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It’s Technical, Dear Watson

The “Jeopardy!” playing computer’s feeds and speeds

The “Jeopardy!” playing computer’s feeds and speeds

You’ve seen the TV commercials and heard about the “Jeopardy!” challenge, but the more technical among you might be wondering about Watson’s feeds and speeds. Here’s a rundown of Watson’s more technical specs.

  • Watson is made up of a cluster of 90 IBM Power 750 servers (plus additional I/O, network and cluster controller nodes)
  • Watson has 10 racks, nine for the servers and one for the associated I/O, network and cluster controller nodes
  • The Power 750 server was not specially designed for Watson. It’s commercially available and used by thousands of companies today.
  • The Power 750 uses a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight-core processor, with four threads per core
  • Watson has a total of 2,880 POWER7 cores
  • The POWER7 processor's massively parallel processing capability is ideal for Watson’s DeepQA software, which is 'embarrassingly parallel' (that is a computer science term used to describe a workload that executes multiple threads in parallel)
  • The cluster has a total of 16 Terabytes of RAM. The file system containing all of Watson's data is on 4 Terabytes of disk.
  • When Watson starts up, much of the data on the disk is loaded into memory and replicated across many servers in the cluster.
  • In order to be fast, all of Watson's knowledge must be loaded into memory.
  • Watson can operate at more than 80 Teraflops—that’s 80 trillion operations per second
  • Watson uses Apache UIMA (which originated at IBM) to provide interoperability between its large number of different analysis programs, as well as to scale out the computation across the cluster
  • UIMA does not answer questions, but supports building and scaling applications like Watson, providing standards for interoperability and scale-out of deep text and multi-modal (speech, image, video) analytics
  • Watson's Power 750 servers are clustered over a 10 Gb Ethernet network
  • Watson exploits POWER7 processors ultra-fast 500 gigabytes per second on-chip bandwidth
  • Watson has two I/O nodes that attach SAS disk drawers with a total of 4 Terabytes of disk
  • Like many other high performance computing workloads, Watson's DeepQA software runs on Power Linux
  • Watson receives the question in text form at the same time the human contestants receive them in voice/text.
  • Watson is not connected to the Internet or any outside source of information
  • Watson cannot see or hear, but does press the buzzer and speaks to answer the questions

Tami Deedrick is the managing editor of IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems edition. Tami can be reached at tdeedrick@msptechmedia.com.


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