IBM to Develop New Cloud Prioritization Environment for Brazil Ministry of Science

Earlier today IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced that the company was selected by Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to develop a first-of-a-kind technology that will allow organizations to manage Cloud resources more efficiently and in real time.

Under the terms of the three year deal, IBM will work with Brazilian and foreign universities to develop the system, optimization and testing for a dynamic self-management software solution that will balance specialized and traditional resources dynamically according to business demand in real time.

According to IBM, this fledgling technology is quite an improvement over existing Cloud technologies because so much of what is available today is based on virtual machines, and most applications hosted on the Cloud are focused on data production and consumption, including retail purchase sites, blogs, traffic and weather data collection sites. Such applications can be run on virtual machines, and offer a good cost-benefit ratio for consumers, but there are a large number of applications that could be hosted on the cloud only if expert, high-performance computing resources are managed in a more complex way.

The technology that IBM is developing with Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation can be used by businesses of all sizes, universities and government agencies to manage computing resources during times of critical demand, and especially when demand for resources peak.

For example, a company seeking to provide a cloud-based transportation management service could offer customized routes to users depending on their preferences and activities. This service could also be run on a set of traditional virtual machines, but under unexpected circumstances requiring the rapid processing of all routes in a region affected by an emergency, processing could be quickly completed by specialized machines to meet that type of emergency demand.

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Although the IBM news release did not contain any specific reference to a patent or patent family that represents this innovation, IBM acknowledges that the company holds 1,560 cloud patents. A quick patent search for patents that may relate to the described innovation uncovered U.S. Patent No. 8,429,659 (“the ‘659 patent”), which is titled Scheduling jobs within a cloud computing environment. The innovation described in the ‘659 patent provides an approach to prioritizing jobs within a cloud computing environment so as to maximize positive financial impacts (or to minimize negative financial impacts) for cloud service providers, while not exceeding processing capacity or failing to meet terms of applicable service agreements.

The ‘659 patent sets forth the status of the industry prior to this innovation by explaining that jobs in a cloud computing environment are generally performed based on a predetermined priority that is established by a job performance algorithm. Such an algorithm, however, fails to take into account processing needs and financial resources, and each job is viewed only in isolation, without considering the job package as a whole.

To address this problem the innovation described in the ‘659 patent takes into consideration the cost to the customer, the processing need, and set of service agreement terms for each of the many jobs to be performed. The jobs will then be prioritized in a way that maximizes performance while keeping an eye on financial considerations and with staying within the total processing capacity of the cloud computing environment. More specifically, certain embodiments of the disclosed invention take into account any financial penalties and/or premiums (negative or positive fiscal incentives) that may be linked to the provider’s ability to meet service agreement terms. Some embodiments will also use data surrounding such penalties and/or premiums to schedule jobs in a way that will optimize revenue flow to the service provider. Thus, cloud service providers can improve financial performance regardless of whether their service agreements are stated in terms of bonuses for meeting certain service levels, or stated in terms of financial penalties for being unable to meet service level requirements specified in service agreements.

A continuation was filed on the ‘659 parent on March 18, 2013, which was five weeks before the ‘659 patent issued. The continuing patent application, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130219401, which is titled Prioritizing jobs within a cloud computing environment, contains method, system and computer program claims. No action has been taken in this continuing application by the Patent Office as yet.

A review of Art Unit and patent examiner data using PatentAdvisor indicates that the Art Unit this application is assigned to, Art Unit 2199, which deals with computer architecture, has an allowance rate of 74.3% (i.e., 555 granted applications with 192 abandoned applications). The Art Unit also has 898 pending applications, as you might expect with an Art Unit dealing with a relatively new technology such as cloud computing. Furthermore, the examiner assigned to the application has an allowance rate of 62.3%, also according to PatentAdvisor data (i.e., 174 granted applications with 105 abandoned applications). This type of reasonable allowance rate together with a disclosure that has already yielded a patent suggests that the ‘401 application has a high probability of maturing into a patent at some point, although that may not be for several years.

Ultimately, the deployed IBM technology integrated into the Brazil Ministry of Science will likely not incorporate certain features that relate to a service provider being able to meet customer expectations, but the deployed technology is expected to incorporate key aspects associated with automatically prioritizing available resources while taking into account financial restrictions.

“A key differentiator of this system is that users will be able to specify business objectives and financial restrictions, and the platform will automatically manage resources accordingly,” said Marco Aurelio Stelmar Netto, researcher at IBM Research Brazil. “Without the platform, companies have to spend more to access high performance resources that do not have the specialty they require. Selecting the resources is a hard task, but automatically taking business objectives and costs into account before making that selection will make a big difference.”

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