Sunday, 29 September 2019 04:44

Alibaba unveils AI inference chip to boost machine learning speed Featured

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Alibaba unveils AI inference chip to boost machine learning speed Image David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group has unveiled its first AI inference chip developed by T-Head under the Alibaba DAMO Academy, an initiative it says will accelerate the speed of machine learning tasks – and lead technology development and scientific research.

The high-performance AI inference chip, a neural processing unit (NPU) named Hanguang 800, that specialises in the acceleration of machine learning tasks, was announced at Alibaba Cloud’s annual flagship Apsara Computing Conference.

Alibaba says the chip is currently being used internally within its business operations - especially in product search and automatic translation on e-commerce sites, personalised recommendations, advertising, and intelligent customer services – areas which require “extensive computing power for the AI tasks to optimise the shopping experience”.

“The launch of Hanguang 800 is an important step in our pursuit of next-generation technologies, boosting computing capabilities that will drive both our current and emerging businesses while improving energy-efficiency, ” said Jeff Zhang, Alibaba Group CTO and President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

“In the near future, we plan to empower our clients by providing access through our cloud business to the advanced computing that is made possible by the chip, anytime and anywhere.”

“Propelled by a self-developed hardware framework, as well as highly-optimised algorithm designs that are tailored for business applications such as retail and logistics in the Alibaba ecosystem, Hanguang 800 has recorded remarkable performance in tests,” Alibaba notes.

“The single-chip computing performance reached 78,563 IPS at peak moment, while the computation efficiency was 500 IPS/W during the Resnet-50 Inference test.

“Both performance scores largely outpace the industry average, showcasing advantages underscored by a remarkable balance between powerful computing capabilities and the highest level of computational efficiency.

“For example, around one billion product images are uploaded to Taobao, Alibaba’s e-commerce site, every day by merchants.

“It used to take the machine one hour to categorise such a large volume of images, and then tailor search and personalised recommendations to be provided to hundreds of millions of consumers. But with Hanguang 800, it now only takes the machine 5 minutes to complete the same task.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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