Amazon gives AWS customers access to its internal machine learning experts

The new ML Solutions Lab helps AWS customers learn how to leverage machine learning, through boot camps, workshops, and other programming.

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Amazon on Wednesday announced the Amazon ML Solutions Lab, a new program that connects Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers with Amazon's own machine learning experts. Through boot camps, workshops, advisory professional services, and other forms of programming, the program is designed to help Amazon's cloud customers figure out how to leverage machine learning.

Competing cloud providers, from Microsoft to Oracle, have for some time touted their capabilities in AI and machine learning as a key value proposition as they try to make a dent in Amazon's market dominance.

Amazon's response has been to point to its own internal use of machine learning.

"Amazon has been investing in machine learning for more than 20 years, innovating in areas such as fulfilment and logistics, personalization and recommendations, forecasting, fraud prevention, and supply chain optimization," wrote Vinayak Agarwal, a senior product manager for AWS Deep Learning, in a blog post about the new service. "The Amazon ML Solutions Lab provides you access to the same talent that built many of Amazon's machine learning-powered products and services."

The ML Solutions Lab first promises to help customers with brainstorming ways to use machine learning, working backwards from an enterprise's business challenges and opportunities. Amazon also said the ML scientists providing guidance will help customers use their own data to build custom models ready for deployment. Lastly, the program promises to "impart knowledge," Agarwal wrote, so participants can take their newfound expertise to others within their organization.

The program's format is flexible -- customers can participate at a dedicated facility at AWS headquarters in Seattle, or Amazon can send machine learning model developers to a customer's site. The length of the program can range from weeks to months, with a four-week "Express" version available for customers that already have data prepared.

Amazon named three customers using the program already, including Janssen, the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson.

"We are pleased to state that the Amazon ML Solutions Lab quickly kicked off a deep learning workshop through which machine learning experts from Amazon have been brainstorming with and training our data scientists on applying deep learning to pharma-related use cases," Jesse Heap, a senior IT manager at Janssen, said in a statement.

The World Bank Group also said it's using the program "to leverage machine learning in our mission to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post -- owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos -- is using the program to build models in areas such as comment moderation, keyword tagging, and headline generation.

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