Global spending on artificial intelligence (AI) systems is predicted to grow to nearly $35.8bn (€32.02bn) this year alone, according to a recent study by IDC analysts.
CPI has asked two of the top cloud providers, an MSP, the world's largest managed service SD-WAN firm and a storage giant what AI products and services they're backing ahead of this growing influx of spending.
Zenzero - Russell Howarth, cybersecurity consultant
For Zenzero, a UK-based MSP, the "true value" of AI is to work out which products will help partners separate the wheat from the chaff, in data terms.
Russell Howarth, a cybersecurity consultant at the firm, said that he's interested in AI products that help decision-makers distinguish between "hot" and "cold" data.
"This means that the files accessed most regularly will be kept locally for rapid restore, while the infrequently used "cold" data can be moved elsewhere," he said.
"Many SMEs may not have the time or resources to make this division and as such, tend to have a 'we need it all' approach to backup, which can be time consuming and add unnecessary expense.
"AI will demystify this process for businesses and allow them to avoid expensive upfront consultancy work. For MSPs like us, it will take the guesswork out of the storage process and allow us to offer efficient services at an even more cost-effective rate."
The largest managed service SD-WAN player:
Aryaka Networks - Ashwath Nagaraj, founder and CTO
"AI and machine learning (ML) applicability was not obvious to us when we started experimenting with these technologies just a year ago. But having seen the results so far (an unpredicted amount of actionable information), we now believe that this needs to be a major area of focus," he said.
Nagaraj said that in the next few years, he's investing in two key areas.
1. Predictive analysis
"Aryaka has a very holistic view of the customer's traffic globally; a view that the customers themselves don't really have. The opportunity here is to provide predictive analysis on trends, and efficiencies achievable, plus of course the ability to detect unexpected traffic and behaviour that is out of the norm, because this is the true state of the customer's WAN and very useful for CIOs and decision makers," he said.
2. Third-party analytical services
"This will be without the customer having to deploy any equipment in their network," he said.
"The customer will have a choice of what analytic services they choose to run, and can actually evaluate multiple services in this model. Small companies will be able to provide innovative analytics without having to surmount the barrier of getting their equipment into the network. For example, if a customer has a large network of IOTs on-premise, they could, for 24 hours, 'span' their logs to a third-party service, to a 'device' that shows up within their LAN. The customer can then evaluate the results produced by this service."
The cloud providers:
AWS - Steven Bryen, senior technical evangelist
Go to any AWS partner event, and invariably, you'll hear them evangelise Amazon AI stack.
The vendor claims that it's a priority to provide cloud-native machine learning and deep learning technologies for all developers and data scientists.
Its senior tech evangelist Steven Bryen told CPI that he tips services that help partners develop their own IP and tailored services to take off in the channel.
"When speaking to our customers, we consistently hear that they want AI and ML services to be accessible to every developer," he said.
"AWS's pre-trained ML services such as Amazon Comprehend or Amazon Rekognition are levelling the playing field by allowing any developer to add intelligence to their applications with no ML experience required. AWS partners such as PwC have seen a significantly faster throughput when using Amazon Comprehend Medical with their pharmaceuticals customers. This allows their customers to focus more on building smarter applications, and less on annotating, training and re-training models."
IBM - Diego Segre, VP partner ecosystem Europe
IBM's Europe partner boss Diego Segre said that IBM is investing in AI services that allow partners to have a more detailed, "localised" view of data.
"In the next five years, we expect to see a significant increase in the use of power AI for applying machine learning to 'local' data, such as surveillance cameras and plant automisation," he said.
Segre also said that making AI services more accessible is key.
Earlier this year, the vendor enabled its flagship data and analytics platform, Watson AI, to be deployed across its competitors' environments, including VMware, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
"We also expect growth in IBM Watson-based services being used and developed by partners. European partners won the last two IBM Watson Build Challenge competitions and we are seeing a number of solutions that were prototyped during the challenge already making themselves felt in the market. Compta, who won this year, developed a solution 'Bee2Fire' which uses Watson AI to aid in the detection of wildfires," he said.
The storage giant:
StorageCraft - Andy Zollo, VP sales EMEA and APAC
For Andy Zollo, StorageCraft's VP of sales for EMEA and APAC, the sheer breadth of data that the storage vendor deals with means that automation services will become increasingly necessary.
"Companies are struggling with petabytes of information, ever-increasing levels of unstructured data, and the management of tens of thousands, even millions, of files," he said.
Zollo pointed to StorageCraft making R&D investments to explore "self-organising storage", which can apply intelligence to manage information.
"Real-time analytics done by the storage system itself will decide the optimal placement and the optimal protection for any element of information within an organisation's dataset," he said.
"The scale of the data infrastructure, even for small and mid-size companies, is moving way beyond what humans can coherently manage themselves.
"So, it's vital to have systems that provide intelligence and automation - that can define what information and data is high value; where it should reside and for how long; and what form and access permissions it should have. This is key in managing the cost of storage, managing compliance, and ensuring successful and orchestrated disaster recovery plans."
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