Cloud AI Wars Intensify at AWS re:Invent 2023

Author photo: Colin Masson
ByColin Masson
Industry Trends

The Cloud AI Wars are heating up, with heavyweights Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft vying for dominance. The latest salvo was fired by AWS at re:Invent 2023, with a series of announcements aimed squarely at Microsoft.

Having spent the last few months exploring the latest investments in AI and related technologies at conferences from Aveva, Microsoft, Rockwell Automation, and Siemens, here are a few of the most relevant announcements from AWS re:Invent 2023 for industrial organizations:

Hardware Investments for AI:

  • AWS Graviton4: This custom-designed Arm-based processor can deliver high performance and cost-efficiency for AI workloads.

  • Trainium2: This custom-designed AI training chip offers enhanced performance and efficiency for training AI models.

  • Collaboration with Nvidia: Amazon's continued collaboration with Nvidia allows industrial organizations to leverage powerful GPUs for running AI and machine learning workloads.

AI Enhancements and Development Tools:

  • Amazon Bedrock: Amazon announced an expanding range of Foundation Models and tools for fine-tuning, RAG (Retriever-Augmented-Generation), and pretraining enhancements. These advancements can be instrumental for industrial organizations, enabling them to customize AI Foundation models, improving accuracy using their own data in Industrial AI use cases.

  • GuardRails for Amazon Bedrock: This new feature provides additional security and reliability, ensuring the safety of AI models and protecting sensitive data.

  • Amazon Q Expert Assistants: Rounding out the AI 'Assistants' from the 'big 3' hyperscalers, the Amazon Q service offers expert assistants on AWS, providing valuable insights and guidance to industrial organizations looking to accelerate their digital transformation. Read below for why this may turn out to be one of the most important announcements from AWS re:Invent 2023!

Industrial Data Fabric Enhancements:

  • AWS IoTSiteWise: Amazon made enhancements to this service that collects, organizes, and analyzes data from industrial equipment. Improved data management and analytics capabilities could lead to better decision-making and optimization of operations.

Enterprise Software Integration:

Integration with Salesforce, SAP, etc.: Enhanced integration capabilities with enterprise software providers like Salesforce and SAP can streamline operations and leverage existing software investments. While there were no specific announcements from SAP, Salesforce and AWS announced an expanded partnership for offering select Salesforce products on the AWS Marketplace.

Industry Customer and Partner Highlights:

  • BMW and Volkswagen: Automotive manufacturers were featured in several sessions at AWS re:Invent 2023, and in the Industries Pavilion, showcasing their autonomous driving, customer experience, and digital factory initiatives and the use of AWS services in their operations.

  • Siemens: The global industrial conglomerate demonstrated their collaboration with AWS and the adoption of AWS services for their industrial solutions with specific announcements about closing the machine-to-cloud gap highlighted below.

AWS Supply Chain Enhancements:

  • AWS Supply Chain Supply Planning: This feature offers specialized models that enable businesses to accurately forecast and plan the purchase of raw materials, components, and finished goods. It aims to improve in-stock rates and optimize inventory management, thereby reducing costs and enhancing operational efficiency.

  • AWS Supply Chain N-Tier Visibility: This capability streamlines communication between customers and multiple tiers of suppliers. It improves the accuracy of planning and execution of processes, thereby reducing potential delays and disruptions in the supply chain.

  • AWS Supply Chain Sustainability: This feature provides a central repository where customers can request, collect, and audit sustainability data from suppliers. It enables businesses to ensure their supply chains comply with sustainability standards and regulations, fostering more environmentally-friendly operations.

  • Amazon Q in AWS Supply Chain: This is a generative AI assistant that provides a natural language interface for querying data within the AWS Supply Chain Data Lake. It delivers intelligent answers to supply chain-related questions, helping businesses gain deeper insights into their supply chain operations and make more informed decisions.

Waging the Cloud AI War Based on 'Optionality'

At AWS re:Invent 2023, 'Optionality' was a key theme that differentiated Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI) from competitors like Microsoft. The term 'Optionality' in this context refers to providing customers with a range of choices to meet their specific needs.

It seems that AWS aims to capture AI leadership not by competing directly with Microsoft on similar grounds but by offering choice. AWS's strategic focus on 'optionality', includes offering a wide range of both proprietary and third-party Foundation Models. This contrasts with Microsoft's approach, which has seen significant investment in OpenAI and a perceived focus on leveraging of its massive installed base with a multitude of Copilots for office productivity, team collaboration, and its own business applications.

AI Hardware Allies Try to Stay Neutral

In the hardware arena, AWS has arguably extended its lead with multi-generational improvements to Graviton4 and Trainium2, while Microsoft announced its first-generation Azure Maia and Azure Cobalt chips. Both companies continue to evangelize their relationships with Nvidia.

At Microsoft Ignite 2023, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang joined Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to discuss GenAI, partnership, chips, and more. The companies announced the NVIDIA AI Foundry Service on Azure, aimed at revolutionizing generative AI applications. This service combines three key elements – a collection of NVIDIA AI Foundation models, the NVIDIA NeMo framework, and tools. Microsoft's collaboration with Nvidia empowers businesses with advanced AI tools and models.

On the other hand, at AWS re:Invent 2023, AWS was also joined by Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, and announced support for Nvidia's DGX cloud. AWS also announced it will be the first cloud provider to deploy NVIDIA's GH200 chips, due to launch in 2024, which has three times the memory of the popular H100. AWS's partnership with Nvidia enhances cloud infrastructure and powerful computing capabilities for AI and machine learning workloads.

AWS Adds New Battlefronts as it Expands From IaaS Provider to Enterprise and Productivity Contender with Amazon Q

The introduction of Amazon Q may signify a pivotal moment in AWS's journey. By extending its capabilities beyond infrastructure provision to include enterprise application development and management, AWS is poised to become a key player in the enterprise application space.

AWS’s approach appears to be different to Microsoft's plethora of Copilots, offering just one expert assistant (Q) that works across all its services. This AI-powered assistant can answer questions, provide summaries, generate content, and complete tasks based on data and information within your organization.

Moreover, Amazon Q can connect content from knowledge repositories with built-in connectors for third-party applications and AWS services, including Salesforce and Zendesk. This integration capability adds another layer of versatility, allowing businesses to leverage their existing software investments and streamline operations.

An Emerging Battle for Industrial Ecosystems

While Microsoft touts its legacy of Windows in factories, and long lasting partnerships with industrial automation and software partners - which were evident at Aveva World and Rockwell Automation Fair - AWS is investing heavily in Industrial Data Fabric enhancements, and prominent partnerships, most notably with Palantir and Siemens.

Microsoft has several decades head start on the industrial edge, but AWS seems to be capitalizing on its early lead in Cloud infrastructure to gain more traction through enterprise IT to OT and ET audiences at industrial organizations.

The Cloud AI Wars are Just Beginning

As Wendy Curcuri Bauer, VP and GM of AWS Automotive and Manufacturing observed, industrial organizations stand to benefit most from these developments. Generating twice as much data as any other industry, the potential gains from investing wisely in Industrial AI and Industrial (Grade) Data Fabrics are substantial.

The battle for AI supremacy between AWS and Microsoft seems set to intensify. And let’s not forget Google who just announced 'Gemini', their latest integrated multimodal AI, which means it can "generalize and seamlessly understand, operate across and combine different types of information including text, code, audio, image and video" - with claimed breakthroughs for tackling math and physics problems better than current LLMs and multimodal approaches.

For industrial organizations, the key will be to understand the strategic differences between these tech giants and make informed decisions about which platform and partner ecosystem best suits their needs.

For more information, or to contribute to Industrial AI and Industrial Data Fabrics research, please contact Colin Masson at . 




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