Alibaba Unveils Cloud-Computing AI Chip

Chinese Retail Giant Alibaba announced recently that they would soon begin marketing a self-developed AI chip that is streamlined for use in cloud computing. The chip, already being used within Alibaba itself to power their internet searches, will be named Hanguang 800. In addition to powering searches, Hanguang 800 is also being used to deliver personalized recommendations to clients and handle automatic translation duties of websites.

Faster and more Efficient

Alibaba demonstrated the power of the new chip through a comparison. At current, Taobao takes about an hour to index all of the items that Alibaba has on sale. Using the Hanguang 800, it was able to do the same task only five minutes. The processing power of the new chip is in a class of its own. Despite the reveal of the processor, Alibaba hasn’t announced when the technology will be available for use by its clients.

Hedging Bets against US Sanctions

The US-China trade war has made a significant impact on companies trying to trade across the battle lines. With this chip, Alibaba may be tapping into a segment of their local market that is being crippled by their dependence on US technology. The chip provides a local alternative to those sources from the United States. It may even influence the use of Alibaba’s Cloud, which is still ranked behind Amazon, Google, and Microsoft in terms of use.

The chip was designed and produced by T-Head, the unit that is tasked with chip development focused on edge and cloud computing inside the Alibaba DAMO Academy. The Alibaba DAMO Academy is a multi-billion-dollar initiative by Alibaba to aid in its innovative process. T-Head’s previous launches include the XuanTie 910, an IoT processor that utilizes an open-source instruction set (RISC-V). Alibaba DAMO Academy partners with universities around the world to aid in their chip development. Their current focuses include NLP, visual computing, network security, and machine learning. Alibaba’s dedication to the development of new technology bodes well for companies both in and out of China.