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Dell EMC's new Experience Zones to help customers sift through the noise of AI

Dell EMC, alongside Intel, has announced the launch of five dedicated spaces for customers and partners to learn what artificial intelligence (AI) is, and how it differs from machine learning and statistics and modelling, to avoid failed IT projects.

The five Dell EMC AI Experience Zones are open in Bangalore, Seoul, Singapore, and Sydney, and Tokyo will be operational as of next month.

The zones are located in the company’s Customer Solutions Centres in each of the cities, and all house large Dell EMC high performance computing systems that are designed specifically to help train an AI algorithm.

Speaking with ZDNet, high performance computing and AI chief technology officer for Dell EMC in the Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) region Andrew Underwood said the idea for the zones is essentially to help customers avoid the high failure rate of AI projects.

SEE ALSO: AI and automation aren’t quick wins. Invest anyway.

“There were actually a large percentage of AI projects in 2018 that weren’t successful,” he said, noting Dell EMC saw the zones as a way help customers adopt AI before making any financial investment.

Underwood said the main idea is to break down the difference between AI, deep learning, machine learning, and statistics and modelling.

“There are a huge number of business problems that can be solved with machine learning and statistics; there are equally as many business problems that can be solved with machine learning or deep learning leading to AI, and we want to be able to help people understand the difference between the different streams,” he said.

“But we also want to help them avoid going down too deep a rabbit hole that might be the wrong option.”

According to Dell Technologies’ Digital Transformation Index, AI is among the top spending priorities for business leaders in the APJ region; one in two leaders plan to invest in AI in the next one to three years as part of their digital strategy. However, 95% of companies are still experiencing transformation roadblocks, one of which is the lack of in-house skill sets and expertise, the report claims.

Underwood told ZDNet in speaking with CIOs regarding failed AI projects, most of them have been due to the fact that data was just thrown into AWS, Azure, or another cloud, leaving data scientists to find something magical.

“That doesn’t sound like a great recipe for success,” he said.

Asking those customers what business problem they were out to solve, based on what data they held, and returning no solid explanation, Underwood said the goal of the AI zones is to make that business purpose more clear.

“They’ll have all the software tools, all of these deep learning frameworks — really the foundational mathematical software frameworks for AI — and they’ll have programming libraries, et cetera, where customers can bring their own dataset, or they can take sample Dell datasets for IoT, healthcare, finance, and a range of different market verticals, even agriculture,” Underwood explained.

“They can actually start to sample how they could train an AI algorithm with our data scientists.”

SEE ALSO: Whither project managers? AI will take 80 percent project management tasks, says Gartner  

All five AI Experience Zones will provide product demonstrations, training, and pilots for both Dell EMC customers and its partners and will boast the latest Dell EMC PowerEdge servers, along with open source AI software developed by Intel, such as OpenVINO toolkit, as well as Dell EMC networking and storage technologies.

Dell EMC has previously been running AI master classes, which are essentially a series of one-day courses conducted in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane that take customers through the theory of AI and how to become a “project master”.

“From conceptualisation, through to development, through the delivery of an AI project — really teaching the foundational groundwork for project management when it comes to artificial intelligence, business ownership when it comes to artificial intelligence, and then ultimately delivery of an artificial intelligence program,” Underwood said.

“Within that there’s a lot of steps on how to support a data scientist — what tools they need, what access they need, and then what type of scenarios are applicable to AI and what type of scenarios are applicable to traditional statistics.”

Underwood said over 500 people have been trained in a 12-month period, and the feedback was what led Dell EMC to developing the idea of the labs.

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