DQI Bureau
New Update (5256 bytes) border="0">Dr Paul Horn, Sr VP,

IBM Research, and Dr Caroline Kovac, VP, IBM Solutions Research, were in India recently to

inaugurate the IBM India Solutions Research Center at IIT, Delhi. Horn has devoted his

life to semiconductor research, while Kovac has been in user organizations before, and,

hence, is heading the solutions research of Big Blue. Being in IBM research is like being

at the cutting edge of technology. Horn was basking in the glory of having attained the 1

GHz mark two years earlier than projected, and having revolutionized the microprocessor

technology with the copper wire technology. And Kovac was excited about the setting up of

the research center in India, whose focus is customer solutions. Horn and Kovac took some

time off from their hectic official visit to India and spoke to DATAQUEST about issues

ranging from ERP and supply chain management to NC and Merced. Also, Horn elaborated on

the focus of research at IBM, which has definitely changed from just technology to

application of technology to real-life customer problems. Excerpts:


IBM is the first one to reach the 1

GHz mark. And it was sooner than expected. What do you attribute the success to?
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Horn: Well, you know that work was done in IBM’s Austin Research Lab. We are
very proud about the accomplishment. I would say that part of this exercise is that we

have been working on not just developing the next generation. But technology...we are

trying to understand how you could go well into the future, to leapfrog–what the rest

of the community doesn’t do. And to push the limits. Which is something what we do in

research. That was an accomplishment which came from our labs and our development


Kovac: I think another

aspect to that is that we have put a tremendous amount of focus on linking our own

research efforts with our development organizations. Not just particularly in the area of

microelectronics, but also in the area of software and solutions; creating linkages

between our research and development teams in IBM; bringing technologies to market;

innovate it further by working jointly with customers, especially in the area of

solutions. Thus, creating applications out of bedrock technologies from our

microelectronics division.

There are two aspects to

technology. One is the research part and the other is the implementation part. How does

IBM go about implementing the technologies that it develops?

Horn: Let me talk in general.

This is very important problem for us. We can’t be the best research organization, if

we are just good in research and not good in implementation. Then you cannot really

succeed in impacting the world. So we have put in place a number of things, especially in

the last few years. When Lou Gerstner came to IBM, he was a customer of ours and he

remembered as a customer that we always had great research in our laboratories. But he

could never quite get his hands on it as a customer. So, his first priority was ‘how

are you guys going to get this job implemented faster?’ And that led to a whole bunch

of different things, including a much bigger focus on solutions that we are talking about.

Because if you work with the customer, then you work on real problems. Not what the

researcher thinks are problems. The real problems are highlighted by the outside world and

not in the research labs. And, therefore, when you build something, you will build it

exactly matching the real world needs, not just the needs perceived by the researcher. We

believe that we are better at implementing things now, than we were 10 years ago. And now

the focus is on the whole thing, all the way from innovation to how is it going to be

developed, to how do you get it into the hands of the customer. What I would call is

market pull as well as the technology push. We have always been great in technology push,

new ideas bubbling up with new technology. The customer focus or the solutions focus gives

you the market pull. So you really earn the money when you build them.


please wait for pix align="right" hspace="2" border="0">Kovac:

It helps being seen. Because you know that it is the right product that you are making.

IBM has developed so many

cutting-edge technologies, but when it came to championing them, it wasn’t IBM....
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Horn: Right. Our history has been exactly what you just said. There have been
wonderful innovations–like RISC architecture for example. But in the last couple of

years, we have been much better at it–the copper technology in the back end of the

chip. That has been in our research laboratories for 15 years. Now, we have a two-,

three-year lead on Intel–very strong technology company because it was able to flow

the technology much faster from its organization to the marketplace. This time, we are

well ahead of the rest of the world...we are able to store the amount of information on a

computer chip, enhancing the magnitude of resistance–thus getting the information out

of research to the marketplace almost three years ahead of our nearest competitor has

demonstrated our expertise. These technologies will flow into our products, well ahead of

others. Because we have the key to the flow fairly well. And if we don’t, I

wouldn’t have a job. I am very happy bringing new technology to the marketplace.

Can you describe the difference

between the two perspectives of pure Supply Chain Management (SCM) and SCM with ecommerce?
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Kovac: I think SCM and ecommerce are related. For any organization there are
various stages. Stage one is when it organizes the data and creates an information

repository. This is when it pulls the organization together and has a common repository to

utilities. This is stage of the ERP. Stage two is when it ties up the distribution and

supplier chain. Stage three is of intelligent enterprise, create relationships etc. Then

start commencing transactions–start making orders over the chain. That’s when

ecommerce comes into play. This is quite an opportunity. This is when you start doing

things electronically. We are working with a lot of organizations on this in the US. And

now with the IBM Research Center here in India, we would be doing the same things here as

well. Like for example, EDI on a web-based environment.


But which one comes

first—ERP or SCM? Is there a sequence?

Kovac: You can’t do SCM in isolation. SCM looks at the external side, assuming
that production is taken care to provide for the customer. ERP is pretty much necessary.

Currently, it is the happening area. Coming to the point of EDI, SCM, and ERP...there is

this concept of the network computer...


The NC, the

NetPC, the Windows terminal... the head of research of IBM,

how do you foresee these things?

Horn: I think the focus really

is network computing. Which is a model for how you develop and deploy applications over

the network to a device, which could be the NC, the traditional PC, a Windows terminal. It

could also be a handheld device, more and more handheld devices are being used, which can

run the applications. So it is about a new model of the way you manage

computing—where you download the key applications over the Internet, intranet, or the

network, and then do the work locally. In some cases, the local device could be an NC. In

some it could be a PC. I think, we are quite hung up in the world, about what the device

is. For all you know, it could be my Palm Pilot. The real question is how you do it.

Whether to hold the applications, the data, the way a traditional PC does, or keep all the

key information somewhere on the network and download it when you need it. You just

replace one end thing with another end thing, and all the stuff comes down from the

network. No one doubts that model. I think that model is very exciting.


If you see history, lot of bubbles

or concepts have come up, for example, it was artificial intelligence 10 years back. It

just disappeared over a period of time. Now it is the network computing, as you define it.

Don’t you think the same would happen to the NC?
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Horn: I don’t think this could possibly happen to network computing. The issue
is not whether it is a PC or it is an NC. What we should be looking at is what the

customers see in this new model. And right now they have a costly, complicated

environment. They have the PC, the servers, and then they have legacy systems. So they are

developing applications in different languages. They got to deal with this very

complicated environment. Instead, you can create a very simple environment in

Java—enterprise-level applications. Download them over the network, and they can be

run on a PC, which has a Java layer or an NC. Java runs on simple clients, which lower the

cost of ownership. You could argue there wouldn’t be a lot of NCs. But the model is


Kovac: Look at the

mainframe environment. It had its own advantages. But it didn’t have the richness of

applications. It certainly has security, connectivity, manageability, and the ability to

control in a centralized way. The distributed model brought with it a lot of great

things—the richness of applications. But it also brought with it a great deal of

complexity. So there is this new model.

But if you see, as systems are

getting more and more complex, building them is getting easier and easier....
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Horn: Absolutely. They are getting better. But if you see we are getting more
productive. The complexity is in the heterogeneous nature of clients. I don’t know

what the operating systems might be in digital forms, embedded systems...managing these

kind of systems over the network.... Now how are we gonna deal with that? This can be done

in the Java environment. And this is the only one emerging right now to manage this kind

of a heterogeneous environment. Or, in the other case everything is going to be Microsoft,

which is probably the other alternative. There will be Microsoft in the car, Microsoft in

the TV, Microsoft in the handheld etc. I think it is rational to think that everything

won’t be Microsoft. Then the only other alternative for simplicity is Java.

So, Java plays a crucial role

in IBM research?

Horn: It does. I think it plays

a crucial role in providing some level of standards that we can build around in the IT


What do you think of the Intel-HP

combine for the Merced chip, which they are developing?

Horn: Merced, they are claiming,

is a combination of RISC and CISC. They have speculative research done on the concept of

binary translation, which I don’t know will work or not. If it works, it will create

a revolution in the microprocessor world. You can have any microelectronic architecture

you want, but if you want to have a very fine translation layer, that allows you to use

any instruction set, you could go back and get your legacy instruction set like your x86.

Now, if that had existed, then Intel would not have to build Merced. If you had binary

translation, then you could have had any x86 processor and any operating system could have

worked on it. But it might be the next revolution. What they are doing, is that the chip

has got two pieces—one that deals with the old system and another that deals with the

new code. So, the Merced chip is a hybrid. If this had existed, then they could have just

used the x86 chip long back.