Alibaba says new AI chip beats industry average performance, computational efficiency

Benjamin Cher

SINGAPORE (Sept 25): Alibaba has unveiled a new artificial intelligence (AI) inference chip called Hanguang 800.

Announced at the Alibaba Cloud’s Apsara computing conference, the new chip is a neural processing unit which specialises in accelerating machine learning tasks.

Alibaba says the Hanguang 800 chip has outperformed industry average with performance and computational efficiency outpacing graphic processing units commonly used for machine learning.

While it previously took one hour to categorise, tailor search and personalise recommendations for the one billion images uploaded to Taobao daily, the new Hanguang 800 chip only takes five minutes to carry out the same tasks, says Alibaba.

Developed by T-Head, Alibaba’s DAMO academy, an Alibaba initiative to lead technology development and scientific research, the chip marks a second foray into the hardware space by China’s e-commerce leader.

The chip is already in use within Alibaba’s business operations, in product search and automatic translation on e-commerce sites, personalised recommendations and intelligent customer service among others.

“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,” says 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."