IBM Watson http://www-03.ibm.com/innovation/us/watson/index.shtml, the computer that will
compete against the top two Jeopardy! champions on February 14-16, 2011, is constructed using a
commercially available computing platform from IBM. The IBM Watson is a massively parallel
system based on the IBM POWER7 750 in a standard rack mounted configuration.
The IBM Power 750, featuring IBM's POWER7 processor, is a server that runs AIX, IBM i and
Linux, and has been on the market since Feb 2010. This is the same unit that has been described on
http://www03.ibm.com/systems/power/hardware/750/index.html for about a year.
The IBM Watson itself looks like what could be described as a set of books in a book shelf. See:
IBM Watson is comprised of ninety IBM POWER 750 servers, 16 Terabytes of memory, and 4
Terabytes of clustered storage. This is enclosed in ten racks including the servers, networking, shared
disk system, and cluster controllers. These ninety POWER 750 servers have four POWER7 processors,
each with eight cores. IBM Watson has a total of 2880 POWER7 cores.
Watson runs IBM DeepQA software, http://www.research.ibm.com/deepqa/deepqa.shtml, which scales
out with and searches vast amounts of unstructured information. Effective execution of this software,
corresponding to a less than three second response time to a Jeopardy! question, is not just based on
raw execution power. Effective system throughput includes having available data to crunch on.
Without an efficient memory sub-system, no amount of compute power will yield effective results. A
balanced design is comprised of main memory, several levels of local cache and execution power.
IBM's POWER 750's scalable design is capable of filling execution pipelines with instructions and
data, keeping all the POWER7 processor cores busy. At 3.55 GHz, each of Watson's POWER7
on-chip bandwidth is 500 Gigabytes per second. The total on-chip bandwidth for Watson's 360
POWER7 processors is an astounding 180,000 Gigabytes per second! It is no accident that an IBM
POWER7 based technology serves as basic hardware building block for IBM Watson.
If there were an industry standard performance benchmark for playing Jeopardy!, such as
specJeopardy!2011, there would be only one published result.
Watch an in-depth discussion of IBM Watson on your local PBS channel on February 9, 2011,