Fastweb fires up its AI factory

  • Italy’s Fastweb is one of Nvidia’s network operator buddies
  • The network operator has now switched on what it calls its ‘AI factory’ and has launched its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering
  • The Swisscom-owned operator has also developed an Italian language model

Italian communications service provider Fastweb has launched its NeXXt AI Factory, which is essentially an Nvidia AI supercomputer housed in a datacentre that the CSP is offering to customers on an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) basis.

In December 2023, Swisscom-owned Fastweb announced it had invested in 31 Nvidia DGX H100 systems that could be operated in a datacentre as an AI supercomputing cluster based on the AI technology vendor’s DGX SuperPOD architecture. The plan was to make the AI supercomputer available to public administrations and enterprises of all kinds so they could develop their own AI and generative AI (GenAI) applications. 

Now the supercomputer, which Fastweb describes as “the most powerful Nvidia DGX SuperPOD AI supercomputer owned by a private company in Italy”, has been installed at its Bergamo datacentre in the Lombardy region in northern Italy and is fully operational and available to customers. The AI supercomputer is connected via the operator’s fibre network to its cloud platform, which spans four datacentres and 10 edge nodes across Italy, and is hooked up to Fastweb’s four security operation centres to ensure “high levels of security, protection and reliability,” noted the operator.

In addition, the CSP has developed its own Italian AI language model, the Fastweb MIIA (Italian Artificial Intelligence Model), that can be used by customers for app development. It claims the MIIA is the “largest and most reliable Italian-language dataset, with 1,500 billion tokens (words), equivalent to 11 million books, ensuring a solid and authoritative foundation for the continued evolution of MIIA,” and that further development and new partnerships will enable it to issue a new release of the model by the end of the year. 

“Fastweb is making the immense computing power of the NeXXt AI Factory and the first release of its Fastweb MIIA available to startups, companies, universities and public administrations for the development of AI and GenAI services and applications,” the CSP noted in this announcement. “While continuing the training of MIIA, Fastweb is also enhancing it through newly signed agreements aimed at expanding the dataset used,” it added. 

Fastweb’s CEO Walter Renna is pumped about the launch. “With NeXXt AI Factory and MIIA, we are defining our approach to artificial intelligence to help enable Italy’s full independence and technological sovereignty. AI is the latest milestone in our strategy to offer our corporate and public administration customers an increasingly integrated ecosystem of next-generation digital solutions, from high-performance, reliable connectivity to cloud services, 5G and cybersecurity services. We are now fully prepared to work with them on advanced artificial intelligence solutions,” he crowed.

And Nvidia’s pretty happy about the development too. Carlo Ruiz, the giant vendor’s VP of enterprise solutions and operations for EMEA, stated: “Nations worldwide are recognising the need for sovereign AI infrastructure to harness economic opportunities while preserving cultural identity. Our collaboration with Fastweb to develop Italy’s first enterprise-focused foundation model helps build a robust AI ecosystem in the country and drive innovation at a national level,” he added.

Fastweb isn’t executing this AI strategy in isolation: Its parent company, Swisscom, is also an Nvidia partner and, in January this year, pledged to build GenAI full-stack supercomputers in Switzerland and establish a Trusted AI Factory for domestic customers as part of a 100m Swiss francs ($116m) programme. Then in June, it unveiled its Swiss AI Platform, which offers guaranteed data storage within Switzerland’s border and from autumn this year will offer customers access to Nvidia supercomputers, GenAI services, an AI work hub for developing AI solutions and a library of models. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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