Arrow ECS made a bold statement last month with their inaugural Vision event at Olympia, London. The hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been felt far and wide, but what’s in it for the Channel? Technology Business Today spoke to David Fearne, Global Practice Leader for Business Intelligence at Arrow ECS, to find out.
IDC predicts that 75 per cent of the enterprise will use AI by 2021 and spending on the technology will reach an eye watering $52.2 billion in the same year. For channel partners at Vision, an event dedicated to the development on AI, they can see the changes in the market coming but many are still trying to work out how they can get involved.
David Fearne, Global Practice Leader for Business Intelligence at Arrow ECS, commented “We actually need to be the leaders of this change. If we are not leading the change then we will be left behind. What our partners and customers are demanding is innovation and next generation technology.
“If you take AI and the whole data driven decision making and advanced analytics space, I think it has got to a point now where the risk of implementation vs reward of implementation has started to balance out. I also think the value that you can foresee from AI is higher than it was for cloud, its higher than it was for some of the next generation networking technologies too. Peoples appetite to experiment and put things into production, when they don’t fully understand the technology, is there.
Therefore, the Channel has to meet that demand. If you want to continue to be their trusted advisor, you need to innovate and drive that change.”
The movement towards AI is not an easy one for partners at all, in fact Fearne puts it “on-par with the step from on-prem to cloud.” Arrow’s hyperscaler partners are trying to encourage partners to play in the space with a set of easy-to-use tools which don’t require traditional AI and coding skills; thus making the barrier to having a go incredibly low.
“These are code-free drag and drop type platforms which are super intuitive so that anyone can get on to them and start to experiment. From there it is one click to deploy into an AI model which you can query and share within the organisation.
“Essentially you have a super low entry point, it’s not all about buying a $400k Nvidia DGX-2 and then having three or four six-figure salary data scientists.”
Fearne thinks that some partners may be looking in the wrong place for AI skills and should be focused on gathering domain expertise and answering customer’s business questions more than anything else.
“Partners know their customers and the domain they work in. We’ve recently had partners who sell into the construction market asking how they get involved in AI. They know how the customer works and the questions they are trying to answer, they need to help them build data sets, then offer those datasets back to them as a service to train with. Partners should be the engine that collects the new data, refine it, put it into the training model and sell it back to them. When you think about it like that it is so simple.
“We are trying to get through to partners that they could do incremental things in AI on top of what they do today and then become a Data-as-a-Service partner.”
Fearne persists, “If you have a question that needs answering, what is the best possible data you could build for an AI model to predict the outcome? Your customers will love you for that and will pay through the nose for it. It’s a lot of hard work to get that data sorted, but the reward to automate the process is huge.”