Alibaba Cloud seeks partners to help build custom generative AI models

The Chinese cloud vendor announced a new program to find partners that can create large language models tailored for companies across various sectors.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
Alibaba Cloud booth

Alibaba Cloud booth is seen during the Apsara Conference 2022 on November 3, 2022 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China.

Photo by Qian Chenfei/China News Service via Getty Images

Alibaba Cloud wants partners to help build generative artificial intelligence (AI) models that are customized for companies across various verticals, including finance and petrochemicals.  

The Chinese cloud vendor has introduced a partnership program that it hopes will accelerate the development of such applications, powered by its large language model, Tongyi Qianwen. Launched earlier this month, the generative AI model is expected to be integrated with all of Alibaba's own business applications, including e-commerce, search, navigation, entertainment, enterprise communication, and intelligence voice assistance

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With the Tongyi Qianwen partnership program, Alibaba aims to facilitate the creation of large language models tailored for different verticals. 

Initial industrial models in the partnership program will encompass sectors such as transportation, hospitality, finance, and telecommunications. The initial seven partners that have enrolled in the program include petrochemical company Kunlun Digital Technology, transportation company China Transinfo Technology, and electricity company LongShine Technology. 

Under the initiative, Alibaba Cloud will offer partners tech support, cloud computing, as well as AI and machine learning tools. These partners can tweak and retrain the vendor's large language AI model with their proprietary technology and industrial expertise, within a "secure and designated" cloud environment, Alibaba said.

The jointly developed models then will be made available on websites and through APIs for enterprise customers and developers, who can use the AI frameworks to create applications, such as shopping guides and domain-specific virtual assistants.

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The program will enable Alibaba to offer "more tangible value" enterprise customers with AI models that suit their industry's specific business needs, said Alibaba Group's chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang, who also leads the cloud business. 

The Chinese vendor currently is integrating Tongyi Qianwen with its operating system for cars, AliOS, for internal tests, with IM Motors slated to be the first automotive brand to implement the AI model. An electric vehicle manufacturer, IM Motors is a joint venture backed by Alibaba and SAIC Motor. 

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Alibaba said it had received more than 200,000 beta testing requests for Tongyi Qianwen since its launch on April 11. These came from businesses across various verticals, including transport, fashion, and fintech.

Tongyi Qianwen already powers more than 10 functions on Alibaba's online collaboration workplace platform DingTalk, where its chatbot can create to-do lists, generate chat summaries, and draft marketing posts. The chatbot also will continue to learn as users feed more data, according to Alibaba.

Tongyi Qianwen has both Chinese and English language capabilities.

Significant price cuts to cloud services

The partnership program was launched at Alibaba Cloud's annual partners summit in Nanjing this week, where the vendor also unveiled price cuts to its core products and services. Ranging from 15% to 50%, the fee adjustments mark the biggest price reduction to date; however, only its customers in China will benefit from the cuts. 

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The move is part of Alibaba's efforts to gain a wider footprint in its domestic public cloud market. 

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