Solution providers may find it a little bit easier to embrace the AI market and bring forth custom solutions to their clientele, thanks to IBM. At the behemoth's Data and AI Forum 2019 event, which took place in Miami between 21 and 24 October, the company announced it is expanding channel initiatives for the IBM Watson artificial intelligence (AI) platform, and making the technology available on multiple public clouds.
Perhaps one of the biggest roadblocks to solution providers leveraging the Watson Platform came from the fact that IBM required customers to move data on to the IBM Cloud platform as a prerequisite for access to the Watson algorithms. Solution Providers, ISVs, and others looking to build AI solutions for their customers were faced with the conundrum of forcing their customers to potentially move large amounts of data over to IBM's cloud platform, a challenge many did not relish.
Freeing Watson from IBM's own cloud brings forth new use cases for solution providers and can potentially accelerate the adoption of AI, ML and NLP (natural language processing), all of which IBM's Watson seems to do very well at.
IBM is rapidly moving to bring Watson offerings to multiple public clouds, hopefully enticing solution providers and ISVs to leverage the platform. Yet, according to Wes Chung, director of Watson Business Applications, IBM's Watson channel program will need to be extended to appeal to independent software vendors (ISVs) and systems integrators that have developed applications and solutions for those public clouds.
"We're looking for partners to create new use cases," says Chung. "We need partners to bring us into new areas."
However, numerous challenges still remain. Especially those around education and skill sets. To that end, according to Chung, IBM is also looking to make the Watson application programming interface's APIs simpler to consume. Further helping to smooth the journey, IBM has defined a set of best practices for building AI models under its Watson Anywhere initiative, which seeks to further drive the adoption of various elements of the Watson platform on multiple clouds.
With the global AI market expected to reach $35bn by 2025, there is significant potential for solution providers to garner a large piece of the AI pie. However, solution providers should realize that, despite the hype around AI, adoption is still a slow burner. Industry analysts such as Gartner estimate that only 14 per cent of organizations have deployed AI in a production environment.
At IBM's event, Rob Thomas, general manager for data and AI at IBM, told conference attendees that data, skills and lack of trust in AI models are the three biggest inhibitors of AI adoption today in the enterprise. While none of those prove to be insurmountable challenges, solution providers can address them with data governance solutions, education, and - most importantly - a better understanding of the AI models in use.
Naturally, IBM is there to help. The company is addressing the data management issue by updating Cloud Pak for Data, which is a suite of data virtualization and management tools.
"Data virtualization is the secret sauce," said Thomas.
Thomas also notes that without a solid information architecture in place AI simply isn't possible to achieve.
Solution providers looking to dip their toes into the AI pool have countless options available to them today, thanks to vendors such as Microsoft, Google, and even AWS. IBMs move to further democratize AI functionality brings forth another resource that solution providers can leverage across multiple clouds and perhaps create value for their customers.
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