Introduction – What is Wolfram Alpha?
May 15, 2009 will always be remembered as the day that Wolfram Alpha has been officially launched.
Wolfram Alpha is a different kind of search engine, actually it could be more precisely described as a computational knowledge engine. It is using inbuilt algorithms, and its huge knowledge base (trillions of pieces of data!), to compute queries in various topics, such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Astronomy and more.
What kind of resources does Wolfram Alpha use?
Building and maintaining such a computationally intensive engine, requires a tremendous amount of resources.
The following resources had been gathered for the launch day:
– Five distributed co-location facilities
– Two supercomputers
– 10,000 processor cores
– Hundreds of terabytes of disks
– Lots of bandwidth
– Lots of cooling / air-conditioning
The result is the ability to handle 175 million queries (yielding maybe a billion) per day—over 5 billion queries (encompassing around 30 billion calculations) per month!
Wolfram Alpha vs Google vs Wikipedia
Wolfram Alpha is as much of a “Google killer” as Wikipedia is, i.e. neither it is nor it is intented to be (as of now).
Google is indexing the Web, and provides search results, whereas Wolfram Alpha computes the results.
In fact, as Google has currently started indexing Twitter, it could start indexing Wolfram Alpha results, and possibly direct huge amounts of traffic on their site. A Google – Wolfram co-operation would benefit every Web user, as long as they agree on a business model of course.
However it could become a “Wikipedia killer” in certain science areas, as instead of searching for referencing material on Wikipedia, you could directly get a Wolfram Alpha result.
Wolfram Alpha in action