"By paying a monthly fee, we were able to use the minimum required resources for business operations. We were also able to flexibly change the configurations of resources based on auto scaling policies. Another huge appeal was the ability to configure resources in multiple regions. For example, we were able to use resources that are relatively inexpensive in regions outside Japan."
HEROZ Inc. is an AI development company that was founded in April 2009. The company office is located in Minato Ward, Tokyo. Based on the know-how accumulated in shogi and chess AI development, HEROZ is developing a solution named HEROZ Kishin to address various issues for enterprises. HEROZ Kishin is implemented in various fields, such as energy management, spatial control, stock market forecasting, and supply chain management (SCM) optimization. HEROZ has also released apps such as Shogi Wars and Animal Shogi Wars by utilizing its know-how in shogi AI development.
On May 6, 2022, HEROZ released Kishin Analytics to support the study of shogi by utilizing its shogi AI. Numerous Alibaba Cloud services are used as the system infrastructure of Kishin Analytics. HEROZ is especially pleased with Elastic Compute Service (ECS), Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK), and Log Service.02
HEROZ released Kishin Analytics to support the study of shogi by using the latest shogi AI on browsers. Since Kishin Analytics runs on a browser, it can be used without a high-spec computer. The service is intended for use in studying shogi by a wide range of people, such as professional shogi players and members of the association for training aspiring professional shogi players.
To efficiently study shogi, people need to find someone to study with. Professional shogi players living in urban areas of Japan have no problems finding someone to study with. However, for professional shogi players living in rural areas of Japan or living outside Japan, simply finding someone to study shogi with was a difficult task.
AI-powered shogi study is beginning to spread. However, the environment for AI-powered shogi study is subject to many restrictions such as complicated construction and the need for expensive computers. As a result, only professional shogi players possessing high-spec computers and IT know-how were able to utilize such AI services.
If Kishin Analytics is able to solve such problems, all professional shogi players will be able to conduct cutting-edge shogi analysis if they are interested, regardless of the areas where they live and their IT environments. This will significantly contribute to the development of shogi in Japan.
However, HEROZ needed to utilize deep learning technology to build Kishin Analytics. This created the challenge of reducing GPU costs as much as possible.
Additionally, a solid IT infrastructure must be built to make the service available around the world.03
Why Alibaba Cloud
HEROZ selected Alibaba Cloud because of its ability to reduce GPU costs and build a solid IT infrastructure.
A major deciding factor was the pricing of ECS instances. Alibaba Cloud provides two billing methods for ECS instances: hourly pay-as-you-go and discounted monthly subscription.
"The discounted monthly charges minimized costs for us. Furthermore, auto scaling made it possible to change the number of instances based on business needs. Another appealing point of the service was the ability to configure resources in multiple regions. For example, we were able to use resources that are relatively inexpensive in regions outside Japan," says Iwamoto.
In addition to basic virtual server services, Alibaba Cloud has released a variety of other types of services such as machine learning platforms and security services.
This extensive lineup of services makes it possible for Alibaba Cloud to satisfy the diverse needs of its customers.
"At first, I was worried that Alibaba Cloud services may be lacking compared to Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) services. However, Alibaba Cloud offers a wide range of services. The management console is easy to use, and various SDKs are available for the services. Therefore, Alibaba Cloud services have no problems compared to other cloud services," says Iwamoto.
Whenever HEROZ engineers came up with problems with the solutions that Alibaba Cloud provided, they were able to directly contact Alibaba Cloud engineers via a chat tool to solve the problems.
"I received a fast and attentive response for technical support through the chat tool and face-to-face service. This contributed to the stability of daily operations," says Iwamoto.04
HEROZ uses various Alibaba Cloud services, among which the following services are highly evaluated by HEROZ:
ECS is a service that provides a flexible and secure virtual server environment for all cloud hosting needs.
With just a few clicks in the web-based management console, you can deploy an ECS instance, and increase or decrease the capacity of the instance based on real-time needs.
"Various NVIDIA GPU models are available for use. We can change the instance type based on our performance and cost requirements. Some GPU models are supported only in specific regions. Furthermore, the instance costs vary depending on the region. Therefore, we must be careful about the region before we purchase an instance," says Iwamoto.
Alibaba Cloud Container Service
Alibaba Cloud Container Service allows you to start and manage Docker applications in a cluster of ECS instances or in a serverless cluster. It supports Kubernetes, a well-known open source container management tool.
"By utilizing Docker containers, we can build environments, such as development environments on computers and verification or production environments in clouds. We can change the configurations of the Object Storage Service (OSS) volumes used, and flexibly change the number of OSS volumes based on auto scaling policies," says Iwamoto.
Log Service is used to collect, query, and visualize logs. These operations are made possible by installing an agent on the server for which logs are collected. Log Service can be easily integrated with other services. For example, logs that are no longer needed can be sent to object storage services for archiving.
"SQL makes log visualization simple and flexible. In addition, the dashboard is easy to use," says Iwamoto.
The following are two other major services used by HEROZ:
ApsaraDB for Redis
ApsaraDB for Redis has two editions: ApsaraDB for Redis Community Edition and ApsaraDB for Redis Enhanced Edition (Tair). Tair is compatible with open source Redis. ApsaraDB for Redis supports the primary/secondary, clustering, and read/write splitting architectures, and achieves low latency, high throughput, and elastic scalability.
Container Registry works together with other cloud services such as Container Service to provide an optimized solution for using Docker in the cloud. Container Registry allows you to manage containerized images throughout the image lifecycle. This service simplifies the creation and maintenance of image registries and supports image management in multiple regions.
All these services help build a solid IT infrastructure to support Kishin Analytics.05
"I am looking forward to the machine learning platforms of Alibaba Cloud and the Elastic GPU Service (EGS) service equipped with NVIDIA H100. I heard that these services are scheduled to release in other regions. In the future, if a service equipped with NVIDIA H100 or a GPU model that has even higher processing power becomes available in Japan, I would definitely like to use it. I would like to use these services to further develop Kishin Analytics," says Iwamoto.
In addition to the services introduced here, Alibaba Cloud is developing a series of services in new fields.
Alibaba Cloud will continue to support HEROZ with a wide variety of services.