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Alibaba’s cloud unit brings Meta’s AI model Llama to its clients

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Alibaba‘s cloud computing division said it has become the first Chinese enterprise to support Meta‘s open-source artificial intelligence (AI) model Llama, allowing its Chinese business users to develop programs off the model.

Meta released Llama2, a commercial version of Llama, this month to provide businesses a powerful free-of-charge alternative to pricey proprietary models sold by OpenAI and Google. At the time, Meta said its preferred partner for Llama2 was Microsoft but it would also be available through other partners.

“Today, Alibaba Cloud has launched the first training and deployment solution for the entire Llama2 series in China, welcoming all developers to create customised large models on Alibaba Cloud,” Alibaba Cloud said in a statement on Tuesday published on its WeChat account.

The relationship with Meta could provide sticky customers for Alibaba’s cloud business at a time it is facing intensified competition at home and is planning a stock market listing.

The U.S. has been actively looking to restrict Chinese companies’ access to many U.S.-developed technologies related to AI, particularly in the area of AI semiconductors. The Llama2 move would allow Alibaba to further its own AI ambitions by keeping abreast of the latest developments in the technology.

For Meta, whose Facebook social media platform has for years been banned in China along with other Western platforms, it could bring closer ties with the world’s second-biggest economy.

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A Meta spokesperson declined to comment. Alibaba Cloud did not respond to a request for comment. China has been trying to catch up to the U.S. in the field of AI as Beijing encourages Chinese companies to quickly develop homegrown and “controllable” AI models that can rival those developed by U.S. companies. Alibaba and its peers such as Tencent Holdings have been aggressively developing their own AI models in recent months.

Similar to models that power popular chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, Llama2 is a large machine learning model that has been trained on a vast amount of data to generate coherent and natural-sounding outputs.

According to Meta, Llama2 will be free to use for companies with fewer than 700 million monthly active users. Programs with more users will need to seek a license from Meta.

Alibaba also added that if a client wants to use Llama2 to provide services to the Chinese public, it will need to comply with Chinese laws and steer clear of practice and content that may harm the country.

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