5 Things To Know About IBM Watson On AWS, Azure, Google

Watson Anywhere

IBM Corp. is becoming more open-minded with a revenue-driving bid to “democratize” access to artificial intelligence.

Big Blue will open its previously proprietary Watson AI platform to competing cloud computing services including rivals Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

The IBM Watson Anywhere initiative will allow a new portable version of IBM’s cognitive platform to run on any cloud -- whether it’s private, public or a hybrid multi-cloud -- in addition to IBM Cloud, the company announced Tuesday.

IBM did not announce a time frame for the Watson Anywhere rollout.

“This will be the most open, scalable AI for business in the world,” CEO Ginni Rometty said at IBM’s Think 2019 conference in San Francisco.

“This is in response to what you’ve told us about data,” Rometty said. “Some data you want to move, some you don’t. Some you want on your (premises), some you want to train one place, run it another. That’s what it’s going to let you do.”

Chapter Two Of The AI Revolution

The information technology industry is starting chapter two of digital reinvention that in many ways will be enterprise-driven, said Rometty.

“Chapter two of digital and AI is about scaling now and embedding it everywhere in your business,” she said. “And I think that this chapter two, when it comes to the cloud, is hybrid.”

IBM sees the hybrid cloud as a trillion-dollar market. “We’ll be No. 1 in it,” Rometty told CNBC.

Businesses have completed just 20 percent of their cloud migration, and the remaining 80 percent will entail moving mission-critical apps, according to IBM, which said 94 percent of enterprises already use multiple clouds.

The $15.7 Trillion AI Opportunity

AI, meanwhile, stands to contribute as much as $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, according to a 2017 Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey. But the adoption rate stands at only four percent, hindered primarily by increasing data complexity and siloed infrastructure, limited AI expertise at Fortune 2000 companies and AI portability, Rob Thomas, general manager of IBM Data and AI, wrote in a blog post this week.

IBM’s open AI will allow businesses to break “vendor lock-in” of their data by their cloud providers, according to Thomas. The company has incorporated new Watson microservices into its IBM Cloud Private for Data, its open, cloud-native information infrastructure for AI.

“We actually…had to do a lot of work around the IBM Cloud Private, which is what Watson runs on,” Rometty told CNBC. “That's Kubernetes-based, it is container-based, which has everything to do with our hybrid position. As you know, Red Hat is coming up, and so this allows it to move anywhere out there. So this will be a big growth.”

IBM expects to close its $34 billion acquisition of open source software developer Red Hat Inc. in the second quarter, with a goal of becoming the market leader for hybrid cloud systems.

An IBM Cloud Infrastructure Offensive

The IBM Watson Anywhere move comes as IBM looks to increase its market share for cloud infrastructure services.

IBM Cloud ranks third with a 7 percent market share matched by Google Cloud. Amazon sits soundly at No. 1 at 34 percent, followed by Microsoft Azure’s 15 percent, according to fourth-quarter figures from Reno, Nev.-based Synergy Research Group.

IBM on Wednesday announced an approximately $700 million, five-year technology deal with Madrid-based Banco Santander that includes the bank moving to the IBM Cloud.

The Watson Anywhere Channel Impact

IBM's ability to deploy AI models across the cloud will give enterprises the opportunity to modernize their business applications, automate business processes more efficiently and gain the flexibility to scale, according to John Jenkins, data solutions vice president for Perficient, a St. Louis digital consulting firm named IBM’s 2019 Watson Commerce business partner of the year on Tuesday.

“As a solution provider working with many cloud providers, we see immense opportunity to bring game-changing artificially intelligent solutions built with Watson to life on any cloud,” said Christine Livingston, Perficient’s AI chief strategist. “The benefit of the announcement is that customers can run Watson capabilities on the cloud of their choice, so they can use best-in-class AI regardless of their overall cloud provider strategy.”

IBM Has To Win Over AWS, Azure And Google Partners

Even though IBM has committed to an AI Anywhere strategy, the company must convince AWS, Azure and Google partners to add Watson to their cloud solutions.

“IBM clearly had decided that they need to be collaborative versus owning the entire stack if they’re going to maintain relevance with their very large customers and their customer base,” said Kenneth Ziegler, CEO of Logicworks, which specializes in cloud compliance for highly regulated industries and is an AWS Premier Consulting and Azure Gold Expert MSP Partner.

Amid a massive race to integrate as much technology as possible to accelerate machine learning and artificial intelligence, each of the major cloud platforms have their various strengths and weaknesses, Ziegler said.

Aric Bandy, president of Agosto Inc., a pure-play Google partner, still needs more convincing to get behind Watson.

“Watson was a brilliant marketing campaign that failed to deliver tremendous business value,” Bandy said. “And Google has had some very unique offerings in the machine learning space for a long time.”