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IBM沃森服务将登陆亚马逊、微软、谷歌等云平台

Jonathan Vanian 2019年02月17日

这一举措标志着IBM的一次转变。

多年来,IBM使用沃森(Watson)为企业客户提供数据分析服务——但需要在IBM的云端使用。现在,为了拓展沃森的覆盖范围,IBM的这项服务将登陆竞争对手的云平台。

IBM于周二表示,将允许企业将部分与沃森有关的软件用于存储在竞争对手企业云数据中心的底层数据,包括微软的Azure和亚马逊网络服务。客户还可以将沃森用于内部数据中心的数据。

“这种做法将使该服务更加公开,这尚属首次。”IBM的数据和人工智能总经理罗伯·托马斯说。

这一举措标志着IBM的一次转变,到目前为止,这种转变似乎也只是开放云计算服务和沃森技术。例如,2016年,IBM时任首席财务官、现任全球市场高级副总裁马丁·施勒特在财报电话会议上对分析师说:“沃森在我们的云上运行,我们的技术要在自己的云上运行。”

但IBM正在调整战略,提升沃森的吸引力。IBM之所以改变心意,因为公司的公共云服务市场份额缩水,最多只能在亚马逊网络服务和微软Azure后排名第三位。

Hurwitz&Associates的董事总经理丹·基尔希称IBM的新服务“非常重要”,因为企业更愿意使用不依赖于单一供应商的技术。

“如果告诉客户,如果所有的东西都买我们的,只能用我们的软件和我们的资源,就会和客户脱节。”基尔希说。

研究公司451 Research的联合创始人及研究副总裁尼克·佩申思称此举意味着“IBM承认现在是混合云的世界”,他指的是公司希望使用多家云计算供应商,希望一些软件能在自己内部数据中心运行。

亚马逊和微软等云计算公司正在推动人工智能的发展,因为使用深度学习等技术通常需要通过云服务处理海量数据,佩申思说。IBM决定向对手公司的云服务开放沃森,这可能表明“IBM承认亚马逊网页服务、微软和谷歌在机器学习中处于领先地位”,他说。

基尔希表示,这种做法可以帮助IBM赢得那些担心被捆绑在同一家公司人工智能项目云服务中的客户。现在他们的选择相对更自由。

IBM的新服务Cloud Private for Data(ICP for Data)基于备受欢迎的开源IT软件Kubernetes,该软件由谷歌开发,用于管理数据中心的基础架构。这款自由软件被开发人员广泛使用,因为他们可以用它构建复杂的应用程序,这些应用程序由多个数据库和服务提供支持,理论上这些数据库和服务不必束缚于单个云计算服务供应商。

借助这项新技术,IBM客户可以使用沃森搭建机器学习模型、创建数字聊天机器人等。

托马斯表示,IBM尚未给这项新服务定价,可能会根据客户的需求进行分级定价。此外,虽然该服务目前仅兼容亚马逊网页服务等北美地区的云供应商,但未来可能会加入中国科技巨头阿里巴巴等亚洲供应商,托马斯称。

然而,托马斯表示,沃森的最佳运行方式还是通过IBM自己的云计算服务。使用该服务的客户可以从多种硬件和计算机芯片配置中进行选择,最大限度地发挥沃森的功能。

“我们对IBM的云服务充满信心,如果客户在其他地方试用了我们的产品,他们最后会被IBM的云及其特别之处吸引。”托马斯说。

虽然有些公司担心在使用某些软件或IT产品时会被捆绑在特定公司的云端基础架构中,但佩申思表示他们目前仍处于人工智能使用的初期阶段,仍然愿意将本公司的数据上传到亚马逊网页服务等云平台,并依靠它们发展机器学习软件。目前,在机器学习项目中绑定特定供应商还不是一个值得担心的问题,但IBM认为这种情况必将出现变化。

“我们没有听到有很多公司砸门说:‘这太过分了,我们要求提升可移植性。”佩申思说。

他还说道:“你可以说IBM正试图收复机器学习领域的失地。多年来,沃森因为其他品牌的出现失去了一些光彩。他们正试图收复失地。”(财富中文网)

译者:Agatha

For years, IBM has offered corporate customers its Watson data crunching technology—but only if they used it on IBM’s cloud computing service. Now, in an effort to expand Watson’s reach, IBM is also making it available on competing cloud services.

IBM said Tuesday that it would allow businesses to use some of IBM’s Watson-related software with underlying data that is stored in rival cloud data centers like Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services. Customers will also be able to use Watson with data stored in their own data centers.

“It is enabling a level of openness that hasn’t been available to date,” said Rob Thomas, IBM general manager of data and AI.

The move marks a departure for IBM, which, until now, hasn’t seemed anything but open with its cloud computing service and Watson technologies. In 2016, for example, then-IBM CFO and current IBM senior vice president of global markets Martin Schroeter told analysts during an earnings call, “Watson runs on our cloud, and our technology will run on IBM’s cloud.”

But IBM is now shaking up its strategy in an effort to broaden Watson’s appeal. The change of heart comes as IBM’s public cloud languishes in third place, at best, in terms of market share behind AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Dan Kirsch, a managing director at Hurwitz & Associates, called IBM’s new service “really significant” because businesses are increasingly seeking technology that’s not dependent on a single vendor.

“You look out of touch with your customers if you say you can only have our software and our capabilities if you adopt everything only from us,” Kirsch said.

Nick Patience, a founder and research vice president for 451 Research, said the move is “an acknowledgment by IBM that it’s a hybrid cloud world,” referring to firms wanting to use more than one cloud computing vendor as well as keeping some software running in their internal data centers.

Cloud computing companies like Amazon and Microsoft are pushing artificial intelligence because using technologies like deep learning typically require processing huge amounts of data through their cloud services, Patience explained. IBM deciding to make Watson available on competing cloud services could be a sign that “IBM is acknowledging that AWS, Microsoft, and Google are leading the pack in machine learning,” he said.

Kirsch explained that being more open could help IBM win customers that are concerned about being locked into one company’s cloud service for AI projects. In this way, they’ll be relatively free to pick and chose.

IBM’s new service, Cloud Private for Data (ICP for Data), is built on the popular open source IT software Kubernetes, which was developed by Google as a way to manage data center infrastructure. The free software has become popular with developers because they can use the technology to build complex apps that are powered by multiple databases and services that theoretically don’t have to be tethered to a single cloud provider.

With the new technology, IBM customers can use Watson to do things like build machine-learning models and create digital chatbots.

Thomas said IBM hasn’t set a price for the new service and it will likely be tiered based on the customers’ needs. Additionally, while the service is currently compatible with only North American cloud providers like AWS, Asian cloud vendors like China tech giant Alibaba could be added in the future, Thomas said.

Still, Thomas argues that the best way to run Watson is through IBM’s own cloud computing service. Customers using it can choose from multiple hardware and computer chip configurations that squeeze the most power out of Watson.

“We are confident in the IBM cloud that if clients try our products anywhere, they will eventually be drawn to IBM cloud and the uniqueness it provides,” said Thomas.

Although companies are concerned about being locked into a specific company’s cloud infrastructure when it comes to certain software and IT products, Patience said they are currently in the early stages of using AI and are still willing to upload their corporate data to cloud services like AWS and rely on them for machine learning software. Being locked into a particular vendor when it comes to machine learning projects isn’t yet much of a concern, but IBM is betting that will change.

“We don’t hear a load of companies banging on the door saying, ‘This is outrageous, we demand more portability,'” Patience said.

He continued: “You could say IBM is trying to take back the initiative in machine learning here. The Watson brand has lost a little bit of luster over the years as others has come along. They are trying to take it back.”

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