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IBM Unleashes Watson Across All Clouds

IBM recently announced that select Watson AI services will be made available across all cloud environments, reversing a decades-long business practice geared toward locking in Big Blue customers within the IBM software ecosystem.

IBM is making a huge pivot (and big bet) on how it will generate revenue in the massive cloud marketplace, which is capturing increasing amounts of IT spend. Following the announced $36-billion acquisition of RedHat, through which IBM hopes to become the leader in hybrid and multi-cloud enablement, IBM has announced the untethering of its flagship Watson AI product portfolio from the IBM-only cloud ecosystem.

According to IBM Watson’s CTO Ruchir Puri, as reported by TechCrunch, IBM sees the need to bring analytics capabilities to the clients’ data, which is contained in mostly hybrid cloud environments, as opposed to pulling organizations into the IBM cloud.

IBM will start by offering select Watson products in the form of Kubernetes-powered micro services via the IBM Cloud Platform (ICP). According to IBM, “ICP for Data is IBM’s open, cloud-native information architecture for AI that comes integrated with advanced data science, data engineering and application-building capabilities, and is designed to help companies uncover previously unobtainable insights from their data.”

Per IBM’s press release, initial “open cloud” offerings will include:

  • Watson OpenScale: IBM’s open AI platform for managing multiple instances of AI, no matter where they were developed – including the ability to explain how AI decisions are being made in real time, for greater transparency and compliance.
  • Watson Assistant: IBM’s AI tool for building conversational interfaces into applications and devices. More advanced than a traditional chatbot, Watson Assistant intelligently determines when to search for a result, when to ask the user for clarification, and when to offload the user to a human for personal assistance. In addition, the Watson Assistant Discovery Extension enables organizations to unlock hidden insights in unstructured data and documents.

Our Take

IBM Watson has a mixed record of success across the multitude of AI capabilities it offers. Recent data from a recent BoA/Merril Lynch Software & Hardware Survey (N=174; IT budget total ~$5 billion) states that 84% of respondents have no plans to use Watson AI solutions. Data points such as this one are serving as a wakeup call to IBM.

If IBM wants to become a cloud leader, Big Blue has to change its ways and move from a single-stack technology provider to a technology enabler, whereby IBM solutions can be consumed from any cloud environment, not just IBM’s cloud offerings. IBM’s recent announcements serve as key indicator that in the cloud era, single vendor cloud lock-in is becoming a relic of the past.

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