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IBM launches new cloud, AI services in bid to modernize business

UPDATED: Tue., May 11, 2021

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
By Jackie Davalos Bloomberg

IBM Corp. is rolling out a product that will help businesses automate tasks, capitalizing on the rise of chat bots and virtual assistants during the pandemic and taking another step toward cloud services and artificial intelligence.

The tool, called Watson Orchestrate, uses artificial intelligence to select and sequence the prepackaged skills needed to perform a task across sales, human resources, or operations functions. It will be compatible with Slack Technologies Inc. and email as well as connect to business applications like Inc., SAP SE and Workday Inc. The product is expected to be available later this year.

“We will look back on this year and last as the moment the world entered the digital century in full force,” Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna said in a statement. “In the same way that we electrified factories and machines in the past century, we will use hybrid cloud to infuse AI into software and systems in the 21st century.”

Watson Orchestrate is one of a slate of new offerings and initiatives IBM is unveiling at its annual Think Conference, where its evolution from century-old company into a modern enterprise will be on full display. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of cloud services, a trend Krishna has been keen to optimize since he took over as CEO last year, and as part of an effort to revive growth after years of shrinking revenue.

IBM is focusing on what it calls hybrid-cloud, which allows companies to use a combination of their own data centers and computing resources leased from others and accessed online. The strategy fueled IBM’s 2019 acquisition of Red Hat, a deal Krishna helped arrange, for about $34 billion. IBM is also betting that corporate users will adopt AI in more of their systems.The Armonk, N.Y.-based company partnered with Ernst & Young LLP to create a hub that will focus on offering regulatory compliance, digital trust and security services to financial services companies through IBM’s hybrid cloud platform. IBM is also adding an upgrade to its Cloud Pak for Data service that the company said will generate answers to queries eight-times faster, and it’s rolling out Project CodeNet, an open source data set with millions of lines of code to speed up businesses applications of artificial intelligence.

The new offerings come on the heels of IBM introducing its 2 nanometer chip, which is the world’s smallest and first chip of that size. IBM is working closely with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. and Intel Corp. to bring the chips to market, Krishna said on a call with journalists, adding that the ongoing semiconductor shortage is “very worrisome.”

IBM’s rivals, including Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, have also been moving to expand the use of AI for cloud computing customers across a variety of industries. Microsoft, for example, introduced new tools last year for doctors to use chat bots to more easily communicate with patients. Google announced a tie-up in February with Ford Motor Co. that will provide data analytics to the factory floor and let drivers use voice-recognition technology in their cars. Cloud software maker ServiceNow Inc has acquired several AI companies to refine products that help clients automate numerous personnel, customer service and information technology tasks.

Krishna reaffirmed IBM is “on a path to sustained mid-single digit growth over the medium term,” and that the new offerings would eventually translate into revenue growth as clients increase adoption.

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