If you’re intrigued by IBM’s Watson AI as a service, but reluctant to trust IBM with your data, Big Blue has a compromise. It’s packaging Watson’s core machine learning technology as an end-to-end solution available behind your firewall.

Now the bad news: It’ll only be available to z System / z/OS mainframe users … for now.

From start to finish

  isn’t a single machine learning framework. It’s  a collection of popular frameworks — in particular Apache SparkML, TensorFlow, and H2O — packaged with bindings to common languages used in the trade (Python, Java, Scala), and with support for “any transactional data type.” IBM is pushing it as a pipeline for building, managing, and running machine learning models through visual tools for each step of the process and RESTful APIs for deployment and management.

There’s a real need for this kind of convenience. Even as the number of frameworks for machine learning mushrooms, developers still have to perform a lot of heavy labor to create end-to-end production pipelines for training and working with models. This is why ; in time the arrangement could serve as the underpinning for a complete solution that would cover every phase of machine learning.

also pairs custom IBM hardware — in this case, the Power8 processor — with commodity Nvidia GPUs to train models at high speed. In theory, PowerAI devices could run side by side with a mix of other, more mainstream hardware as part of an overall machine learning hardware array.

The z/OS incarnation of IBM Machine Learning is aimed at an even higher and narrower market: existing z/OS customers with tons of on-prem data. Rather than ask those (paying) customers to connect to something outside of their firewalls, IBM offers them first crack at tooling to help them get more from the data. The wording of IBM’s announcement — “initially make [IBM Machine Learning] available [on z/OS]” — implies that other targets are possible later on.