Best Free and Open Source Alternatives to IBM Watson

International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York. They sell computer hardware, middleware and software employing over 370,000 people.

IBM acquired Red Hat in 2019. But you can trace IBM’s history of open source far further back. They were one of the earliest champions of open source, backing influential communities like Linux, Apache, and Eclipse, advocating open licenses, open governance, and open standards.

IBM also collaborates with Linux organisations. For example, IBM works with Ubuntu in areas like containers, virtualization, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, big data analytics and DevOps to provide reference architectures, support solutions and cloud offerings, both for enterprise data centres and cloud service providers.

The company is involved in many open source projects. For example, they helped to create the Apache Software Foundation, and were also a founder member of the OpenJS Foundation, responsible for the development of the Node.js platform, Appium, Dojo, jQuery and many other products.

There are also many IBM software products published under a proprietary license. This series looks at free and open source alternatives to IBM’s products.

IBM Watson IBM Watson is a data analytics processor that uses natural language processing, a technology that analyzes human speech for meaning and syntax. IBM Watson performs analytics on vast repositories of data that it processes to answer human-posed questions.

Watson uses IBM’s DeepQA software and the Apache UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) framework implementation. There is no direct open source alternative but it’s possible to replicate functionality with the following software.


UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) is, by itself, an empty framework. Its purpose is to enable a world-wide, diverse community to develop inter-operable, often complex analytic components, and allow them to be combined and run together, with framework supplied scaled-out and remoting as needed.

Watson runs on top of the UIMA framework, and uses UIMA-AS as its scale-out infrastructure. is a platform for natural language processing, originally developed by IBM but now maintained by the Apache Software Foundation.

UIMA takes care of the management of NLP pipeline, but the intelligence is derived from ‘annotators’.


GATE is a software toolkit capable of solving almost any text processing problem.

The software provides an interoperability layer which enables a UIMA Analysis Engine (AE) to be used within GATE as a Processing Resource. It also provides a wrapper to allow a GATE processing pipeline to be used within UIMA as an AE.

This layer takes advantage of UIMA’s flexible deployment options and UIMA users access JAPE and the many useful plugins already available in GATE.

3. Natural Language Processing (NLP) Tool chains

We covered the best NLP tool chains in this article. To help construct an alternative to Watson we recommend tool chains including Stanford CoreNLP and OpenNLP.

4. Collection of software components

  • DKPro Core – collection of software components for natural language processing which builds heavily on uimaFIT which allows for rapid and easy development of NLP processing pipelines, for wrapping existing tools and for creating original UIMA components.
  • U-Compare – provides access to a large collection of ready-to-use, interoperable, natural language processing components. U-Compare allows users to build complex NLP workflows from these components via an easy drag-and-drop interface, and makes visualisation and comparison of the outputs of these workflows simple.
  • ClearTK is a framework for developing machine learning and natural language processing components within UIMA.

Alternatives to IBM's Products
IBM Db2Db2 Database - Db2 is a family of data management products, including the Db2 relational database. The products feature AI-powered capabilities.
IBM Maximo Application Suite Maximo Application Suite is a single, integrated cloud-based platform that uses AI, IoT and analytics to optimize performance, extend asset lifecycles and reduce operational downtime and costs.
IBM QRadar SIEM QRadar SIEM detects, prioritizes and responds to threats. Analyse and aggregate log and flow data from thousands of devices, endpoints and apps across your network.
IBM Rational DOORSRational DOORS is a requirements management tool that makes it easy to capture, trace, analyze, and manage changes to information.
IBM Robotic Process Automation Robotic Process Automation helps automate business and IT processes at scale. Software robots, or bots, can act on AI insights to complete tasks with no lag time.
IBM SPSSSPSS is a statistical software suite for data management, advanced analytics, multivariate analysis, business intelligence, and criminal investigation.
IBM SPSS ModelerSPSS Modeler is a data mining and text analytics software application. The program is used to build predictive models and conduct other analytic tasks.
IBM WatsonWatson is a data analytics processor that uses natural language processing, a technology that analyzes human speech for meaning and syntax.
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