Microsoft, Meta open AI model for commercial use

Lungile Msomi
By Lungile Msomi, ITWeb journalist
Johannesburg, 19 Jul 2023
Meta believes open source drives innovation.
Meta believes open source drives innovation.

Facebook parent Meta has partnered with Microsoft to unveil its ChatGPT rival: the Llama 2 open source artificial intelligence (AI) model.

According to a Microsoft blog post, the new free-to-use model enables developers and organisations to build generative AI-powered tools and experiences.

Llama 2 will be distributed by Microsoft through its Azure cloud service and will run on the Windows operating system.

“Today’s announcement builds on our partnership to accelerate innovation in the era of AI, and further extends Microsoft’s open model ecosystem and position as the world’s supercomputing platform for AI,” says John Montgomery, corporate vice-president of Azure AI.

Meta used the acronym LLaMA, for Large Language Model Meta AI, to describe the first version of its model. It’s now dropped the capital letters for its second version, Llama 2.

Microsoft says Azure users can now fine-tune and deploy the 7B, 13B and 70B-parameter Llama 2 models on Azure. In addition, Llama will be optimised to run locally on Windows.

Windows developers will be able to use Llama by targeting the DirectML execution provider through the ONNX Runtime, it adds.

Meta and Microsoft previously partnered up on AI with a collaboration to integrate ONNX Runtime with PYTorch, to create a developer experience for PyTorch on Azure. Azure is also Meta’s preferred strategic cloud provider.

“Meta and Microsoft share a commitment to democratising AI and its benefits, and we are excited that Meta is taking an open approach with Llama 2. We offer developers choice in the types of models they build on, supporting open and frontier models, and are thrilled to be Meta’s preferred partner as they release their new version of Llama 2 to commercial customers for the first time,” says Montgomery.

In a Facebook post, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg says: “Open source drives innovation because it enables many more developers to build with new technology. It also improves safety and security because when software is open, more people can scrutinise it to identify and fix potential issues. I believe it would unlock more progress if the ecosystem were more open, which is why we're open-sourcing Llama 2.”

According to Reuters, the announcement of Llama 2 comes after Google and Amazon gave business customers a range of AI models to choose from. Amazon is marketing access to Claude – AI from start-up Anthropic – in addition to its own family of Titan models. Google has said it plans to make Claude and other models available to its cloud customers, it adds.

Zuckerberg says the Llama model can be downloaded directly or through Microsoft. “With Microsoft, you can access these models through Azure, along with Microsoft's safety and content tools. There is also an optimised version that you can run locally on Windows.”

The AI race is heating up rapidly, with X Corp CEO Elon Musk announcing his own AI firm, xAI. Musk is leading the firm, which comprises former employees from US technology firms, such as OpenAI, Microsoft Research and Google Research.