Mark III Systems Blog
Full stack can mean different things to a lot of different people — anything from pancakes (our favorite!), to developers, to enterprise tech stacks of all kinds.
For Mark III and how we envision the channel partner of the future, we extend the concept of “full stack” into describing how we’ve steadily built our unique organization over the past few years based around full stack capabilities to help our clients be successful in the era of digital transformation.
For us, full stack capabilities comprise of our developers, data scientists, DevOps/Automation engineers, and systems architects/engineers all working together as a cohesive unit to help our clients solve challenges within the business and IT, and partner to help them open up new channels, revenue sources, and business models.
Why is a true full stack approach from partners needed now?
As industries slowly (or very quickly, in some cases) shift to open source centric, cloud-native applications and services to support initiatives like IoT, AI, Deep Learning, Advanced Analytics, DevOps, and Mobile, the way a partner can assist an enterprise in implementing and being successful with these initiatives has fundamentally shifted from being solely about architecture and implementation/operational excellence, but more to a balance between great code, creative design, an understanding of analytics/AI/ML/DL, and the solid architecture concepts and principles we’ve always known (but maybe implemented a bit differently via cloud-native, API-driven architectures).
Keep in mind that cloud-native has nothing to do with location… it’s simply the new style of “composed” application or service that is built on a foundation of mostly open source inspired frameworks and services that is mostly portable and can be deployed in the public cloud, on-premise in the datacenter, or more and more so, to the edge.
The amazing (and yet daunting thing) about the impact of open source thinking over the past 15 years across everything from software to hardware to datasets, is the number of options and the flexibility that an enterprise or organization has now to build almost anything that they need to be competitive in the market and serve their customers how they best prefer to be served.
In a world where all these options exist and the friction to implement ideas is dramatically lower, much of the value in a partner like us starts to shift more from the traditional technology building blocks (IT infrastructure/software/services/etc) we’ve always helped with, but more so to a balance of those building blocks and the ability to code, design, automate, and analyze data to bring all these pieces together.
An example might be how our developers and data scientists might engage on AI or Deep Learning initiatives to build out a Vision AI or an enhanced analytics with AI use case for a client that involves days/weeks of iterations using TensorFlow or Caffe to get the training dataset and inherent margin of AI error just right for the business, after which our team of DevOps engineers and system architects would look at actually how to architect the physical systems for the datacenter/edge (or services in the public cloud) and design a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to automate iterations and deployments of new training data and the AI models themselves.
Here’s an example of a “Medicine Recognition AI” concept that we built entirely ourselves via the full stack approach. Our developers and data scientist built the platform via AI frameworks on servers with NVIDIA P100 GPUs (architected/implemented by our system engineers), aggregated the data needed for the training sets, iterated via different combinations of training data/techniques until we had an acceptable level of error (there’s always some error in every AI use case!), and then exported the AI model to an IoT edge device serving as an inference “server” that our system engineer team had set up. For this initial build, we didn’t automate the deployment pipeline, but this could have been done in practice via our DevOps team if this was production and needed.
Another example is how we might utilize our development team to build a series of smart IoT kiosks with customer-facing chatbots using iOS that would then interface via IoT gateways and wireless networks (all of which we can assist with), and send key data back to AI and speedy analytics systems in the datacenter. In this scenario, our entire team of developers, data scientists, DevOps, and system engineers would all play their role in making a transformational engagement vehicle, like the smart kiosk, available for tech-native end-users of that enterprise.
And yes, our team can always assist with “traditional” new architecture designs and optimizations of existing tech stacks on-premise in the datacenter (VMware SDDC, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc), just like we have for the past two decades! Only now, when we do so, we do it with a focus on optionality for our enterprises and an eye toward utilizing that foundation to pivot to what the digital future looks like.
Hungry for a future of successful digital transformation? The Full Stack never looked so good.
Mark III Systems and our digital development unit, BlueChasm, hosted our second Dev Day Houston at the Karbach Brewery in Houston, Texas! In case you missed this years Dev Day; Dev Day is “a meetup and expo for ALL Houston tech professionals that build, run, and support amazing software for enterprises, organizations, service providers, research institutions, and everything in between.”
Here is an in-depth recap of some of the expo tables we had at Dev Day:
At the IBM Watson table, the BlueChasm team built an API-driven cognitive call center platform using speech-to-text and Server-side Swift. Having utilized Swift for a long time for iOS development, the BlueChasm team recently turned to Swift to roll out many services that combine to power the platform, due to a number of reasons, including scalability, performance, and some of the nice debugging tools that are available with Swift. Watch the video below to see a demo of Cognitive Call Center.
BlueChasm (Mark III’s digital development arm) had a table that featured a couple different cognitive demo platforms also built around IBM Watson, TensorFlow, and IBM Cloud Object Storage.
BlueChasm showed a live demonstration of our trained Vision AI model called VideoRecon and showed how you can start using AI Vision to solve business challenges! For those not aware, VideoRecon is a video analytics platform that our team put together that uses IBM Watson, Bluemix, and IBM Cloud Object Storage, in combination with some of our own algorithms, to enable a user to leverage Watson to auto-tag a video with what Watson “sees” in the video. These tags will allow the video to be searched, filtered, and analyzed (after tagging), all without any form of manual tagging or labeling that’s required with most video/audio storage software platforms today. To see the full demo visit VideoRecon.io and click “Demo” or click the image below.
BlueChasm also demonstrated its medicine recognition AI demo, in which a simple box was converted into an edge computing device with a simple camera trained to identify pills and medication simply by “looking” at the pill. Nearly 100,000 Americans die every year from taking improper medication, so AI technologies like this hold a lot of promise not only for industry, but also for contributing to help solve challenges faced by humanity.
At the BlueChasm DevOps table, we showed chatbot integrations for managing and monitoring enterprise systems hardware over Slack; as well as, support for performing various management tasks using voice commands through Amazon Alexa.
At our TensorFlow table, we demoed how its toolset is enabling a whole new generation of AI and deep learning apps and use cases. Examples at the booth include fast, accurate image recognition to solve business challenges and significantly more accurate predictive business models (vs traditional analytics techniques).
Did you know Docker is for more than just Microservices? We all know Docker provides the foundation for changing the way you develop and run applications, but it can also make existing legacy apps more secure, efficient, and portable to hybrid cloud infrastructures. At Dev Day the Docker team discussed how to migrate existing Windows and Linux applications into Docker containers without having to modify source code. Mark III is both a Docker DVAR and Docker Consulting Partner and has Docker Enterprise Edition (Docker Datacenter) running in our Houston lab, which includes key enterprise-centric components like Docker Universal Control Plane (UCP) and Docker Trusted Registry (DTR).
Ship better software, faster! We were pleased to have Chef join our second Dev Day. At their table, they discussed how you can use Chef Automate (Chef’s enterprise platform) to enable collaboration and continuous automation across your infrastructure, applications and compliance for all your apps and infrastructure.
NVIDIA demonstrated a simple but powerful image recognition program to illustrate how Deep Learning works and how using the right tools can simplify development efforts. NVIDIA and its leading GPU and acceleration technologies represent the heart of the current surge in the industry in AI and deep learning related innovation… most of BlueChasm’s platforms and apps are built on top of stacks that incorporate NVIDIA technology.
We did a live demo of Azure Stack Development Kit running remotely in the Mark III lab. Azure Stack is the soon to be released on-premise version of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform (PaaS/IaaS) targeted for release in 2H2017. If your organization has constraints on using public cloud (security/legal/regulatory/comfort/network/etc) but you still want the same agility, speed, and development tooling, then Azure Stack is perfect for you.
Til the next Dev Day
Thank you to everyone who attended Dev Day and for everyone who helped make the meetup a huge success! We had such a great time at Dev Day Houston 2017 we can’t wait an entire year so follow us on Twitter or Facebook to hear about Dev Day Houston 2018 in the Spring!
If any of these technologies and/or projects/products interest you, please feel free to reach out to us directly at Mark III to start a conversation!
In May, Nutanix announced its partnership with IBM: IBM and Nutanix to Deliver Hyperconverged Infrastructure Designed for Big Data and Artificial Intelligence
As a partner of both IBM and Nutanix, this new dual partnership is one we are very excited about. Being a 22 year plus IBM Platinum Partner, we have been with IBM through the many industry changes and feel this partnership is moving in the right direction for a friendly cloud-native services model on the POWER platform.
The value of technology is shifting from historical and real-time analytics to predictive analytics which uses machine learning, cognitive tool kits, AI, big data, and more. To process these workloads you need extremely fast and powerful processing power. This is why Nutanix and IBM have partnered; as it “intends to bring new workloads to hyperconverged deployments by delivering the first simple-to-deploy, web-scale architecture supporting POWER based scale-out computing for a continuum of enterprise workloads” (IBM Press Release).
With this partnership, IBM customers of Power-based systems will be able to realize a public cloud-like experience with their on premise infrastructure,” said Dheeraj Pandey, CEO at Nutanix.
This joint initiative will bring new workloads to hyperconverged deployments for example:
- Cognitive workloads including big data, machine learning and AI
- Mission-critical workloads; databases, data warehouses, and mainstream enterprise apps
- Cloud-native workloads like full stack open source middleware and enterprise databases and containers
This partnership strengthens our “IBM Full Stack” approach as we have a strong team of developers, DevOps engineers, and systems engineers and architects we leverage to modernize existing infrastructure stacks in the datacenter like POWER and Nutanix but also build out emerging analytics and AI stacks, built on open source centric frameworks.
In our upcoming webinar series The Griddle, we’ll cover some of our transformational cloud-native platforms, prototypes, and use cases that our “full stack” team of developers, DevOps engineers, and system engineers have built, along with an explanation of how we built each use case layer by layer using an IBM “full stack” approach. Regardless of if one of our platforms is exactly what you’re looking for or you’re looking to build something similar, hear more about how “pairing” and teaming with Mark III and our full stack expertise can help you build your own unique stack for your own digital transformation initiatives.
- When: Thursday, June 15th at 11 am CDT (9am PDT/12am EDT)
- Topic: Learn about how Mark III Systems and its digital development unit, BlueChasm, built a cloud-native video analytics platform on the IBM “full stack,” including IBM Watson, IBM Bluemix, IBM Cloudant, and IBM Cloud Object Storage. The video analytics platform also supports hybrid deployments, which can involve pluggable deep learning frameworks like TensorFlow on IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage.
- When: Thursday, June 22nd at 11am CDT (9am PDT/12am EDT)
- Topic: Learn how Mark III Systems and its digital development unit, BlueChasm, built a cognitive audio analytics platform for call centers on the IBM “full stack,” which utilizes near real-time transcription and cognitive analytics capabilities to enable search, filter, analytics, and event-based actions within calls. Some of the technologies we used include IBM Watson, IBM Bluemix, IBM Analytics, and IBM Cloud Object Storage.
- When: Thursday, July 13th at 11am CDT (9am PDT/12am EDT)
- Topic: Learn how Mark III Systems and its digital development unit, BlueChasm, built a cognitive advertising display board on the IBM “full stack,” which utilizes AI and vision in order to show very targeted advertisements at potential customers standing in front of the board based on visual identification. Some of the technologies we used include IBM Watson, IBM Bluemix, IBM Cloudant, and IBM Cloud Object Storage.
Day One at IBM InterConnect 2017 is in the book and was an incredible success. Thank you again to everyone who attended our session on VideoRecon and our expo booth during the reception!
For Day Two, we’ll have another session, this time focused on data protection and the IBM Software-Defined Storage (SDS) portfolio, namely Spectrum Protect and data protection in the Cognitive and Cloud Era. In addition, our Expo booth will be open all day from 8:30am until 7:30pm, so please come see us if you haven’t already (or come again if you’d like to keep talking and bouncing ideas off of us!).
Here’s our Tuesday session:
IBM InterConnect 2017 officially kicks off today (Monday) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas! As part of InterConnect, Mark III is serving as a Bronze sponsor and will have sessions every day that will cover a variety of topics in the IBM stack from IBM Watson to IBM Bluemix to IBM Systems and Storage. You’ll hear a recurring theme from us this week about our unique focus around supporting our clients with a “Full Stack” approach by giving them truly valuable assistance at each layer of the IBM stack, depending on what they are trying to accomplish. We do this with our diverse team of developers, data science professionals, DevOps engineers, and System Engineers, all of whom have honed their respective crafts by being in our clients’ shoes. Whether you’re looking to partner on a cognitive platform to open up new revenue streams or if you’re looking to modernize your datacenter or core ERP system, we can help.
Our first session for the week is today at 4:15pm (Mandalay Bay North, Level 0, South Pacific H) and focused on how our BlueChasm digital development unit built VideoRecon, a video analytics platform that incorporates elements of IBM Watson, Bluemix, Cloudant, and Cloud Object Storage. In addition, the original prototype was actually built on top of IBM Spectrum Storage (SDS) as well, although we’ve since moved to an IBM Cloud model as part of our move to offer VideoRecon as a consumable SaaS platform.
Here’s a description of our session below:
Have a specific use case for video analytics? Let us know! Part of utilizing VideoRecon as a platform is an interactive relationship with our team, including our devs, and your specific use cases, so let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
Also, if you’re just interested in making the IBM stack work for you (even if you have no interest in video analytics), this is definitely something that the greater Mark III/BlueChasm team can help with as well… our experience in building our own stacks can help you with yours.
For the conference, we’ll also have a booth in the Expo (#687) where we’ll be showing demos that feature the IBM stack and just having a great time. Come join us!
We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at IBM InterConnect in Las Vegas!
This year, we’ll be doing 4 different breakout sessions that cover topics ranging from IBM Watson to IBM Bluemix to IBM Systems & Storage.
Come see one of our sessions OR come visit us at our booth (Booth #687) in the Expo Center… we’ll be located in the center back, just to the left of the DevZone! Come see what the Mark III “Full Stack” is all about…
Here’s a quick rundown of our sessions and date/times (one per day):
OR feel free to reach out to us on Twitter (@MarkIIISystems) while you’re out there and we can meet up!
IBM held its annual IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference (PWLC) this week in Las Vegas from February 13-15. As part of PWLC, Mark III was fortunate to pickup two of the prestigious 2017 IBM Beacon Awards for the categories of Outstanding Storage Solution and Outstanding Solution Developed on Bluemix.
IBM Beacon Awards are given each year at PWLC to the top IBM Business Partners worldwide for each of 19 different solution categories. For Mark III, with the many thousands of IBM partners worldwide, winning two of these categories is a very significant milestone for us and an honor we share with our incredible clients.
From our point of view, being honored with two Beacon Awards is especially important this year, as all industries are in the middle of a significant transformation, led by rapidly changing digital and cognitive initiatives that are literally rewriting the winners and losers in each industry. At Mark III, we see our role as helping to guide both our new and long-time clients through this time of rapid change, whether it be helping to modernize and optimize a critical tech stack in the datacenter, or collaborating and building a cognitive prototype that will lead to new revenue streams for our partners/clients running on-premise or in the cloud.
As an example, our Outstanding Storage Solution award was given to Mark III for our work with a client on a digital video storage and archive on-premise cloud, enabling our client to modernize their video storage capabilities, while positioning them for a future of expanded video usage and analytics. Our Outstanding Solution Developed on Bluemix was for our work in building a Cognitive Call Center platform that can be used to bring cognitive insights to enterprises and software partners that operate call centers.
These Beacon Awards span across the IBM stack from IBM Cloud to IBM Watson to IBM Systems and are a great vote of confidence from IBM in that ongoing journey to provide that very guidance to our joint clients, all while leveraging Mark III’s very unique capabilities.
For virtually all of our two decade history, we’ve been known to the IBM ecosystem as one of the top “True Blue” partners, in how we are able to pull together “solutions” using all the components of the IBM portfolio, including systems, storage, networking, software, and middleware, all wrapped with services and “above and beyond” ongoing support and operational assistance.
While this “horizontal” approach of building solutions still continues to work well for many clients (and one we’ve continued to expand our capabilities in, especially around modernization and optimization in the datacenter), we’re seeing that many new digital use cases, especially those that involve cognitive approaches, require a “vertical” approach in building the stack. Although there is some crossover with some technologies from the horizontal approach (such as with Systems/Storage/Data Layer/etc), the “vertical” approach often spans upward into areas that are relatively unfamiliar to most in the ecosystem, including skills like amazing code, product innovation, UX design, data science, and raw creative business strategy acumen for digital approaches.
Accordingly, this is what we’ve built the future of Mark III around… the ability to understand and assist with the past, present, and future, with unique skills that can bring true value no matter if a “horizontal,” modernization approach is needed, or if a “vertical,” prototyping one is required (or a “full stack” combination of the two!).
Welcome to the Era of the New Cognitive Partner. We’re ready.
When putting together all the pieces to build an IoT-centric platform or service, it’s pretty straight-forward on how to account for the basics. These basics might include some subset of sensors/instruments/embedded devices, IoT-centric networking, your IoT app/platform (whether it be in the cloud or on-premise), and any special team or processes needed to operate and iterate on it. Whether it be with prototyping and procuring sensors/devices/networking or building a cloud-native IoT platform in the public cloud or in the datacenter to manage your sensors or engage with your targeted end-user, Mark III has the capabilities to assist.
With all that said, it’s easy in the process of building your project or platform to neglect the need to plan for the logistical deployment of sensors/devices and/or the ongoing support in the event your sensors/devices fail or need maintenance. As a very long time IBM Premier Partner (and IBM Platinum Partner, as of this month), we were excited last year to hear that IBM’s Technical Support Services (TSS) organization would be providing deployment/technical support/maintenance services for IoT sensors/devices/instruments in the field to complement some of Mark III’s strengths in helping our clients and partners execute on their IoT initiatives.
We’ve been fortunate to partner with IBM’s Technical Support Services (TSS) organization to provide technical support/maintenance services on IBM and non-IBM systems and equipment, so the extension into IoT seemed natural and perfect in our eyes, and enables us to offer a single technical support services provider across the entire “new” IoT stack, spanning from sensors, to the edge, and into the datacenter (if on-premise). Our partnership with TSS enables our partners and clients to be able to leverage the global breadth of IBM’s support organization, which is critical in IoT scenarios, since the actual locations are likely more fragmented than current support scenarios with traditional enterprise technology.
Here are some of the offering descriptions that come with IoT services from TSS via Mark III:
- Deployment: Forward logistics of the sensor/instrumented/embedded devices and network devices, which includes staging/kitting, warehousing and transportation
- Site Survey and Installation: Onsite field services for sensors/instrumented/embedded devices and network devices
- Steady State: (1) Remote technical support for the integration solution including call receipt, ticket creation, entitlement, L1/L2, resource and parts dispatching, monitoring, and live chat, (2) Onsite field services for sensor/instrumented/embedded devices and network devices including swaps or repair and preventative maintenance, (3) Logistics including inventory management, planning, warehousing, transportation, depot repair, and testing for devices
For more information or start a conversation, please reach out to us at Mark III and we’d be happy to give you our thoughts about this or anything IoT-related.
The IBM InterConnect 2017 conference is IBM’s premier cloud technology conference and will take place March 19-23 in Las Vegas. We’ve been attending and speaking at InterConnect since it was first created a few years ago (for example, 2016), but we’re particularly excited about our participation at this year’s version of InterConnect, as we’ll have a wider presence with at least 4 breakout sessions across a wide variety of IBM-focused topics and will have a booth in the expo (that we’ll be sharing with BlueChasm, Mark III’s digital development unit).
In the past 12 months, we’ve done breakout sessions and panels at Edge, World of Watson, Watson Developer Conference, PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, and InterConnect 2016. With that said, we view our focus at InterConnect 2017 as really tying all those pieces together. Cloud “stack” technology, regardless of location, is really foundation of optimizing current tech stacks and paving the way for ongoing and future digital and cognitive initiatives. Many times some confuse the word “cloud” as having to do with location when in reality, it has to do with an agile tech stack that allows you to build, deploy, and/or iterate on services quickly.
One of our tech stacks in our “full stack” model in working with clients and service providers might involve anything from Watson Ecosystem API services to Bluemix services to Cloudant to Cloud Object Storage to Spectrum Protect to IT infrastructure, like IBM Spectrum Storage or FlashSystems. The concept is really all about speed and agility for business users, developers, and operations, depending on the type of cloud services needed.
Our breakout sessions at InterConnect 2017, in conjunction with BlueChasm, cover all layers of the IBM tech stack and spans from the top to the bottom of the new IBM stack (the “New True Blue” as I call it). Here they are (dates/times TBD):
- Building a Video Analytics Platform with IBM Watson, Bluemix, Cloudant, and Cloud Object Storage (BBM-2035)
- Building SaaS Platforms on Bluemix with Watson APIs and Server-Side Swift (BOP-2587)
- Revolutionizing Data Protection Architectures with IBM Spectrum Protect and Container Pools (HPZ-2214)
- Architecting an Archiving and Video Storage Solution with IBM Cloud Object Storage (HPZ-2716)
We also have one more Bluemix-focused session that’s on the waitlist, but suffice to say, we’ll be pretty busy! Hope to see you at InterConnect 2017!