ArchiTECHt Daily: Amazon embraces Apache for AI project

FWIW, this originally appeared on the website on Monday.Amazon Web Services has seemingly found open
ArchiTECHt Daily: Amazon embraces Apache for AI project
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #7 • View online
Amazon Web Services has seemingly found open source religion over the past several months, including in the field of artificial intelligence. On Monday, the cloud computing arm of Amazon announced that MXNet, its framework of choice for building deep learning systems, has been accepted into the Apache Incubator program.
This is a good move on the part of AWS for a few reasons:
  1. Open source is a great way to ramp up innovation on a project by exposing it to a greater number of users and contributors. While MXNet had always been open source, contributing it the ASF should increase its exposure and bring a broader community of users and contributors on board.
  2. Contributing MXNet to ASF helps mitigate (but not eliminate) any air of vendor bias over the project. This is important for AWS because …
  3. Its biggest competitors in cloud computing, Microsoft and Google, both have open source deep learning frameworks of their own. Both companies also have better and longer-standing reputations in the AI and open source communities. For what it’s worth, though, neither Microsoft’s CNTK nor Google’s TensorFlow are ASF projects.
However, as I wrote earlier this month, much of the innovation in AI is already happening in the open—MXNet included—so its ultimate status as an Apache project probably doesn’t change a whole lot. In many spaces, including deep learning, open source is just table stakes to attracting any meaningful interest in a project. (Amazon has made some notable open source moves elsewhere, too.)
In the end, it’s the cloud computing part of this that really matters. As I explained around CES time, there’s a boatload of money to be made by capitalizing on consumer demand for “smart” devices, from hairbrushes to Amazon Echoes to household robots. For companies like AWS, Google and Microsoft, that money comes from selling devices themselves, but also from selling the cloud services to help other companies build their own devices.
Like all platform plays, there’s a virtuous cycle in play for cloud providers. The more consumers using a particular device, the more appealing it is for developers to integrate with that device. So the more appealing it is to use a particular provider’s cloud to build that integration.
AI is just the latest (and possibly biggest) battleground for cloud providers. AWS might not have too strong a reputation in the open source or AI circles yet, but it has build itself one heck of a platform. It knows what it must do to maintain its edge in the AI era. Only a brave man would bet against it.

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