Alibaba Pits Cloud-Based AI Platform Against Amazon

In July, Alibaba announced it was investing $1 billion in its cloud-computing business, Aliyun. Now, it’s clear why.

Aliyun announced yesterday (Aug. 25) that it was launching an artificial intelligence platform that’s being coined as “China’s first” in the industry to do so. This new platform is designed to help Alibaba better compete on the cloud-computing front with Microsoft and Amazon.

The AI platform, which will be known as DT PAI, enables developers and companies that use Alibaba Group’s eCommerce sites to have access to the data it offers, which can help those users learn more from user behavior — along with eCommerce industry trends seen across the sites.

Where this could come into play for businesses is helping them understand when it’s the best time to launch a product, or what products customers like versus which ones they don’t. It could also give those sellers a better insight into how they can directly reach out to users with specific products they may like.

This artificial intelligence platform could eventually grow to become more sophisticated as the market develops, which for Alibaba means offering technologies like consumers having the ability to snap a photo that directs them online to where they can shop for that specific item.

The competition in the cloud-computing space is heating up, and Alibaba showed in its Q2 earnings results how its investments in the sector have paid off. Its revenue from cloud computing and Internet infrastructure managed to grow 106 percent from the same quarter a year prior. And just last week (Aug. 18) Alibaba announced that it had selected Singapore as the location to create its new data center for its cloud division.

In July when Alibaba and Aliyun were promoting the cloud unit’s commitment to protecting user data, Aliyun President Simon Hu shared why it’s important for the company to offer cloud-computing services for its customers.

“There are still cultural and trust related issues when Chinese companies try to provide software services,” Hu said, adding that other cloud-services providers such as Microsoft and Amazon face similar obstacles when entering foreign markets. “They always have to abide by local rules and regulations,” Hu said in a news release. “We have to be self-disciplined and fulfill our corporate commitment.”

“This is not just Aliyun’s commitment in China, but also to the whole world,” Hu added.

Of course, Aliyun is not the only cloud-computing platform to offer such a service, as Amazon Web Services also has an AI platform. Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform also offers similar analytical tools for its customers.

But what makes Aliyun’s platform different is that it will have pre-written codes that are seamlessly added with a “drag and drop” by the user, Xiao Wei, senior product expert at Aliyun, explained. Removing the complexity of coding will make it easier for users, he said.

“In the past, the field of artificial intelligence was only open to a very small number of qualified developers and required the use of specialized tools,” Wei said in a statement.

“However, DT PAI allows developers will little or no experience in the field to construct a data application from scratch in a much shorter period of time. What used to take days can be completed within minutes.”

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