Discount giant steps up cloud and AI initiatives

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is making a bold move as it continues to seek out ways to distance itself from Amazon.

The discount giant is investing in Nvidia chips. These high-level graphical processing units (GPUs) will be the foundation of a robust cloud network where Walmart data scientists can build out AI systems, reported Geek Wire.

A project championed by Walmart’s OneOps team, which builds and maintains the company’s internal application development system, the neural network will position Walmart to leverage AI going forward. Nvidia GPUs are designed to process large amounts of data quickly. Be-sides supporting cloud services, their processing power support AI appli-cations like natural language processing, image recognition, and overall machine learning, according to Business Insider.

Amazon is already dabbling in this arena, and plans to apply AI further across its newest acquisition, Whole Foods. The natural foods grocer is already swimming in increasing volumes of shopper behavior data. This information will be applied to Amazon’s own cloud-based platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which already leverages AI-related services, the Geek Wire report said.

Walmart has been impacted by Amazon’s cloud services first-hand. Historically, Walmart technology partners ran their applications on AWS. That was until the discount giant began warning some tech companies in June that if they want its business, they can’t run applications on Amazon’s cloud platform.

The robust GPUs are only one piece of Walmart’s cloud-based strategy. The discount giant is reportedly also building out its cloud-based data centers and licensing its services to other companies. While the data centers will be one-tenth the size of Amazon’s, Walmart expects the move to give it another way to compete against its online nemesis, Business Insider said.

Target is also making moves to distance itself from Amazon’s cloud-based services. In August, Target announced that it was scaling back its use of AWS.

The discounter plans to “aggressively” move e-commerce activities, mobile development and operations away from AWS through the end of the year and into 2018 — a plan it alluded to back in October. Microsoft Azure is one company hoping to grab Target’s cloud-based operations.


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