AI Lab Could Make WWT 'Central Hub' Of Customer Innovation
by Wade Tyler Millward
World Wide Technology plans to have about 12 artificial intelligence lab environments built out by the end of 2024's first quarter as part of an AI "proving ground" for validating software, use cases and components of an AI product or service.
That's according to Matt Halcomb, principal architect at St. Louis-based WWT – No. 9 on CRN's 2023 Solution Provider 500 – who gave more details on WWT's new project to CRN in an interview.
He envisions WWT as the center hub of a multi-vendor wheel bringing technologies together for AI projects.
"How do we help a customer who has to move from having an executive team throwing ideas around a board table into leveraging data to get to data-driven outcomes and business decisions that they're doing?" he said. "Generative AI is a great component of that."
WWT AI Lab
Proofs of concept (POCs), education workshops and on-demand capabilities from the lab – part of WWT's investment of $500 million over three years in AI – are expected by the end of the first quarter, he said. More on-demand capabilities will come in the second quarter, allowing customers to schedule a lab environment for a week or two.
WWT's website will allow some self-service for customers, but data scientists and engineers will be available to help customers with projects and education, Halcomb said.
WWT is still working out the pricing for the lab environments. But some on-demand components will be free depending "on the complexity of the ask."
About a dozen customers already have access to the handful of environments built out. One use case, so far, is POCs for purchased hardware that hasn't arrived yet, experimenting with integration options, he said.
"A lot of organizations do really good at building infrastructure, but they don't do such a good job of enabling the end user to leverage the infrastructure," he said. "And that's the key component to that return on investment."
The solution provider is already about finished with a handful of environments and it has customers already trying them out.
WWT has five data centers and its Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to leverage for the project. Eventually WWT will integrate its ATC and infrastructure into a cloud environment and it will create a cloud-adjacent edge location, Halcomb said.
The lab will also help customers understand what technologies they really need to adopt. Sometimes customers won't need cloud – such as using cloud-adjacent and edge environments to enable computer vision.
WWT will also evaluate new software and hardware vendors to ensure they can deliver on what they've advertised to a customer, he said.
"We're more than willing to take a look at a number of different technologies and solutions and help a customer make intelligent decisions for themselves – quit guessing at things," he said. "The technology we're looking at and the technology they're looking to implement, they want to do it in a hurry, but we don't want them to be in a hurry to do the wrong thing because it has a huge impact on their budget. It has a huge impact on their carbon footprint."