In a media briefing at Dell’s AI Experience Zone in Singapore, Dell Technologies announced that AI Singapore has chosen Dell Technologies to deliver High-Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure that’s optimised for AI workloads.
AI Singapore, first announced in 2017, is a national program office launched by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence, develop the country’s AI talent and help seed high-quality research efforts to develop fundamental AI novel techniques, algorithms and adjacent technologies.
In the collaboration, Dell Technologies will provide three key computational building blocks for the new supercomputer at AI Singapore to help drive performance and flexibility for its researchers and to scale up its flagship 100 Experiments (100E) program.
According to Laurence Liew, Director, AI Industry Innovation, for the 100E program, AI Singapore would partner with companies or industries that need AI solutions, but there are no commercially available solutions available for them in the market, or when they’re committed to building their own products to compete globally.
“The way we support them is by bringing our professors, researchers and engineering teams to work together with the companies to build their AI products and solutions,” he explained.
In order to assist them in their work, AI Singapore will leverage Dell EMC PowerEdge servers, powered by the 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors, that will provide the performance and flexibility required for AI research in addition to the Dell EMC open networking platforms to run these data-intensive workloads.
These modern architectures will help drive and support a broad range of data science techniques required for AI-intensive workloads, involving high-speed data computation, big data analytics and deep learning capabilities. With these solutions, organisational networks can be tailored to meet their unique requirements and IT challenges can be minimised to achieve business success.
Simplifying AI for Organisations
During the media session, there was also a short tour and demonstration of the AI Experience Zone, led by Romain Bottier, Dell Technologies’ HPC & AI Senior Solution Architect for South Asia, who spoke about the important role that the centre has in helping to raise the understanding and adoption of AI among organisations in the region.
This comes at a time when interest for AI among organisations is at an all-time high, but for various reasons, especially lack of skills, strategy, expertise as well as the understanding of AI itself, has hindered their progress.
Therefore, among the key roles that the AI Experience Zone hopes to play is to help simplify deployments AI for organisations and help compensate for the shortage of AI talent through automation. Romain demonstrated a few of the platforms available that are able to simplify many of the most time consuming and complex processes that AI scientists and developers have to go through, such as developing and training algorithms, significantly reducing the time it takes to deploy and get a solution to market as well.
“Dell Technologies sees a great opportunity to partner with our customers in accelerating the adoption of best practice techniques to achieving artificial intelligence. We’re excited about our collaboration with AI Singapore and believe that the best practices and emerging techniques for machine learning and deep learning that AI Singapore is developing can be leveraged by governments, industry and academia to drive human progress. Innovating together in AI, we can make a positive impact through new economic, product and scientific breakthroughs,” commented Romain.
With help from the AI Experience Zone, Romain Bottier said, “There’s no need to be a hardcore developer today to do just AI.” He added, “Ultimately, from our side, similar to what AI Singapore is doing, we also want to educate people. It’s a lot about knowledge sharing, how things are done today and what technologies can be used to solve the problems.”
In addition to the solution and platform demos and workshops at the AI Experience Zone, to achieve this goal, Dell also provides masterclass training aimed at three main segments: the developers, IT staff as well as CIOs, to guide them through the necessary steps to kick-start their AI initiatives, demystify AI and deliver tangible business outcomes for their organisations.
Overcoming the Talent Shortage
Commenting on the collaboration with Dell Technologies, Laurence said that AI Singapore is pleased to work with Dell Technologies to develop a thriving ecosystem for AI, before adding, “The close collaboration between AI Singapore’s and Dell Technologies’ engineers has allowed us to co-design and customise a unique infrastructure to meet our AI research, development and AI model deployment needs that are aimed at showcasing the real-world benefits of AI and broadening its adoption in Singapore.”
To overcome the shortage of talent, AI Singapore has also taken a novel approach through its apprenticeship program, where working adults (software developers, junior AI developers, and the like) would be able to spend up to nine months to deepen their AI and machine learning knowledge and skills with AI Singapore, working on the 100 Experiments.
“The intent is, at the end of nine months, with the solution developed, the company not only has a solution, but also people that they can hire into the company to continue to build up the solution,” Laurence explained.
As a result, this allows companies to rely less on foreign talent as well. About one and a half years since its inception, Laurence said, today, AI Singapore probably has one of the biggest pools of Singaporean AI engineers in the country. “At any one time, we easily have 50 to 60 Singaporeans working on AI projects.”
The steps taken by AI Singapore could perhaps be emulated by other countries in the ASEAN region to accelerate their AI efforts. Nevertheless, Laurence commented that he sees other countries also taking strides to build their AI ecosystems, each with their own strategies.
It’s About Knowing What AI Can Solve For You
For organisations in Singapore and the region that want to delve into AI, Laurence’s advice is not to put the initial focus too much on the technologies that they want to invest in, but rather, the ROI or business problem that they wish to solve with AI.
“For companies that have the internal capabilities, they can execute the AI project on their own, while others can partner with vendors or universities. And this doesn’t just apply to Singapore. Companies in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, they all partner their universities to get access to the talent,” he said.
And once the companies reach the minimum viable product stage where they want to go for deployment, choosing the right SI partners and vendors, ones that have proven expertise in bringing AI into business, become crucial. But it always comes down to knowing the business and the business challenges that the technologies are supposed to solve.