IBM Touts AI Partnership with H20.ai

NEW YORK – The strategic global deal that IBM and H2O.ai announced here June 7 is an example of IBM’s strategy of expanding its artificial intelligence (AI) for business leadership position by forging an “ecosystem of partnerships” in the space, according to Sumit Gupta, VP of AI, machine learning (ML) and high-performance computing (HPC) at IBM Cognitive Systems.

The multi-year partnership is focused on combining IBM POWER Systems and H2O Driverless AI software to address the AI demands of the enterprise space, the companies said. They called their joint solution – under which IBM will be reselling H2O Driverless AI — “ideal” for the financial services, retail, manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT) and healthcare industries.

“H2O’s Driverless AI is very complementary to the software we were providing,” Gupta told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) in an interview at the H2O World Conference. Driverless AI will help IBM clients use AI because, while clients “can build their own AI models,” the H2O software is “automating that process,” he said.

Asked by MESA if IBM didn’t have the resources to offer an AI product like H2O Driverless AI on its own, he told us: “We really believe in an open ecosystem of innovation. We definitely want to create AI software and AI models. But in no way do we believe that we are the only company in the world that’s going to do that.”

What H2O is doing is “so synergistic with what we’ve been doing,” he said, adding H2O is on “the same mission, which is how do we make it easier for enterprise to adopt AI, and that’s why we built the partnership to resell their software.”

He went on: “All the software and innovation doesn’t have to come from me. I don’t for a minute imagine that I can go build everything everyone else does.” Touting the advantages of an open AI platform, he said: “This is the first partnership we’ve done. But we intend to do many more to bring all that innovation into the market.”

IBM also stands to help H2O.ai reach a much broader number of companies in the enterprise space, SriSatish Ambati, H2O.ai CEO and founder, told MESA, noting that about 2,000 companies have tested Driverless AI as part of a three-week trial.

“Because we have a global reach, we can reach those 2,000 clients whether they’re in Japan, China or Egypt,” Gupta said.

IBM and H2O.ai had previously worked together to integrate H2O open source libraries into IBM’s Data Science Experience analytics solution, the companies said in a news release.

As part of the new pact, IBM and H2O.ai customers can now use Driverless AI on IBM POWER Systems to accelerate ML insights by up to 5X on IBM POWER9 processor-based Power Systems, the companies said. Customers can also “deploy the joint solution to leverage” graphics processing units (GPU)-accelerated ML on IBM POWER Systems to “gain insights and transform their business,” and “take advantage of IBM’s easy on-ramp” deep learning toolkit, PowerAI, with H2O Driverless AI’s automated ML capabilities, the companies said.

H2O Driverless AI enables data scientists and data analysts to work on projects “faster and more efficiently by using automation and state-of-the-art computing power to accomplish tasks that can take humans months in just minutes or hours,” according to H2O.ai.

More than 14,000 companies are using open-source H2O in the finance, insurance, healthcare, retail, telco, sales and marketing spaces, it said. Other H2O.ai partners include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Microsoft Azure and Nvidia, and its customer base includes Capital One, Cisco, Comcast, PayPal and Walgreens, according to H2O.ai.