Beyond The Cloud: IBM Unveils 'Stream Computing'

Big Blue's System S can analyze and execute a stock trade in less time than it takes a hummingbird to flap its wings.
IBM on Wednesday launched a new computing system designed to let businesses instantly analyze "streams" of data with an eye toward enabling faster and better decision making.

The software, called System S, is built for so-called perpetual analytics. It employs what IBM said are breakthrough processing algorithms and computing architectures that enable predictive analysis of data from any source.

"The ability to manage and analyze incoming data in real time, and use it to make smarter decisions can help businesses and other enterprises differentiate themselves," IBM senior VP John Kelly said in a statement.

IBM claimed System S, in development for seven years, can analyze hundreds or even thousands of real-time data streams containing information such as stock prices, weather reports, and retail sales and instantly interpret the information for business executives.

"The software can help all organizations that need to react to changing conditions in real time, such as government and law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, retailers, transportation companies, health care organizations, and more," said IBM.

IBM said such a tool is essential at a time when the amount of digital information in the world is expected to reach 988 exabytes by next year. That's roughly the amount of information that would be contained in a stack of books that stretched from the Sun to Pluto and back, according to IBM.

A number of organizations are already kicking the tires on System S.

TD Securities is using the software to digest more than 5 million bits of trading data per microsecond in order to make faster trading decisions. "To match the capacity of the system, a trader would have to be able to read the entire works of Shakespeare 10 times in less than one second and then identify and execute a stock trade faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings," IBM said.

Other institutions testing System S are the Marine Institute of Ireland and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, in Oshawa, Canada.

System S is housed within IBM's InfoSphere product group. Pricing ranges from $100,000 for a two-server development installation to "several million dollars" on large server clusters with hundreds of nodes, IBM said.

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