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Select IBM partners will gain early access to the large language model (LLM) from Facebook's parent company.
The collaboration, revealed Wednesday, will strengthen IBM's strategy of offering its own AI models and third-party models. As of now, users of watsonx.ai can use models from IBM and the Hugging Face community.
The strategy is similar to AWS's approach of offering its own family of large language models with AWS Titan, while partnering with other vendors such as Cohere, Hugging Face and even Meta, said Arun Chandrasekaran, an analyst at Gartner.
"[This announcement] is probably one of the first of the big announcements from IBM on these third-party models that they're planning to bring to market on their platform," he said.
IBM's partnership with Meta is also representative of where the generative AI market is going, according to Dan Miller, an analyst at Opus Research.
Enterprises will begin to look at their options and recognize that OpenAI -- creator of the widely popular ChatGPT and GPT family of generative AI systems -- is only one of many vendors that can provide what organizations need, Miller said. Moreover, companies will start to move toward LLM vendors that fit their particular use case or application, he added.
"A lot of the action is going to be exactly what IBM is playing around with," Miller said. "The architecture that IBM has baked in Watsonx lets you use your own LLM or your LLM model of choice."
Open source gains popularity
IBM also has a history with open source in that it acquired Red Hat, the big open source software provider, in 2019.
Thus, open source appeals to IBM's customers, and Miller said that this partnership with Meta -- one of the leading vendors to have an open source language model -- would be welcomed by IBM users.
"There's a precedent for IBM in open source," he said. "Enterprises are looking for the safest and most bulletproof room to train foundation models on their stuff, so it can be personalized and it can be branded."
Prominent vendors are beginning to recognize the value of the open source ecosystem, Chandrasekaran said.
"The big vendors are beginning to take note of the sheer vibrancy of the open source ecosystem and the potential for these models to be adopted within the enterprise and the future," he said.
However, even as open source models gain recognition, a large gap remains between them and closed source models, Chandrasekaran added.
"Closed source models can perform better than open source models," he said.
Also, while Meta is moving aggressively in the generative AI market with partnerships with other vendors such as Microsoft and AWS, Chandrasekaran said Meta is still not known as an enterprise vendor.
"They've got a phenomenal AI research lab, and they've got some really good researchers," he said.
But "I'm not sure what Meta brings to the table in terms of helping IBM get to enterprise customers faster," he added.
The release of Llama 2 in Watsonx.ai will be followed by the release of AI Tuning Studio, more models in watsonx.ai and Factsheets in watsonx.governance.
Esther Ajao is a news writer covering artificial intelligence software and systems.