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Alibaba unveils its own AI chip for cloud computing

The company said it can finish a machine learning task that usually takes an hour in only five minutes.
Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
September 26, 2019
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Apparently, Huawei isn't the only Chinese mega-corporation that was developing its own AI chip. Alibaba has unveiled an in-house-designed AI chip called the Hanguang 800 a month after Huawei launched the Ascend 910. The company, mostly known for its e-commerce business, said the chip could significantly cut down on the time needed to finish machine learning tasks. For example: Alibaba-owned shopping website Taobao takes an hour to categorize the one billion product images sellers upload on the platform. With the the new chip, that task would apparently be done in five minutes.

The company is already using the chip for parts of its business, including product search and automatic translations for its e-commerce sites, as well as for advertising and personalized recommendations. Alibaba told CNBC that it has no plans to sell the chip -- it plans to use the component to power its cloud computing business instead. It could eventually lead to more cloud product options for its customers, but for now, company CTO Jeff Zhang said Alibaba plans "to empower [its] clients by providing access through [its] cloud business the advanced computing that is made possible by the chip, anytime and anywhere."

Huawei's and Alibaba's move shows Chinese tech companies' efforts to stop relying on American businesses. In Huawei's case, the US trade ban against it means the company will no longer be able to source its chips from businesses in the country, such as Intel and Qualcomm. That's why Huawei also designed its own 5G chip for mobile and why it's even developing an Android alternative.

In this article: AI chip, alibaba, business, gear, internet, tomorrow
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