How machine learning will take off in the cloud

The cloud will bring the power of machine learning to the Joe Schmoes of the enterprise

machine learning

A company that helps users to create their own websites now knows what kind of sites their 80 million users are building without pestering them with repeated questions.

Wix, a Tel Aviv-based web development company, is using machine learning on Google's cloud platform to learn more about its users so it can help them find the images they need to build interesting and useful websites.

That's just the beginning of how machine learning will be used in the cloud, according to industry analysts who say machine learning will be the biggest thing that's ever hit the cloud.

David Zuckerman, head of developer experience for Wix, said machine learning in the cloud will be a boon to companies that don't have a major research division.

"The cloud has brought this technology to everyone," he said. "It's brought great technology within the reach of mere mortals. Machine learning has always been on the outer edges of what's possible. For most, it's been out of reach. Now this means people can get their feet wet. It's taking machine learning as a service and binging it down to a level where more people can use the technology."

At Google Next, the company's cloud conference on Wednesday, Google said it is bringing machine learning to the cloud and making it easy for enterprises to use it.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, said bringing machine learning to the cloud will be a game changer.

"I'm convinced there's a new architecture emerging," he said at the conference. "In a year, you will use machine learning to do something better than humans have been doing. You'll do something new. You'll discover something new."

Using the cloud, he said, will no longer mean storing data there. As more machine learning services are put in the cloud, enterprises will be able to use the service to make sense of the huge amounts of data they are amassing.

"It will be the basis for every successful IPO win in the next five years," said Schmidt. "It'll be about the mixture of crowd-sourcing and machine learning and rapid evaluation to create successful IPOs and new discoveries."

Google also at the conference announced yesterday that it's launching a private beta of its new Cloud Machine Learning service that lets businesses create a custom machine learning model. Customers can use the new service with the data they already have stored in Google's cloud.

The services mainly are designed to help companies make predictions based on the data they have stored in the cloud.

This week, Wix is making Google's machine-learning Cloud Vision API available to all of its users this week. The service enables users to better search for images, while also enabling the company to understand what kinds of websites its customers are building based on a machine learning tool that recognizes the images they use on their websites.

"The better we know our users, the better experience we can provide," Zuckerman told Computerworld. "It's an interesting way we can know what our users are building without having to ask them… We don't have a clear understanding about our user community. How much do I ask so I can provide a good experience without alienating the user?"

If the system finds that a user is building a website about music, then Wix can offer music-related images or suggest that the user try the company's Wix Music service, Zuckerman said.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said that Google is a pioneer in using machine learning in the cloud, but the technology won't be in the mainstream for a while.

"When you combine machine learning with the cloud and all the sorts of new technologies that are coming, the future looks very exciting," Kagan said. "But that's what Google Next is all about. It's about thinking outside the box."

Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said it won't be long before enterprises are using the new cloud-based machine learning tools.

"It's interesting that Google is opening up its tool box of machine-learning tools to regular schmoes," he said. "I think we're going to see in the near future a lot of new applications of machine learning that we hadn't considered before. When you combine wide open access to machine learning routines to all the data out there, it's highly likely that we'll see really different and interesting ways to apply all of this."

For enterprises that had to be slowly led to the cloud, however, adding machine learning to their arsenal may be another methodical plod.

"I think many enterprises will have to be led there, but I do see enterprises giving it a try," Olds said. "Stay tuned, because you're going to be seeing a lot of machine learning on the cloud news coming out."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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