Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, has unveiled its latest large language model, Tongyi Qianwen.
The new AI model will be integrated across Alibaba’s various businesses to improve user experience in the near future. The company’s customers and developers will have access to the model to create customised AI features in a cost-effective way.
Alibaba Cloud also announced lower cost options for key cloud products, including their Elastic Compute Service (ECS) and Object Storage Service (OSS), by introducing new ECS instances, OSS Reserved Capacity (OSS-RC) and OSS Anywhere Reserved Capacity (OSS-ARC).
The move will make computing more accessible and affordable for companies looking to unlock emerging opportunities in the new AI era in China.
Daniel Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, comments, “We are at a technological watershed moment driven by generative AI and cloud computing, and businesses across all sectors have started to embrace intelligence transformation to stay ahead of the game.
“As a leading global cloud computing service provider, Alibaba Cloud is committed to making computing and AI services more accessible and inclusive for enterprises and developers, enabling them to uncover more insights, explore new business models for growth, and create more cutting-edge products and services for society.”
Integrating Tongyi Qianwen into Alibaba’s businesses
Tongyi Qianwen (in Chinese) will be integrated into all business applications across Alibaba’s ecosystem in the near future to further enhance user experience, from enterprise communication, intelligent voice assistance, e-commerce, search, to navigation and entertainment.
With Chinese and English language capabilities, the model will first be deployed on DingTalk, Alibaba’s digital collaboration workplace and application development platform, and Tmall Genie, a provider of IoT-enabled smart home appliances.
Tongyi Qianwen-powered DingTalk is designed to make workplace communications more efficient. For example, it can summarise meeting notes, turn meeting conversations into text, write emails, and draft business proposals or promotion campaign plans through simple prompts. Users can instantly create a mini application on DingTalk by photographing a draft idea written on paper.
Tongyi Qianwen-powered Tmall Genie will be able to engage in more dynamic and vivid conversations with users in China. For instance, it can develop and tell stories to children, provide healthy diet recipes, offer travel tips and recommend background music for a workout.
To further enable enterprises to reap the benefits of AI-driven innovation, Alibaba Cloud will offer its clients access to Tongyi Qianwen on the cloud and help them build customised large language models, the company states.
By fine-tuning Tongyi Qianwen with customers’ proprietary intelligence and industrial know-how in a secure cloud environment, enterprises can establish tailored AI models to suit their specific business needs. This is expected to spark a new wave of growth momentum for customers, eliminating the need for resource-intensive and expensive pre-training processes for building foundational models. Tongyi Qianwen is now available for general enterprise customers in China for beta testing.
In addition, developers will soon be able to access Alibaba Cloud’s Tongyi Qianwen to create their AI applications at scale. This will further bolster the AI software ecosystem across sectors ranging from logistics to media, finance, manufacturing, energy, retail and more. Tongyi Qianwen as an API is also available for developers in China to apply for beta testing now.
Multimodal capabilities, including image understanding and text-to-image, will soon be added to the Tongyi Qianwen model to provide users with more compelling AI features.
Jingren Zhou, CTO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, comments, “Generative AI powered by large language models is ushering in an unprecedented new phase. In this latest AI era, we can create additional value for our customers and broader communities through our resilient public cloud infrastructure and proven AI capabilities.
“We are witnessing a new paradigm of AI development where cloud and AI models play an essential role. By making this paradigm more inclusive, we hope to facilitate businesses from all industries with their intelligence transformation and, ultimately, help boost their business productivity, expand their expertise and capabilities while unlocking more exciting opportunities through innovations.”
Tongyi Qianwen is based on Tongyi, Alibaba’s proprietary pre-trained model framework that unifies various AI models, including models that can turn text into images and short videos. Last year, Alibaba Cloud launched ModelScope, an open-source Model-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform with hundreds of AI models, including a Tongyi-based text-to-image model for global developers and researchers. So far, with over 1 million active users, ModelScope has made 800models available with over 16 million model downloads to date.
More accessible and affordable computing for enterprises and students
Designed for small and medium-sized (SME) enterprises, the new ECS Universal instance family provides the same stability of its similar product. It is suitable for SMEs conducting web applications and websites, enterprise office applications and offline data analysis, the company states.
OSS-RC enables customers to reserve storage capacity in a specific region for one year. It reduces the capacity cost by up to 50% from pay-as-you-go prices. When customers have no requirement to store their data in a specific region, they can create an OSS “Anywhere Bucket” to store data in a region chosen by Alibaba Cloud. OSS-ARC can then reserve capacity for objects stored in OSS Anywhere Buckets. It reduces the capacity cost by up to 70% from pay-as-you-go prices.
To make computing resources more accessible to developers in China, Alibaba Cloud has also announced free trials of core products for up to three months, including ECS and PolarDB databases. Alibaba Cloud will also provide 1,000 free training courses on cloud technologies and around 500 hands-on experiments based on real business scenarios for developers to access cloud technologies easily.
In addition, Alibaba announced its Cloud for Youth program is partnering with UNESCO Chair on Artificial Intelligence in Education to bring more computing resources to students in China’s rural areas. Unveiled in 2021, Alibaba’s non-profit Cloud for Youth program helps to narrow the digital gap in China by providing cloud computers to schools in underdeveloped areas. The goal is to help youths strengthen their technical foundation in digital capabilities and cultivate local digital talents.