Alibaba introduces its first ultra-fast AI chip, Hanguang 800

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has launched its first high-performance artificial intelligence (AI) chip, Hanguang 800, on Wednesday. The chip, a neural processing unit, was presented during Alibaba Cloud’s annual Apsara Computing Conference in Hangzhou.

Developed by Pingtouge Semiconductor, Alibaba’s chip maker subsidiary, the chip has a computing power 10 times greater than that of traditional graphic processing units. It can handle more than 78,500 images in a second.

Alibaba explained that the Hanguang 800 could significantly reduce the time needed to complete machine learning tasks. For example, one of the Alibaba-owned shopping websites, Taobao, takes an hour to classify a billion images of products that sellers upload to the platform. With the new chip, that task would be done in five minutes.

The company also claims that this chip will increase energy efficiency considerably. Compared to GPUs and CPUs, Hanguang 800 will also reduce energy consumption by 50%, and the delays will be reduced by half.

Alibaba Group is already using the chip in various parts of its business, including product search and machine translation for its e-commerce sites, as well as for advertising and personalized recommendations.

Established in September 2018 after Alibaba’s acquisition of Chinese chipmaker C-SKY Microsystems, Pingtouge launched its first XuanTie 910 processor in July, which can be used in applications in areas such as 5G, AI, autonomous driving and others sectors.

Alibaba hasn’t revealed when the chip will be available to its cloud customers, reports TechCrunch. But the announcement shows the efforts of Chinese technology companies to stop relying on American companies.

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