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September 27, 2023updated 28 Sep 2023 9:12am

Alibaba Cloud rolls out AI integration platform for customers beyond China

The Chinese tech giant says its platform is able to train AI models significantly faster than other services.

By Ryan Morrison

Alibaba Cloud is bringing its PAI-Lingjun Intelligence Computing Service out of China for the first time. The AI-driven product suite is designed to help companies build and deploy their own generative AI applications. The move to bring the product, available in mainland China for several months, to a wider audience comes as Alibaba begins its corporate break-up.

Alibaba says its platform can speed up the process of training AI models (Photo: hxdbzxy/Shutterstock)
Alibaba says its platform can speed up the process of training AI models. (Photo by hxdbzxy/Shutterstock)

Alibaba Cloud says its platform-as-a-service offering can handle provisioning infrastructure, image and natural processing and works across public and custom AI models. Announced at a summit held by Alibaba this week, it will be available in Singapore in early 2024 and then gradually roll out across Asia. It has not been revealed when it will be made available for customers in Europe.

Cloud providers around the world are launching AI offerings and trying to capitalise on the growing interest in automation. Amazon this week announced an investment of up to $4bn in AI lab Anthropic, and Microsoft is heavily invested in OpenAI.

The company also unveiled Conversational Search, a chatbot service that is built on Alibaba OpenSearch. This will allow enterprise users to query data and develop search products that use natural language processing and take language queries. 

Alibaba says its platform can speed up the training of AI models by up to 70% and inference by up to three times that of other approaches. It does so through efficiencies in resource allocation and optimisation efforts. 

“Our distributed training acceleration engine provides data set acceleration, computing acceleration, algorithm optimisation, scheduling algorithms, and resource optimisation,” an Alibaba spokesperson explained. “This ensures computing power is fully utilised, comprehensively improving the speed and efficiency of AI training and inference.”

The latest update comes as Alibaba continues its progress towards a six-way split in the parent company that will also see the cloud division spun off and go for an IPO. The division recently lost its dedicated CEO, with new group chief executive Eddie Wu taking over after Daniel Zhang decided to move on.

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The cloud unit has suffered from weak sales growth this year, which is something Wu will need to get to grips with before any prospective IPO. Some of the solution is likely coming in the form of greater international expansion – offering services previously held back for mainland Chinese customers.

“Our comprehensive AI services are designed to help customers seize the unparalleled opportunities offered by this unstoppable technology trend,” said Selina Yuan, president of international business at Alibaba Cloud. 

Read more: Alibaba Cloud CEO quits as company works towards six-way separation

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