Practical Technology

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What makes IBM’s Watson run?

It’s looking pretty good for Watson, IBM’s Linux-powered computer cluster, as IBM engineers get it ready for its mid-February showdown with Jeopardy’s all-time champs, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. In a practice round, Watson already won a practice round and Bodog, the online gambling company and odds-maker has made Watson the favorite at 5/6. Even if Watson doesn’t win, the mere fact that it can compete at this level is amazing.

How can Watson do it? Here’s what I’ve learned about Watson’s hardware and software in the last few days.

According to David Davidian, an IBM Senior System Architect, “Watson is a massively parallel system based on the IBM POWER7 750 in a standard rack mounted configuration.” It can run AIX, IBM’s house-brand Unix; IBM I; and Linux. To compete on Jeopardy Watson is running Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

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