Microsoft, Tiktok mother or father ByteDance, collaborate on AI venture KubeRay

The flags of China and the United States are seen near the ByteDance logo in this illustration image taken on September 18, 2020.

Florence Lo | Reuters

The high-stakes battle between the US and China for supremacy in artificial intelligence has domestic lawmakers increasingly worried about what the loss might mean for America’s national security, economy, and prosperity.

But when the world’s two largest economies pour resources into a race for dominance on the field, there’s also collaboration going on. Indeed, some AI experts even say that cross-border cooperation is the key to getting the most out of advances in computing.

Engineer from Microsoft and ByteDance China, the parent of TikTok, are doing their part to advance the idea. Through a project called KubeRay, they are working together on software meant to help companies run AI applications more efficiently.

On Ray Summit this week in San Francisco, ByteDance software engineer Jiaxin Shan and Microsoft principal software engineer Ali Kanso discussed their progress with data scientists, machine learning experts, and other developers interested in building large applications using open-source software called Ray.

Shan and Kanso explain the technical details behind KubeRay and state the software helps in supporting AI applications running on multiple computers, or distributed computing.

“Jiaxin and I have been working for a year on open source projects and this is the beauty of community gatherings like this,” said Kanso, who has a Ph.D. in computer science. “We’re not in the same company, but we meet every week, we collaborate every week.”

Shan, who previously worked as a software engineer at Amazon Web Services, is based in the Seattle area, near Microsoft’s headquarters, according to his report. LinkedIn Profile.

Companies often partner and share engineering resources to contribute to open source projects, which have gained popularity in recent years and have become the seeds for many startups. The Microsoft-ByteDance collaboration is best known for the rivalry between the US and China over AI and intellectual property rightsand concerns about how technological advances can be used to supervision and privacy intrusions.

Microsoft has invested heavily in AI along with competitors like AmazonGoogle parents AlphabetFacebook parents Meta and Apple. Like Google ever didMicrosoft conducts AI research laboratory in China, helping him capitalize on the country’s academic talent.

Meanwhile, as TikTok usage has exploded in recent years, ByteDance has plunged into various open source AI projects. In 2020, for example, ByteDance debut its NeuroST software tool kit for AI-powered speech translation. And last year the company debuted its open source enterprise software CloudWeGo.

The Ray Summit is hosted by software startup Anyscale, whose technology is built on Ray. Anyscale, which also contributes to KubeRay, was co-founded in 2019 by a group of engineers that includes Ion Stoica, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley. Stoica has a long history of open source software and co-founded Databricks, a data analytics company that worth $38 billion in last year’s financing round.

Databricks is built on Apache Spark, which was developed at Berkeley under the direction of Stoica. Anyscale tries to follow the same path, and said this week that it’s just collect new $99 million.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Meta often use open source projects as a way to spread their own internal technology ideas to the wider community. Doing so helps entice potential recruits and serves as a way to market the company as a technology leader to developers.

The Microsoft-ByteDance relationship has some history. In 2020, Microsoft strives to get ByteDance’s TikTok at a time when President Donald Trump threatened to ban the social media app for unspecified security reasons. A year later, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on the phone the failed deal was the “weirdest thing” he’d ever worked on.

WATCH: Former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer on ByteDance’s decision to cancel IPO plans

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