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Alibaba sets up largest intelligent computing center

By FAN FEIFEI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-01 09:02

A girl stands in front of the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in May, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, has launched the world's largest intelligent computing center in Zhangjiakou's Zhangbei county, Hebei province, which can offer up to 12 EFLOPS (12 quintillion floating-point operations per second) of AI computing power, surpassing US tech company Google's 9 EFLOPS and electric vehicle maker Tesla's 1.8 EFLOPS.

An EFLOPS rating is a direct mathematical measurement of a computer's performance, in terms of a processor's ability to calculate 1 quintillion floating-point operations per second. A 3 EFLOPS computer, for example, means that its processor can handle 3 quintillion floating-point calculations every second on average.

Alibaba said the Zhangbei intelligent computing center will provide intelligent computing services for artificial intelligence-powered large-scale model training, autonomous driving, spatial geography and other AI-related frontier applications. It has also unveiled another intelligent computing center in Ulaanqab, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, with computing power reaching 3 EFLOPS.

Computing power, or the ability to process data, is widely regarded as a vital foundation for bolstering the development of the digital economy and a new engine to unleash the potential of data as a factor of production.

Cai Yinghua, president of Alibaba Cloud Global Sales, said 58 percent of Chinese enterprises have leveraged AI technologies, which far surpasses the global average of 35 percent. Meanwhile, accelerated digital transformation and popularization of intelligent applications have sped up data generation, thus creating strong demand for enhanced computing power.

The two superintelligent computing centers are powered by Alibaba's Feitian intelligent computing platform, which can increase the utilization rate of computing power resources by more than three times and AI training efficiency by 11 times thanks to advanced technical architecture.

China's total computing power scale now ranks second in the world, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. By the end of 2021, superlarge and large data centers in use exceeded 450 nationwide, while intelligent computing centers surpassed 20, the ministry said.

The market scale of China's computing power industry exceeded 1.5 trillion yuan ($217.5 billion) last year, with cloud computing surpassing 300 billion yuan and internet data center services over 150 billion yuan, said the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank.

Charlie Dai, a principal analyst at consultancy Forrester, said the superintelligent computing centers built by Alibaba Cloud, which serve as crucial computing infrastructure, are of great significance in empowering AI-related innovation and applications spanning various segments and driving digital economy development.

"With the rapid development and commercial application of 5G, AI and the industrial internet, demand for data processing is increasing, which has driven construction of intelligent computing centers across the nation," said Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association.

Xiang said the establishment of intelligent computing centers will improve efficiency in the use of computing resources and accelerate enterprises' digitalization push.

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