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Big AI:
Cloud Infrastructure Dependence and the Industrialisation of Artificial Intelligence

📂Political Economy of AI and Cloud Infrastructure Critical scholars contend that ‘There is no AI without Big Tech’. This study delves into the substantial role played by major technology conglomerates, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google (Alphabet), in the ‘industrialisation of artificial intelligence’ (AI). This concept encapsulates the shift of AI technologies from the research and development stage to practical, real-world applications across diverse industry sectors, resulting in new dependencies and associated investments. We employ the term ‘Big AI’ to encapsulate the structural convergence of AI and Big Tech, characterised by the profound interdependence of AI with the infrastructure, resources, and investments of these major technology companies. Using a ‘technographic’ approach, our study scrutinises the infrastructural support and investments of Big Tech in the AI sector, focusing on corporate partnerships, acquisitions, and financial investments. Additionally, we conduct a detailed examination of the complete spectrum of cloud platform products and services offered by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. We demonstrate that AI is not merely an abstract idea but an actual technology stack encompassing infrastructure, models, applications, and an ecosystem of applications and companies relying on this stack. Significantly, these tech giants have seamlessly integrated all three components of the stack into their cloud offerings. Furthermore, they have developed industry-focused solutions and marketplaces aimed at attracting third-party developers and businesses, fostering the growth of a broader AI ecosystem. This analysis underscores the intricate interdependence between AI and cloud infrastructure, emphasising the industry-specific aspects of cloud AI.

Note: A blog post about this article is published on, the blog of Big Data & Society.

📋 ✍Cite

📋Cite (APA) van der Vlist, F. N., Helmond, A., & Ferrari, F. L. (2024). Big AI: Cloud Infrastructure Dependence and the Industrialisation of Artificial Intelligence. Big Data & Society, 11(1), 1–16. SAGE Publications. DOI: 10.1177/20539517241232630.
🔗Link (DOI)

Kind Journal Article; Original Research Article
Author F. N. van der Vlist; A. Helmond; F. L. Ferrari
Designer F. N. van der Vlist
Publication Date March 12, 2024 [first published online]; 2024, January–June [issue published]
Journal Big Data & Society (BD&S)
Volume 11
Issue 1
Pages 1–16 (16)
Publisher SAGE Publications (London, United Kingdom)
Identifier 10.1177/20539517241232630 [self]; 2053-9517 [part of]; SPI.2021.001 [funded by]; 262513311 [funded by]
License CC BY 4.0
Data Availability The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Open Science Framework (OSF) at


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