AWS & Microsoft Build an AI Starter Kit

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched an artificial intelligence library, continuing the competitive AI push among the public cloud giants.

The Gluon library, created by Amazon Web Services Inc. with help from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), is an AI beginner's kit. It lets developers build models by coding in Python and assembling pre-built chunks of code. The idea is to bring AI, or at least machine learning, into the hands of programmers who aren't experts in the subject, as AWS explained in a blog posting yesterday.

"Developers who are new to machine learning will find this interface more familiar to traditional code, since machine learning models can be defined and manipulated just like any other data structure," writes Matt Wood, general manager of AWS's AI team, in the blog.

Artificial intelligence has become a competitive factor as the North American public cloud giants vie for dominance (or, in most cases, for second place behind AWS). For example, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) open sourced the Tensorflow AI library and provides a Google Cloud service for playing with Tensorflow models. Microsoft plans to use FPGA arrays to deliver real-time AI services in Azure. And of course, Watson has always been a selling point for IBM Cloud.

Chinese cloud giants are in on the act, too. Tencent Inc. started an AI research lab in Seattle, and Baidu Inc. (Nasdaq: BIDU) hired Microsoft engineer Qi Lu to spearhead an AI effort.

AI also figures heavily in the $15 billion R&D effort announced by Alibaba Group this week. (See Alibaba's $15B R&D Investment Includes AI, IoT.)

Gluon is particularly interesting because it's not a research effort, but a tool for reducing AI into normal programming. It fits into Microsoft's goal of democratizing AI. And it wouldn't be surprising to see more efforts emerge along these lines, giving developers more ways to add some intelligence to their cloud applications.

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— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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