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Wolfram|Alpha Officially Launched

Published May 18, 2009

World’s First Computational Knowledge Engine Is One of the Most Eagerly Anticipated International Product Launches of 2009

May 18, 2009—Wolfram Alpha LLC today announced the general availability of Wolfram|Alpha, the world’s first computational knowledge engine, offered for free on the web.

Wolfram|Alpha draws on scientist Stephen Wolfram‘s groundbreaking work on Mathematica, the world’s leading technical computing software platform, and on the discoveries he published in his paradigm-shifting book, A New Kind of Science. Over 200,000 people from throughout the world have contacted the company to learn more about Wolfram|Alpha since news of the service first surfaced broadly in March.

The long-term goal of Wolfram|Alpha is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. Wolfram|Alpha draws on multiple terabytes of curated data and synthesizes it into entirely new combinations and presentations. The service answers questions, solves equations, cross-references data types, projects future behaviors, and more. Wolfram|Alpha’s examples pages and gallery show a few of the many uses of this new technology.

“Fifty years ago,” said Stephen Wolfram, the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, “when computers were young, people assumed that they’d be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer. I’m happy to say that we’ve successfully built a system that delivers knowledge from a simple input field, giving access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms. Wolfram|Alpha signals a new paradigm for using computers and the web.”

Four Pillars of Wolfram|Alpha

Wolfram|Alpha is made up of four main “pillars” or components:

  • Curated Data. Wolfram|Alpha contains terabytes of factual data covering a wide range of fields. Teams of subject-matter experts and researchers collect and curate data, transforming it into computable forms that can be understood and operated on by computer algorithms.
  • Dynamic Computation. When Wolfram|Alpha receives a user query, it extracts the relevant facts from its stored computable data and then applies a collection of tens of thousands of algorithms, creating and synthesizing new relevant knowledge.
  • Intuitive Language Understanding. To allow Wolfram|Alpha to understand inputs entered in everyday language, its developers examine the ways people express ideas within fields and subject matters and continually refine algorithms that automatically recognize these patterns.
  • Computational Aesthetics. Wolfram|Alpha also represents a new approach to user-interface design. The service takes user inputs and builds a customized page of clearly and usefully presented computed knowledge.

Wolfram|Alpha has been entirely developed and deployed using Wolfram Research, Inc.’s Mathematica technology. Wolfram|Alpha contains nearly six million lines of Mathematica code, authored and maintained in Wolfram Workbench. In its launch configuration, Wolfram|Alpha is running Mathematica on about 10,000 processor cores distributed among five colocation facilities, using gridMathematica-based parallelism. And every query that comes into the system is served with webMathematica.

“Wolfram|Alpha is an extremely powerful way of harnessing the world’s knowledge. Now, anyone with web access can tap into that knowledge to find relevant information and discover new insights,” said Theodore Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research.

The Wolfram|Alpha launch process has been broadcast live on Justin.tv and documented on the Wolfram|Alpha blog and on its Twitter and Facebook accounts. The site first went live for testing on Friday, May 15, 2009, and has been rigorously tested and further performance-tuned since then in preparation for today’s official launch.

Key Partnerships with Dell, Inc. and R Systems NA, Inc.

Powering Wolfram|Alpha’s computational knowledge engine required highly specialized servers and compute clusters. An innovative approach helped speed deployment, lower total cost of ownership, and reduce the environmental impact of the system’s compute clouds.

Dell’s Data Center Solutions (DCS) Division worked with R Systems NA, Inc., Wolfram|Alpha’s data-center hosting partner, to identify the right customized cloud computing solution and tune it to R Systems’ facility, operating processes, and application workload.

“Since Dell created DCS in 2007, we have championed the early adopters at the leading edge of areas like search, service provider, and cloud-computing spaces. Today’s launch of Wolfram|Alpha is significant for both the technology community and to Dell,” said Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of Dell’s Data Center Solutions Division. “It is incredible to see the outcome of Dell’s strategy to work with customers to design and build an infrastructure fully optimized for their computing environments.”

Brian Kucic, CEO of R Systems, said, “Working with Wolfram Alpha LLC on a project like Wolfram|Alpha is exactly what we envisioned when we started our company. Being engaged with high-performance computing on a large scale and offering world-class resources to researchers is our mission. As Wolfram|Alpha expands, we’re confident that our resources will satisfy its users and their expectations.”

For more information on Wolfram|Alpha, visit its Media Resources page.

About Wolfram Alpha LLC

Wolfram Alpha LLC is a Wolfram Research company.

Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. The company aims to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything.

Wolfram|Alpha builds on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

About Wolfram Research

Wolfram Research, Inc. is a powerhouse in technical innovation and pursues a long-term vision to develop the science, technology, and tools to make computation an ever-more-potent force in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

With Mathematica 7, Wolfram Research delivered powerful new capabilities, including image processing, parallel high-performance computing, and new on-demand data—making the software more relevant than ever to everyone from leading researchers to students and other users. Wolfram Research sponsors the world’s largest free network of technical information websites, including MathWorld—the #1 website devoted to mathematics—and the Wolfram Demonstrations Project.

Wolfram Research was founded in 1987 by Stephen Wolfram, who continues to lead the company today. The company is headquartered in the United States, with offices in Europe and Asia. For more information, visit its website.

About Stephen Wolfram

Stephen Wolfram is a distinguished scientist, inventor, author, and business leader. He is the creator of Mathematica, the author of A New Kind of Science, the creator of Wolfram|Alpha, and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research.

Wolfram has been president and CEO of Wolfram Research since its founding in 1987. In addition to his business leadership, Wolfram is deeply involved in the development of the company’s technology, and continues to be personally responsible for overseeing all aspects of the functional design of the core Mathematica system as well as Wolfram|Alpha.