A historic yet notable trend in artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow: open-sourcing AI innovations. The decision to open source goes beyond making AI tools and models more accessible; it’s a strategic play that catalyzes technological advancements and development while democratizing access to some of the best tools available. In a move that underscores this trend, Google Cloud (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has recently partnered with Hugging Face, a major player in the AI model repository landscape.

Accelerating AI development

Hugging Face is like a Github for AI Models; it is a machine learning and data science platform/community that helps users build, deploy, and train machine learning models. The company is heavily invested in AI research, particularly around Natural Language Processing (NLP). It is well known for its open-source repository that provides pre-trained models and tools for a wide range of NLP tasks. Hugging Face currently hosts over 300,000 models, including those from giants like Meta (NASDAQ: META) and Stability AI.

Through their newly formed partnership, Google Cloud offers developers using Hugging Face’s platform access to its advanced hardware resources, including the high-demand and export-restricted Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDAH100 GPUs and Google’s tensor processing units.

“With this new partnership, we will make it easy for Hugging Face users and Google Cloud customers to leverage the latest open models together with leading optimized AI infrastructure and tools from Google Cloud including Vertex AI and TPUs to meaningfully advance developers ability to build their own AI models,” Clement Delangue CEO of Hugging Face said.

Why tech giants are eager to partner with open-source providers

The recent partnership between Google Cloud and Hugging Face is part of a growing trend in the tech industry, where major players are increasingly aligning with open-source AI communities. This trend was highlighted last year when Hugging Face formed a similar alliance with Amazon Web Services (AWS), granting its users access to AWS’s comprehensive tools like Amazon SageMaker, AWS Trainium, and AWS Inferentia for training, fine-tuning, and deploying AI models.

These collaborations are far from coincidental; they offer substantial benefits to the open-source communities and the tech giants. By engaging with open-source communities, tech giants like Google and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) can tap into a rich talent pool, building relationships with top performers for potential acquisitions, mergers, investments, or recruiting. Furthermore, these partnerships enable tech giants to refine their own technologies through community-driven enhancements to their models because as developers in the open-source community build and improve upon these models, the originating companies gain valuable insights. Additionally, such strategic collaborations help improve the public image of these tech giants that are often criticized for data harvesting, creating walled gardens, and establishing high barriers to industry entry.

Breaking barriers in AI

The landscape of AI development is transforming. Earlier this week, we saw the Biden Administration’s executive order the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) launch to solve some of these common problems in big tech. Similar to Hugging Face, NAIRR partnered with several private and public companies to lower the barrier of entry into the world of advanced AI systems by providing access to computing, data, models, and software to empower researchers and communities. The democratization efforts by organizations are crucial in empowering independent developers, researchers, and underrepresented communities to create a more innovative and inclusive AI environment—and this trend of collaboration and open access is set to grow.

The past couple of years have seen a remarkable surge in the accessibility of AI to both consumers and developers, and open-source platforms have played a critical role in that growth. These platforms offer developers the freedom and flexibility that is often constrained in ‘walled garden’ environments. That being said, open source platforms are in a position of strength as they give developers more capabilities. This is why it becomes increasingly strategic for major tech players, intent on maintaining their industry leadership, to align with these hubs of rapid innovation. This alignment is not just about staying technologically relevant; it’s a recognition that a diverse community of thinkers and creators is shaping the future of AI.

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