Alibaba Unveils Its First AI Inference Chip Hanguang 800


Alibaba Group on Wednesday unveiled its first AI inference chip developed by T-Head under the Alibaba DAMO Academy, an initiative to lead technology development and scientific research.

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

It is currently being used internally within Alibaba’s business operations, especially in product search and automatic translation on e-commerce sites, personalized recommendations, advertising, and intelligent customer services. These areas require extensive computing power for AI tasks to optimize the shopping experience.

A key goal for Alibaba Cloud is to offer a leading technology infrastructure that benefits companies of all sizes and narrows existing gaps in access to technology, ultimately making the world more inclusive.

Hanguang 800 is propelled by a self-developed hardware framework, as well as highly-optimized algorithm designs that are tailored for business applications such as retail and logistics in the Alibaba ecosystem. It claims that Hanguang 800 enables the machine to complete one task in 5 minutes, which takes one hour without Hanguang 800.

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 categorize such a large volume of images, and then tailor search and personalized 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.

“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 chief technology officer 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.”

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