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Alibaba Cloud unveils cheaper cloud options, new language model

Alibaba has introduced cheaper instances of its compute and storage services in China and is jumping on the generative AI bandwagon with its Tongyi Qianwen language model

Alibaba Cloud has unveiled cheaper options for its Elastic Compute Service (ECS) and Object Storage Service (OSS), as well as a large language model to keep pace with demand for cloud services.

First available in China, Alibaba’s new ECS Universal instance, which provides the same stability as ECS while reducing costs by up to 40%, is suited for running web applications and websites, enterprise office applications and offline data analysis.

As for storage, Alibaba’s new OSS Reserved Capacity (OSS-RC) will let its customers reserve storage capacity in a specific cloud region for one year, reducing capacity cost by up to 50% from pay-as-you-go prices.

Those that do not need to store data in a specific region can also reduce their capacity cost by up to 70% using the OSS Anywhere Reserved Capacity (OSS-ARC) to store data in a region chosen by Alibaba Cloud.

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 its PolarDB databases.

Meanwhile, the Chinese cloud supplier is jumping on the generative artificial intelligence (AI) bandwagon with Tongyi Qianwen, a new language model that will be integrated across Alibaba’s various businesses to improve user experience, from enterprise communication, voice assistance and e-commerce to navigation and entertainment.

Alibaba’s language model is based on Tongyi, a proprietary pre-trained model framework that unifies various AI models, including those that can turn text into images and short videos.

With Chinese and English language capabilities, it will be first deployed on DingTalk, Alibaba’s collaboration tool, enabling users to summarise meeting notes, turn meeting conversations into text, write emails and draft business proposals through simple prompts.

The model will also be used by Alibaba’s Tmall Genie range of internet of things (IoT) and smart home devices to engage in more dynamic conversations with users. For instance, it can develop and tell stories to children, provide healthy diet recipes, offer travel tips and recommend workout music.

Alibaba Cloud said its clients can also use Tongyi Qianwen to build customised large language models to suit their needs and eliminate the need for resource-intensive pre-training. Tongyi Qianwen is now available for general enterprise customers in China for beta testing.

“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,” said Zhou Jingren, chief technology officer of Alibaba Cloud.

“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,” he said.

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