Amazon's expanding reach attracts predictable enemies and strange bedfellows

Try to keep up.Last week, the news was that Walmart and Google were teaming up against Amazon by lett
Amazon's expanding reach attracts predictable enemies and strange bedfellows
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #131
Try to keep up.
Last week, the news was that Walmart and Google were teaming up against Amazon by letting Google Home users voice-order products from Walmart. Yesterday, the news was that retail giant Target is looking to move its infrastructure off of Amazon Web Services, citing as the reason Amazon’s increasing competitive threat to Target’s business. Last year, Home Depot chose Google Cloud for largely the same reason.
Today, the news is that Walmart is building a large GPU farm to power its burgeoning artificial intelligence efforts in yet another move to stave off Amazon’s ongoing threat. There’s also a suggestion that Walmart wants to use OpenStack to turn its physical stores into edge computing locations, which actually makes a lot of sense (oh, also in that last link: there’s a new OpenStack release out). This isn’t particularly surprising—Walmart built its own internal cloud technology years ago and open sourced it in part to lure others away from AWS—but it does speak to just how existential the Amazon threat has become. 
It wasn’t so long ago that the story was about how Walmart had mastered analytics to do everything from optimizing pricing to maximizing shelf space. Today, the story is about how Amazon is using machine learning and AI, not to mention its digital and logistics mastery, to help drive the nails into competitors’ coffins—including Walmart.
Curiously, though, Amazon’s story today isn’t entirely about how it’s singlehandedly disrupting industries and making enemies. The other really big news today is about how Amazon and Microsoft—a bitter rival in the cloud computing space—have actually struck a deal to let the companies Alexa and Cortana intelligent assistants integrate with one another
An optimist might say it’s an attempt by the two companies to give consumers a best-of-breed experience by combining the strengths of the two platforms. Alexa/Echo is ubiquitous (well, as much as any such device can be) and well connected to various other smart-home platforms. Cortana is present on Windows computers (which happen to be prevalent within large enterprises), tightly integrated with users’ calendars and contact lists, and probably better at search, directions, etc.
A cynic might say it’s an attempt by Amazon to keep its lead in this space, and Microsoft to increase its relevance, as Google, Apple and Samsung all put the pedal to the metal with their own devices. As I wrote around CES time, Amazon and Google, especially, are trying to perfect that virtuous cycle where device sales, cloud computing, developers, and data all feed each other and their respective companies’ bottom lines. 
Sometimes, the enemy (who also happens to be your part-time enemy) of your enemy (who’s also enemies with some of your other enemies) really is your friend.
On an unrelated note, while perusing Hacker News, I came across this analysis of the rise, fall and maturation of MongoDB. It’s worth reading, even if you take issue with some of the conclusions.

Sponsor: DigitalOcean
Sponsor: DigitalOcean
Artificial intelligence
I like this article from the Rochester Business Journal about how some local companies (well, local to Rochester, NY) are thinking about AI. There’s a vein of optimism and focusing on the opportunity.  •  Share
This is a pretty useful map if you’re trying to get a sense of where Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm and others are making their bets. But it’s also rather difficult to read.
I would answer with a resounding “YES!” but others apparently aren’t so certain. Open source is good for a lot of reasons in this space, including that it opens up ideas and innovation from outside giant companies.
This sounds like a useful exercise, and it hits on one of my favorite topics—how heavily research advances are adopted commercially. I suspect there’s a large gap, which will affect how fast and furiously automation affects the economy.
This is the kind of work that could really be a game-changer in terms of household and/or industrial robots. I’m in the camp that believes too much training or too constrained of conversations will turn humans off of working with robots, so the easier the experience the better.
Combine this with Disney’s research into analyzing field formations (which has application well beyond sports, for what it’s worth), and you might really be onto something.
You read that right. It’s an ideal computer vision use case having to do with light warpage in certain images, but the bigger picture is how AI can dramatically improve workflows by saving time and effort. Also note: It doesn’t actually do the science here.
This press release doesn’t get into the details of the model, and the article is behind a paywall, but any news around earthquake prediction is good news. Researchers across all sorts of tough-to-predict fields should at least apply AI to see if they uncover something interesting.
Sponsor: Bonsai
Sponsor: Bonsai
Cloud and infrastructure
This is written by a Dell EMC employee, but the conclusions are hard to disagree with. This could be a big win for all the companies involved, as it relates to hybrid containerized clouds.
I wasn’t even aware of this options for Linux instances, but here it is for Windows. It’s actually pretty cool, in that it’s an on-demand GPU within an on-demand instance, meaning you’re not paying for 24-7 GPU access.
I mentioned up top that there’s a new OpenStack release, and here are more details on it. There’s an emphasis on letting users adopt pieces of the OpenStack ecosystem rather than the whole thing.
Beyond the technological innovation (although this obviously isn’t a production application), consider that open source made this possible. Cloud providers build great tech, but it’s open source software vendors that are going to break down those walled gardens.
The latest product from the company behind enterprise Jenkins. This isn’t the sexiest stuff in the world, but it’s darn important for the folks actually building software products.
Metamarkets has been sharing quite a bit about its multi-cloud work lately, Here are details on migrating its real-time Kafka-Samza-Druid pipeline from AWS to GCP.
Exactly what it sounds like. It’s unclear if this is actually constructed yet, but it sounds like a cool project.
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All things data
By tiering, MapR means moving data to/from cloud and on-prem storage based on its latency requirements. Among the Hadoop players, MapR is trying to make a name for itself on data management and edge/cloud capabilities.
This is a pretty good explanation of how and why KSQL exists. The analogy to SQL on Hadoop is useful, as it’s really a matter of trying to ease the learning curve on Kafka streams rather than trying to usurp MySQL.
The headline on this blog post sums it up pretty nicely. Figuring out a solid sharding strategy before you really need to scale your database can save some headaches later on.
This is a research project for the time being, and it likely might never catch on. But the goal is to help users actually make use of log data, rather than dumping it into a data lake and forgetting about it. Which is a common problem.  •  Share
New ARCHITECHT Show every Thursday; new AI & Robot Show every Friday!
New ARCHITECHT Show every Thursday; new AI & Robot Show every Friday!
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ARCHITECHT delivers the most interesting news and information about the business impacts of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other trends reshaping enterprise IT. Curated by Derrick Harris. Check out the Architecht site at
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