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AI infrastructure: a comprehensive guide to building your AI stack

date: 8 April 2024
reading time: 9 min

Understanding AI infrastructure is essential for leveraging artificial intelligence effectively. This guide cuts directly to the core, explaining the pivotal components and operations that enable AI to thrive. You’ll learn about crucial hardware, seamless integration, and the dynamic workflows that make AI systems efficient powerhouses of innovation.

Key takeaways

  • AI infrastructure is an integrated environment of hardware (like GPUs and TPUs) and software designed specifically for AI and machine learning workloads, providing the critical backbone for efficient data processing, model training, and deployment.
  • AI infrastructure is strategically important and enables efficient execution of complex AI tasks across various sectors, offering scalability, flexibility, and support for the entire lifecycle of AI development while ensuring security and compliance in crucial operations.
  • There are six key components of AI infrastructure – computational power, networking, data handling and storage, data processing frameworks, security and compliance, and MLOps – all of which are essential for the creation, maintenance, and advancement of robust AI systems.

What is AI infrastructure?

The AI infrastructure functions like a well-oiled machine, mimicking the complexity of the human brain. It encompasses an integrated environment of hardware and software tailored to handle the demanding tasks of artificial intelligence and machine learning workloads.

It’s the backbone, the foundation that supports the city of AI, housing:

  • Powerful GPU servers
  • AI accelerators like TPUs on the hardware side
  • Machine learning frameworks
  • Scalable storage solutions on the software end

But it’s not just a passive environment. AI infrastructure is a dynamic ecosystem that facilitates optimised AI workflows. It provides the highways for efficient data gathering, preprocessing, model training, validation, and deployment, driving innovation and operational efficiency.

And it doesn’t stop there. With its ability to handle high computational demands and large data sets, AI infrastructure enhances the speed and accuracy of decision-making in applications like image recognition and natural language processing.

Why is AI infrastructure important?

A city cannot function without its infrastructure, and the same holds true for the world of AI. The AI infrastructure is designed specifically to meet the heavy computational and data processing needs of AI algorithms, setting it apart from conventional IT infrastructure.

This setup enables efficient execution of AI tasks, including those that understand human language. But beyond the practical, AI infrastructure supports the development of advanced applications in various sectors like healthcare and finance, paving the way for innovations like precision medicine and price prediction.

83% of companies claim that using AI in their business strategy is a top priority

More importantly, it acts as an ‘AI factory’, supporting the complete lifecycle of AI strategy development, including model training and continuous improvement. With its scalability and flexibility, it allows for the growth of AI models and datasets and adapts to evolving demands.

And let’s not forget the crucial role of security and compliance considerations, especially as AI is increasingly applied in critical domains.

For commercial entities, AI infrastructure is a game-changer, maintaining a competitive advantage, driving innovation, and creating new market opportunities.

Watch our IT Insights: InsurTalk about the state of generative AI with Danilo Raponi and Emenuele Colonnella from Generali.

What are the 6 key components of AI infrastructure?

Imagine a city planner designing the infrastructure of a city. What are the key components they need to consider? Roads, buildings, power supply, water and waste management, communication networks, and public services, right?

Similarly, there are six basic components of artificial intelligence infrastructure that we need to consider:

  • computational power,
  • networking and connectivity frameworks,
  • data handling and storage solutions,
  • data processing frameworks,
  • security and compliance,
  • and machine learning operations (MLOps).

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Computational Power (Hardware)

Just like how a city needs power to run, AI systems require computational power to function efficiently. This power is provided by hardware like GPUs and TPUs. With their parallel processing capabilities, they are critical for executing AI workloads effectively.

TPUs, purpose-built by Google as custom ASICs, are like the powerhouse, accelerating machine learning workloads by handling the computational requirements efficiently.

But it doesn’t stop at the hardware level. Large-scale AI model training is facilitated by advanced techniques like multislice training, which can scale across tens of thousands of TPU chips. And then we have the cloud computing.

As organisations need to scale their computational resources up or down as needed, they increasingly rely on cloud-based hardware to offer flexibility and cost-effectiveness for AI workloads. It’s like having a power grid that can deliver just the right amount of electricity as and when needed.

Networking and Connectivity Frameworks

A city cannot function without efficient connectivity and neither can AI systems. Networking plays a central role in AI infrastructure, supporting the transfer of data between storage systems and locations where processing takes place.

High-bandwidth, low-latency networks are crucial for this, providing rapid data transfer and processing that is key to AI system performance. It’s like the city’s transportation network, ensuring that data, the lifeblood of the city, flows smoothly and efficiently.

Speaking of data residency – this may be of interest to you:: AWS Digital Sovereignty Pledge: the new era of cloud

Data Handling and Storage Solutions

AI systems require robust data storage and management solutions to handle labeled data. These solutions efficiently handle the high volumes of data necessary for training and validating models. Storage options for AI data encompass databases, data warehouses, and data lakes, which can be stationed on-premises or hosted on cloud services, offering versatility and scalability.

But this isn’t a haphazard process. Just as a city planner needs to strategically plan the location and design of storage facilities, implementing a data-driven architecture from the initial design phase is critical for the success of AI systems.

Data Processing Frameworks

Data processing frameworks play a vital role in this, acting like the city’s factories, taking in raw data and producing valuable insights. These frameworks are pivotal for handling large datasets and performing complex transformations, enabling distributed processing to perform tasks that expedite data preparation.

But it’s not just about processing data. These frameworks also support distributed computing, enabling parallelisation of AI algorithms across multiple nodes, enhancing resource utilisation and expediting model training and inference.

Furthermore, in-memory databases and caching mechanisms play an important role in reducing latency and improving data access speeds.

Find out how to maintain your data to benefit you the most:

Security and Compliance

Just as a city needs a police force and a set of laws to ensure safety and order, artificial intelligence programs need robust security measures and adherence to regulatory standards. AI platforms can be susceptible to a range of security threats such as data poisoning, model theft, inference attacks, and the development of polymorphic malware.

But it’s not just about security. Compliance plays a crucial role too. AI systems significantly impact privacy and data protection, posing challenges like informed consent and surveillance concerns.

We carried out a survey on this topic, which you can read more about here: Data security and privacy: the 50+ generation’s biggest concern

International coverage of AI legal issues features in policies from the United Nations, OECD, Council of Europe, and the European Parliament, acknowledging the significance of human rights and human language in AI development and deployment.

AI infrastructure must ensure secure handling of data and compliance with laws and industry standards to diminish legal and reputational risks.

Machine Learning Operations (MLOps)

AI systems require Machine Learning Operations (MLOps) for efficient problem solving.

MLOps involves workflow practices that ensure:

  • Version control for models
  • Automated training and deployment pipelines, including unsupervised learning techniques
  • Model performance tracking
  • Collaboration between different roles

Automation plays a critical role in MLOps, enabling version control, orchestrating automated pipelines, and managing the scaling, setup, and maintenance of machine learning environments efficiently. Continuous evaluation metrics are employed to track the performance of models, ensuring the effectiveness of models over time.

The integration of MLOps with DevOps security practices and tools, combined with the adoption of CI/CD, enables the automation of build, test, and deployment processes, making the development of AI models more cohesive and efficient.

What role does cloud computing play in AI infrastructure?

Cloud computing provides an essential platform for AI algorithms and computer programs, allowing them to access computer systems that can:

  • process large datasets efficiently
  • access vast amounts of storage
  • scale up or down as needed
  • collaborate and share data with other AI systems
Advantages of Cloud Computing
Advantages of cloud computing

But it’s not just a one-way street. AI can enhance cloud services by improving resource allocation, security measures, and enabling predictive analytics for businesses.

This symbiotic relationship between AI and cloud computing leads to intelligent automation and optimised operations within cloud services, creating smarter and more personalised AI/ML solutions, like intelligent chatbots and predictive analytics for businesses.

What are common challenges in building AI infrastructure?

High computational demands and complex integration with existing systems are significant technical challenges. Then there are security threats, which, as we’ve discussed, range from data poisoning to model theft.

But it’s not just about technical challenges. Legal and compliance concerns pose significant hurdles in the path of AI infrastructure development. Issues of privacy and data protection, intellectual property rights for AI-generated works, and liability for AI innovations are legal challenges that the advancement of AI technology brings to the forefront.

These challenges necessitate the identification of creators and adjustments to liability frameworks, adding another layer of complexity to the task of AI implementation in business.

If you’re thinking about incorporating AI into your organisation, feel free to contact us. Our team of specialists is prepared to assist you on your AI journey, enabling you to fully utilise AI’s capabilities to transform your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is AI infrastructure?

AI infrastructure refers to the integrated hardware and software environment that supports artificial intelligence and machine learning workloads, facilitating efficient data processing and decision-making for AI and ML projects.

What are the key components of AI infrastructure?

The key components of AI infrastructure encompass computational power, networking frameworks, data handling solutions, security measures, and machine learning operations (MLOps). These components are essential for building a robust AI infrastructure.

How does cloud computing support AI infrastructure?

Cloud computing supports AI infrastructure by providing a platform for processing large datasets efficiently and offering scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solutions for data storage and processing. This makes it easier for AI algorithms to function effectively (Source: Internet, Date: N/A).

What challenges are associated with building AI infrastructure?

Building AI infrastructure poses challenges such as high computational demands, complex system integration, security threats, legal concerns, and the necessity for ongoing evaluation and maintenance of AI models. These factors need to be carefully addressed to ensure the successful implementation of AI technology.

How does MLOps contribute to AI infrastructure?

MLOps contributes to AI infrastructure by streamlining the production, maintenance, and monitoring of machine learning models, ensuring version control, automating training and deployment pipelines, and fostering collaboration. These processes help in optimising the performance of AI models and integrating them seamlessly into existing infrastructure systems.

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