6 Ways IT Vendors Are Using Artificial Intelligence To Strengthen Their Product Portfolios

The 'Tremendous' AI Opportunity

As the IT industry continues to change at a lightning-quick pace, businesses are looking at emerging technologies with an increasingly opportunistic eye. And perhaps no opportunity has drawn more attention and debate of late than artificial intelligence – proponents bill it as an evolutionary leap and skeptics wonder how they can use it to solve actual business challenges.

With that in mind, CRN invited top executives from six leading technology vendors to discuss the realities of AI, dispel its myths and, most importantly, explain how partners can take advantage of what could be a significant value-driver for the channel in years to come.

The following slides detail how six different companies – IBM, SAS, SAP, Aruba Networks, Cylance, and Cybereason – are using AI, machine learning and other advanced capabilities to enhance product value and drive new services offerings.

Automated Insights

IBM channel chief David Wilson notes that solution providers, systems integrators and distributors can all take advantage of the changing IT landscape by enhancing their existing services and industry expertise with AI technology.

IBM, he said, has begun incorporating its Watson AI business platform into several different product lines, including the company's QRadar SIEM offering. By pairing QRadar with Watson, IBM partners can better support security analysts through AI that automatically investigates threats and provides insight around potential response methods.

"Things that would take days to analyze with our CISOs in the field are now, with Watson, able to be ingested and we can come up with recommendations within minutes - it's dramatic," Wilson said. "So now you start to take the more menial tasks that we are responsible for today, use the AI engines to be able to drive greater insights into them, and leave our partners and our clients available to actually drive more business value into the clients."

Data Mining And Machine Learning

SAS offers a visual data mining and machine learning solution, Viya, that delivers predictive modeling, deep learning and text analytics algorithms across multiple coding languages. Wayne Thompson, chief data scientist at SAS, said deep learning is a "tremendous" opportunity for the channel as speech-to-text and computer vision technologies continue to improve.

Thompson also noted that artificial intelligence allows vendors like SAS to conduct sentiment analysis, which helps businesses better understand a customer's thought process, and then use that to fuel machine learning models geared toward driving more informed cross-selling strategies. Edge computing and analytics will continue to be key components of the growing push toward AI, he said.

"Think about sensors, and IoT, and how much data's coming in. Big compute – and this is where we're helping customers," Thomspon said. "I'm talking about GPUs and running on Volta-class Nvidia hardware now. And big models – deep-learning models, recurrent neural networks, convolutional neural networks. These things are extremely powerful. They're extremely accurate."

Threat Prevention

Security vendor Cylance is using artificial intelligence to power its threat prevention platform, CylancePROTECT, which identifies and blocks both known and zero-day malware risks without relying on the signature-based tools that fuel traditional antivirus products.

The software can predictively shield businesses from an array of different threats, including script-based, file-less, memory and external device-based attacks, and does so autonomously to ensure uninterrupted business operations.

"There is a lot of potential here," Cylance CTO Rahul Kashyap said of artificial intelligence. "It's not just cybersecurity. I think (AI) is going to disrupt several different verticals across all industries."

User Behavior Analytics

Aruba Networks is pushing to integrate more artificial intelligence and machine learning into key existing product lines, such as Aruba Airwave and ClearPass, but the company is also using AI to drive new value-added services to solution providers.

Jisheng Wang, who joined Aruba through its acquisition of user behavior analytics vendor Niara, noted that deploying and implementing Wi-Fi infrastructure in large enterprises can take months for solution providers. But by using AI technology, which can automatically generate project recommendations based on peer-to-peer comparisons and access point location, partners can enhance the value of services they're providing to end customers.

"We don't want to sell pure AI technology. We're not an AI vendor. We want to improve the customer experience through technology," Wang said. "We also want the partner or the service providers in the middle to give us the feedback. What are really the pain points with the customer? What better experiences are they looking for?"

Threat Hunting

Security startup Cybereason uses AI, machine learning and behavioral techniques to power its threat-hunting engine, which sifts through malicious detections to separate common attacks from more advanced risks posed by hackers and other cybercriminals.

Israel Barak, CISO at Cybereason, said AI and machine learning are becoming a major priority for CIOs as they look to mitigate their cyber risks better, make their security operations more efficient and "future-proof" their companies from zero-day threats and exploits.

"Taking all this preventative and detection information, how do we add context? How do we harness AI to do the heavy-lifting that humans do today? Which is tell the story around what happened," Barak said. "Connect all the dots, which dramatically reduces the overall cost of ownership of these solutions on the enterprise. From that perspective, I think it opens up a range of opportunities for partner organizations, both from a service perspective as well as an architectural perspective."

Predictive Maintenance

Software giant SAP is embedding AI into "everything" it does around ERP, said Terri Snell, VP of solution go-to-market for North America. But the company is also using its Leonardo machine learning offering to drive outcomes like predictive maintenance and enable customers to train complex algorithms with their data to gain industry-specific insights.

"It's really about taking a step back and saying, 'What is the challenge that they really have?' If you think about how costly it is to either have a maintenance outage, or not be able to predict maintenance before it occurs, that's a really simple use case we've rolled out across various areas of our portfolio," Snell said.

SAP provides other machine learning-based software such as Cash Application, which automates invoice matching, Customer Retention, which predicts customer behavior via automated data mining and analysis, and Leonardo Conversational AI Foundation – a platform that allows developers to build apps using natural language processing and machine learning.