Amazon executive credits cloud Web Services for AI boom

When it comes to generative AI, the companies that come to mind are Google, Meta, and OpenAI. But don’t count Amazon out of the AI race.

One of Amazon’s biggest focuses is in cloud computing, where the company’s Amazon Web Services is a market leader. The online tech and retail giant has also built in-house chips to power the cloud and has partnered with OpenAI rival Anthropic on infrastructure that enables large-scale AI modeling.

Deepak Singh, an AWS vice president, talked to Quartz about how generative AI is affecting Amazon. Here are some highlights from the interview.

Where Amazon stands in the generative AI race

Amazon has been using machine learning for a long time, such as the robotics in its fulfillment centers or its cashierless Amazon Go stores, Singh said. There are two areas where Amazon has invested early when it comes to generative AI, Singh said. One is providing the cloud infrastructure for those building AI models. Last year, for example, Amazon launched Bedrock, a service that helps AWS users build and scale AI models. The other area is providing features to help AWS customers build their generative AI applications faster.

In other words, rather than being a leader in what’s known as the large-language models that power generative AI products like chatbots, Amazon is focused on providing the infrastructure to house these AI models.

“Generative AI very directly was enabled because the cloud exists,” Singh said.

“Both [Amazon CEO Andy Jassy] and [AWS CEO Adam Selipsky] like to say that we are early in a marathon,” he added. “We are learning new lessons every day about what large-language models are capable of right now.”

Thoughts on generative AI tools at the office

“If you’re a software developer, and especially if you’re a new software developer, chances are you’re using generative AI as part of your day-to-day experience,” Singh said. Large-language models, or LLMs, are good at coding in part because there’s a lot of open-source code out there in the world that AI systems can learn from, he said.

Singh added that Amazon employees are starting to use the company’s own internal AI chatbots to write marketing copy.

How working at a company during the generative AI hype differs from past tech cycles

“When AWS started, I still had to continue to answer a lot of questions like, why is the bookstore building [cloud] infrastructure?” Singh said. “You know, I haven’t heard that one in 15 years now, or 14 years or something like that. It’s been a long time.” At the same time, companies were more hesitant to migrate to the cloud, which helps businesses run their websites and applications.

But now, Singh said “your biggest most stodgy bank has jumped right into the deep end [of generative AI].”

“But again,” he added, “I think because they’ve adopted the cloud over the last several years, it’s been easier for them to do that.”

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