients through this time of rapid change, whether it be helping to modernize and optimize a critical tech stack in the datacenter, or collaborating and building a cognitive prototype that will lead to new revenue streams for our partners/clients running on-premise or in the cloud.
As an example, our Outstanding Storage Solution award was given to Mark III for our work with a client on a digital video storage and archive on-premise cloud, enabling our client to modernize their video storage capabilities, while positioning them for a future of expanded video usage and analytics. Our Outstanding Solution Developed on Bluemix was for our work in building a Cognitive Call Center platform that can be used to bring cognitive insights to enterprises and software partners that operate call centers.
These Beacon Awards span across the IBM stack from IBM Cloud to IBM Watson to IBM Systems and are a great vote of confidence from IBM in that ongoing journey to provide that very guidance to our joint clients, all while leveraging Mark III’s very unique capabilities.
For virtually all of our two decade history, we’ve been known to the IBM ecosystem as one of the top “True Blue” partners, in how we are able to pull together “solutions” using all the components of the IBM portfolio, including systems, storage, networking, software, and middleware, all wrapped with services and “above and beyond” ongoing support and operational assistance.
While this “horizontal” approach of building solutions still continues to work well for many clients (and one we’ve continued to expand our capabilities in, especially around modernization and optimization in the datacenter), we’re seeing that many new digital use cases, especially those that involve cognitive approaches, require a “vertical” approach in building the stack. Although there is some crossover with some technologies from the horizontal approach (such as with Systems/Storage/Data Layer/etc), the “vertical” approach often spans upward into areas that are relatively unfamiliar to most in the ecosystem, including skills like amazing code, product innovation, UX design, data science, and raw creative business strategy acumen for digital approaches.
Accordingly, this is what we’ve built the future of Mark III around… the ability to understand and assist with the past, present, and future, with unique skills that can bring true value no matter if a “horizontal,” modernization approach is needed, or if a “vertical,” prototyping one is required (or a “full stack” combination of the two!).
Welcome to the Era of the New Cognitive Partner. We’re ready.
When putting together all the pieces to build an IoT-centric platform or service, it’s pretty straight-forward on how to account for the basics. These basics might include some subset of sensors/instruments/embedded devices, IoT-centric networking, your IoT app/platform (whether it be in the cloud or on-premise), and any special team or processes needed to operate and iterate on it. Whether it be with prototyping and procuring sensors/devices/networking or building a cloud-native IoT platform in the public cloud or in the datacenter to manage your sensors or engage with your targeted end-user, Mark III has the capabilities to assist.
With all that said, it’s easy in the process of building your project or platform to neglect the need to plan for the logistical deployment of sensors/devices and/or the ongoing support in the event your sensors/devices fail or need maintenance. As a very long time IBM Premier Partner (and IBM Platinum Partner, as of this month), we were excited last year to hear that IBM’s Technical Support Services (TSS) organization would be providing deployment/technical support/maintenance services for IoT sensors/devices/instruments in the field to complement some of Mark III’s strengths in helping our clients and partners execute on their IoT initiatives.
We’ve been fortunate to partner with IBM’s Technical Support Services (TSS) organization to provide technical support/maintenance services on IBM and non-IBM systems and equipment, so the extension into IoT seemed natural and perfect in our eyes, and enables us to offer a single technical support services provider across the entire “new” IoT stack, spanning from sensors, to the edge, and into the datacenter (if on-premise). Our partnership with TSS enables our partners and clients to be able to leverage the global breadth of IBM’s support organization, which is critical in IoT scenarios, since the actual locations are likely more fragmented than current support scenarios with traditional enterprise technology.
Here are some of the offering descriptions that come with IoT services from TSS via Mark III:
- Deployment: Forward logistics of the sensor/instrumented/embedded devices and network devices, which includes staging/kitting, warehousing and transportation
- Site Survey and Installation: Onsite field services for sensors/instrumented/embedded devices and network devices
- Steady State: (1) Remote technical support for the integration solution including call receipt, ticket creation, entitlement, L1/L2, resource and parts dispatching, monitoring, and live chat, (2) Onsite field services for sensor/instrumented/embedded devices and network devices including swaps or repair and preventative maintenance, (3) Logistics including inventory management, planning, warehousing, transportation, depot repair, and testing for devices
For more information or start a conversation, please reach out to us at Mark III and we’d be happy to give you our thoughts about this or anything IoT-related.
The IBM InterConnect 2017 conference is IBM’s premier cloud technology conference and will take place March 19-23 in Las Vegas. We’ve been attending and speaking at InterConnect since it was first created a few years ago (for example, 2016), but we’re particularly excited about our participation at this year’s version of InterConnect, as we’ll have a wider presence with at least 4 breakout sessions across a wide variety of IBM-focused topics and will have a booth in the expo (that we’ll be sharing with BlueChasm, Mark III’s digital development unit).
In the past 12 months, we’ve done breakout sessions and panels at Edge, World of Watson, Watson Developer Conference, PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, and InterConnect 2016. With that said, we view our focus at InterConnect 2017 as really tying all those pieces together. Cloud “stack” technology, regardless of location, is really foundation of optimizing current tech stacks and paving the way for ongoing and future digital and cognitive initiatives. Many times some confuse the word “cloud” as having to do with location when in reality, it has to do with an agile tech stack that allows you to build, deploy, and/or iterate on services quickly.
One of our tech stacks in our “full stack” model in working with clients and service providers might involve anything from Watson Ecosystem API services to Bluemix services to Cloudant to Cloud Object Storage to Spectrum Protect to IT infrastructure, like IBM Spectrum Storage or FlashSystems. The concept is really all about speed and agility for business users, developers, and operations, depending on the type of cloud services needed.
Our breakout sessions at InterConnect 2017, in conjunction with BlueChasm, cover all layers of the IBM tech stack and spans from the top to the bottom of the new IBM stack (the “New True Blue” as I call it). Here they are (dates/times TBD):
- Building a Video Analytics Platform with IBM Watson, Bluemix, Cloudant, and Cloud Object Storage (BBM-2035)
- Building SaaS Platforms on Bluemix with Watson APIs and Server-Side Swift (BOP-2587)
- Revolutionizing Data Protection Architectures with IBM Spectrum Protect and Container Pools (HPZ-2214)
- Architecting an Archiving and Video Storage Solution with IBM Cloud Object Storage (HPZ-2716)
We also have one more Bluemix-focused session that’s on the waitlist, but suffice to say, we’ll be pretty busy! Hope to see you at InterConnect 2017!
Mark III is very excited to be partnering with IBM Watson Health as part of a new Watson Health partner program. To kick off our partnership, we recently attended a briefing and collaboration session at Watson Health HQ in Cambridge, MA. Having initially grown up in the shadows of the Texas Medical Center over the past two decades (with clients now spanning across North America), healthcare is and continues to be our longest-tenured industry and one of the industries we have the deepest skills in support of.
Accordingly, we were incredibly excited about the vision and direction of Watson Health and how it fits with our unique capabilities in support of healthcare clients.
Watson Health, as of December 2016, currently comprises of the pillars of Watson for Oncology, Watson for Genomics, Clinical Trial Matching, Care Management, Population Health Management, and Imaging (Merge), as well as pillars that revolve more around life sciences, including Watson for Drug Discovery, Watson Health Core, and Watson Health for ResearchKit. I say December 2016 because, if the last 18 months are any guide, IBM continues to add to the portfolio and I would imagine there could be more pillars and options in the near future.
For us, one of the best parts of our visit to Cambridge was the immersion room at the Watson Health Experience Center, which weaved together many of the key Watson Health pillars with healthcare-centric cognitive approaches to show how the overall care of an actual “example” cancer patient could be possibly improved.
If you ever have a chance to attend a briefing at Watson Health HQ, we would definitely recommend it.. it’ll open up your eyes to what’s possible now and over the next 5-10 years within healthcare. It’s not enough to simply have AI or a cognitive or deep learning system, but the need to surround it with the right types of partnerships, data, integrations, and domain expertise are critical and we love the strategy that Watson Health is employing.
With all that said, what unique complementary skills and experiences does Mark III bring to the table that can supplement the Watson Health story?
- Developers, developers, developers: If you’re looking to build something specific to your institution with a certain UX or engagement model, whether it be using Watson Health Core or another Watson Health focused platform, our digital development arm can assist. We’ve been working with the IBM development cloud for over 4 years (including Watson Ecosystem) and we can help you plan for or build what you’re thinking of. It will be fascinating to watch as more cognitive and AI-centric capabilities diffuse into the Watson Health portfolio and we can provide our perspectives and thoughts on that as it happens, including helping to build a prototype, if you’re just brainstorming.
- Unique blend of skills to support healthcare: Among our staff is a 10-year veteran and former Director at a Research Institute of a large healthcare provider, and a PhD in Bioinformatics, along with our team of developers, architects, and engineers. We pride ourselves on our “full stack” approach that’s aligned with what institutions are trying to achieve in the digital and cognitive era (but with knowledge of the past and present), and this is just one example.
- Optimization and enablement of existing core tech stacks: Most of these tech stacks are key current application sets (EMR/EHR, Imaging, ERP, Research, etc.) that currently run on-premise in a datacenter. Since these key systems feed Watson, it’s important that their foundation is strong, which includes anything from servers to storage to networking to virtualization at any layer to software tooling to middleware. This is an area where our team of systems engineers and architects can definitely help ensure that your current strategy is strong so that you can capitalize on a future enabled by Watson Health.
- Integrations: Watson Health and hybrid digital strategies, in general, rely upon the ability to integrate together services and platforms in an open, yet secure, manner, which requires a blend of all the capabilities listed above. Whether the need is to tie together APIs, connect the datacenter to other datacenters or the IBM Cloud, build your own cognitive platform, or optimize/refresh the IT infrastructure foundation for your EMR/EHR or Research/HPC, we have the unique capabilities and history to enable this.
Stay tuned! We’re incredibly excited about the future and I know we’ll have some more exciting concepts and news to share in the near future around Watson Health.
Video is one of the fastest growing forms of data in the digital world today, especially in the enterprise. According to industry forecasts, video as a percentage of Internet traffic is projected to rise above 80% in the coming years, with a large portion of that volume connected to the enterprise and how enterprises engage with their major stakeholders.
Here at Mark III we’re fortunate to partner with IBM on not only cost-effectively and flexibly addressing the video storage challenges of today, but also leaning on these foundational video storage strategies of today to be able to fully take advantage of the emerging capabilities of tomorrow focused around video analytics and AI-powered computer vision that will revolutionize industries over the next 10 years. In short, the decisions made around how to best store video data in 2016 and 2017 will impact how your enterprise will be able to take advantage (or not take advantage) of these huge digital competitive disruptors in future years.
We think that as AI-powered video analytics capabilities develop further, the volume and need for video will explode even more, as video will not only be a type of media used for historical recording and engagement with customers/employees/partners, but also one that can quickly be used in real-time to enable an enterprise to augment their business decision-making with ultra-responsive, human-like judgement and advice (all powered by video). The video itself could possibly be employed by any number of IoT devices, cameras, or even bots.
As for the right now, we believe a foundation of IBM Cloud Object Storage or a platform in the IBM Spectrum Storage family can enable this future, depending on the specific requirements. Specifically, we’re incredibly excited about IBM Cloud Object Storage and its capability of enabling a cost-effective, flexible, and secure platform for unstructured data, including video, that can be served out via open RESTful APIs. A leader in the object storage market since its founding in 2004, IBM Cloud Object Storage (formerly Cleversafe) has been rated by Gartner as the leader for Overall Use Case in its “Critical Capabilities for Object Storage” study in March 2016. IBM Cloud Object Storage, which can scale to 100s of petabytes (and beyond), can be deployed in an all on-premise, all in the IBM Cloud, or in a hybrid model between local datacenters and the IBM Cloud.
As for a glimpse of the future, Mark III’s digital development arm, BlueChasm, took the IBM Cloud Object Storage foundation (deployed on-premise on IBM Systems in our lab for our prototype) and created its own video analytics platform (called VideoRecon), which uses IBM Watson to “watch” and “listen” to videos and auto-tag the videos with metadata of what it “sees” and “hears.” IBM Cloud Object Storage serves as the flexible object storage layer for the videos and tags, and its open API access enables other platforms or applications now and in the future to access its repository in a frictionless manner. Here is the original video analytics prototype that BlueChasm built early in 2016, which served as the original foundation for what VideoRecon has grown to today.
VideoRecon is just one possible platform built on the IBM stack that can take advantage of IBM Cloud Object Storage for video insights. Since IBM Cloud Object Storage is driven as an open API, you actually don’t even need to use the IBM Cloud stack to tie into it or use it for your particular use case… the idea is that it can serve as the digital data foundation for virtually any use case and any stack you can think of that incorporates video.
If you need help bringing IBM Cloud Object Storage to life, Mark III can definitely apply our “full stack” approach and skills to assist, including not only our engineers that are skilled in the architecture and deployment of IBM Cloud Object Storage (or IBM Spectrum Storage and/or Systems), but also our developers and DevOps teams that are available to help you build platform and app prototypes on top of IBM Cloud Object Storage or just advise you, in general, on how to get the most out of the power of the IBM Cloud (Bluemix/Watson/Cloudant/etc).
As a long-time IBM Premier Business Partner, we’re very excited about IBM’s announcement today that IBM Cloud Object Storage, based on Cleversafe, is now supported across 40 IBM Cloud datacenters globally, which gives enterprises and service providers a perfect public and hybrid cloud option to complement Cloud Object Storage’s long-time, industry-leading on-premise object storage capabilities.
Rated by Gartner as the leader for Overall Use Case in its “Critical Capabilities for Object Storage” study in March 2016, we view IBM Cloud Object Storage as the key to not only solving immediate unstructured data challenges, but also serving as the digital foundation to enabling key enterprise initiatives of the digital era, including IoT, cloud, cognitive, deep learning, social, mobile, and next-generation analytics.
At Mark III, we’ve had IBM Cloud Object Storage up and running in our lab since the Cleversafe acquisition was announced by IBM in 2015, and have worked hand in hand with our clients on use cases ranging from video data to backups to archival data to digital content repository data and many more, since that time. In short, if you need to store unstructured data in a cost-effective and flexible manner with the possibility of scaling to 100s of PBs (most likely spanning multiple sites) and be positioned for future digital initiatives, IBM Cloud Object Storage represents a truly unique platform to enable this, all with simple access via popular object storage APIs (S3, OpenStack Swift, etc).
Here’s a look at our very first IBM Cloud Object Storage (Cleversafe) dsNet instance we spun up last year in our demo center/lab, just after the acquisition was announced by IBM:
We’re huge fans of IBM Cloud Object Storage partly because of the versatility in how you can set it up. Cleversafe, as a company, was founded in 2004 first as an on-premise, object storage platform years BEFORE any of the mainstream public cloud object storage platforms existed. As a result of this head start, Cleversafe was able to build a lead in the industry by loading up on advanced features and offering rock-solid stability, due to its vast market adoption and customer field cycles.
With this announcement of IBM Cloud Object Storage in the IBM Cloud, you can now easily customize and build a Cloud Object Storage platform based on 100% on-premise, 100% public cloud, or a hybrid model unique to your enterprise. For any on-premise component, you can choose if you’d like to use Cloud Object Storage appliances, or use just the Cloud Object Storage software on top of general-purpose x86 servers.
In addition to helping our clients with the architecture and rollout of IBM Cloud Object Storage for their own use cases, we’ve also worked closely with our own BlueChasm digital development unit to develop prototype use cases that leverage Cloud Object Storage as the object storage layer (as shown below). Additionally, we’ve also contributed to open source to enable developers anywhere to more easily create apps that can leverage IBM Cloud Object Storage (npm package here).
To get your imagination going on how this might apply to your own digital initiatives, here are just some of the platform/app concepts that we’ve built on top of IBM Cloud Object Storage:
- VideoRecon: A video analytics platform that uses deep learning to analyze the visual and audio components of a video and return auto-tags. The videos and tags themselves are stored on IBM Cloud Object Storage.
- Cognitive Advertising Display: Dubbed the “Minority Report board,” this digital advertising display looks at the person in front of the board and shows them a targeted advertisement based on their age/gender. Ad content and video/images of subjects are stored on IBM Cloud Object Storage, and served via an advertising platform that we built
- Cognitive Drone Platform: Built a drone that uses IBM Watson to visually identify objects while in flight to “observe” things of interest to an enterprise (i.e. inventory levels in a warehouse or noting the composition of a crowd of customers). IBM Cloud Object Storage stores the images used for analysis by our platform.
Regardless of if you’re looking at IBM Cloud Object Storage from the unstructured data storage angle, analytics angle, or the digital initiatives angle, we’re incredibly excited about the future of IBM Cloud Object Storage. Let us know if you’d like to learn more about IBM Cloud Object Storage or dive into one of our digital prototypes!
Through our partnership with Brocade as a Brocade Elite Partner, Mark III recently started offering solutions and capabilities built around Brocade Workflow Composer (BWC), which is a powerful enterprise-level, open automation framework that leverages the StackStorm open source project at its core. Brocade actually acquired StackStorm earlier this year and has leaned on the StackStorm open source project as the core for BWC, while allowing the open source project itself to continue to thrive independently.
In a nutshell, StackStorm is an open, event-driven automated framework that essentially “glues together” all your enterprise apps, services, and workflows (including things like Chef, Puppet, Ansible, GitHub, Docker, VMware, IBM SoftLayer, Windows, Jenkins, Slack, Twitter, Splunk, Twilio, Cassandra, Elasticsearch, ServiceNow, and many more) . In short, you can have events in one of your tech “stacks” trigger events or actions in others, in a manner that requires virtually no setup (with nearly 2000 pre-wired integrations from the project), and done in an extendable and flexible manner with a focus on DevOps and ChatOps.
Personally, I like to think of StackStorm (Brocade Workflow Composer) as the “automation engine of automation engines” (especially if you’re already using multiple configuration management tools across your operation). And even better, with the addition of StackStorm to the Brocade family, StackStorm and Brocade Workflow Composer now also support Brocade’s networking portfolio, which means that all of StackStorm’s DevOps and ChatOps integrations can now be extended to the networking stack too!
Use cases? Auto-remediation, auto-scaling, ChatOps (two-way!), repeatable/repetitive workflows (pre-planned or event-based), and much more!
With all that said, due to some feedback from our ecosystem partners, we decided to actually write and contribute an integration pack to the StackStorm project itself, specifically one for Zendesk, which is the one of the most popular customer service software and support ticketing platforms in use today. We actually use Zendesk ourselves internally, so this worked out for us personally as well.
The Zendesk integration pack we put together (found here) would enable any user of StackStorm or Brocade Workflow Composer to be able to do the following in Zendesk:
- Create tickets
- Update tickets
- Change the status of tickets
- Close tickets
- Search for tickets using keywords
- Use ChatOps to interact with Zendesk
This might mean that an enterprise (or service provider) could easily wire together an auto-remediation workflow and as part of the workflow, they could now open up a services/support ticket via Zendesk to alert the team, in the event of an issue requiring a ticket (either internally or from a third-party).
Or that a DevOps or support engineer team could easily create/update/query tickets transparently on Zendesk all without leaving their team’s Slack channel. Pretty powerful stuff if you’re looking to get things done really quickly (for YOUR end user) and with the maximum amount of team collaboration and transparency.
If you’re looking for more information on how we built our Zendesk integration pack, I’d recommend you check out the BlueChasm blog here (BlueChasm is a our digital development team).
Let us know if you have any questions about Brocade Workflow Composer, StackStorm, or Brocade (in general)– the future of DevOps in our part of the world looks bright!