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Q&A: IBM Global Business Services CTO Talks Cloud

IBM Fellow and Global Business Services CTO Kerrie Holley, who helped shape SOA, shares his thoughts on cloud trends, the future of IT, and more.

InformationWeek: Are there any internal IBM projects that you expect will have a major impact on the tech industry in the next few years?

Holley: Yes. I spent some time with the Watson team. We built a team of about 100 people. My former boss runs this team, and I think the potential of where we can leverage natural language processing, this subset of artificial intelligence is enormous, [particularly in the] medical field and the banking field. That excites me a great deal in terms of what I'm seeing that we're able to do. We also have a lesser-known technology called "Deep Thunder."

Deep Thunder is all about doing more with being able to engineer the output of the effects of weather. [We do a lot of weather forecasting but] we don't say, "OK, we know within 24 hours this storm is going to hit Rio de Janeiro, and it's going to hit this particular district." This has a tremendous opportunity if we look at what happened in New Orleans: The potential to actually deploy resources to the actual areas that will be most impacted I think is a pretty interesting technology.

InformationWeek: What is IBM doing to make governments aware of such technologies?

Holley: The whole smarter cities work that we're doing is really not just a pro bono activity. It's also a way of helping cities across the world of understand what's possible with technology. When you look at what we're doing with the smarter cities program, each of the cities has a very unique problem. Some of them are very unsophisticated in their use of technology, and some are very sophisticated, but in each case there's something that we can bring to the table to make that city smarter. I mean the whole reason we did Watson in 2011 was to make the world understand better what technologies [are] actually possible.

I didn't mention that but that's another part of what I do is I do speak at conferences. I did this whole presentation on the future of analytics, and a few executives out of Sacramento State who happened to be present ... got really excited on the possibilities because they saw the connection between their problem and the vision that I said is actually possible. So now I'm driving up to Sacramento tomorrow to have a more detailed discussion with them.

With any client who is trying to do something out of the box--trying to build a house or building that stands out--the architect is the one who helps the client see that vision of what's possible.

In our industry, I see that as part of my role as a software architect and as a CTO, to help businesses see the art of what's possible with technology in a very like manner.

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