Mainframe Powers ‘Innovation that Matters’


If cars evolved at the rate of IT, they’d get 1 billion miles per gallon by 2020.

That’s the power of the innovation the mainframe delivers, said IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer Bernie Meyerson during his keynote address at SHARE in Pittsburgh.

That power is only growing as the mainframe supports ever-more amazing advances. To really be worthwhile, Meyerson said, those advances must have a business foundation—and that’s something intrinsic to the innovations developed on the mainframe.

“System z has been an engine of innovation forever,” he said. “These are innovations that matter. They materially move the needle on society and technology.”

Many of these innovations deliver profound social good, even as they prove their business value. Toronto-area hospitals, for example, have developed a biomedical treatment for advanced cancers that positions high-performance computing in operating rooms. Photosensitive dye injected in an inoperable tumor, in essence, becomes a cell killer when exposed to photodynamic therapy.

You have to be careful to monitor and model the progression as you attack the tumor. The photons must be confined to the area where you are working.  Computer models of photon packet scattering use Monte Carlo methods—highly processor intensive work. 

It originally took about 10 to 60 minutes to run one model. However, the models needed to be able to run dynamically during surgery. New technology was 67 times more power efficient and provided 16 times the performance advantage over running the model on older technology.

“(The treatment) is an innovation that matters,” Meyerson said. “They’re working in an area that’s a game-changer.”

Elsewhere on the medical front, new technologies drive cognitive computing—otherwise known as Watson—that reasons and interacts with information in a way that far surpasses human abilities to correctly diagnose a condition.

It’s like having a partner that has infinite memory and total recall. It often takes more than a day to interview a patient and review symptoms, medications, family history and more to determine a diagnosis. But it can now happen instantaneously: Mining the data allows doctors to see in mere moments how a combination of symptoms eliminates some possibilities and highlights others.

“Cognitive systems will emerge as profound disruptors of the status quo,” Meyerson said. “As humans, we have finite bandwidth, and these things don’t.”

And so innovation will continue—with SHARE boosting innovation on the mainframe, every step of the way.

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