ServiceNow and Hugging Face are releasing a free large language model (LLM) trained to generate code, in an effort to take on AI-based programming tools including Microsoft-owned GitHub Copilot, Google’s Bard AI and Amazon CodeWhisperer.

Dubbed StarCoder, the open-access and royalty-free model can be deployed to bring pair-programming and generative AI together with capabilities like text-to-code and text-to-workflow, the companies said in a blog post.

The code-generating LLM, which was trained on source code that the companies licensed, is part of the companies’ BigCode Project, aimed at creating “state-of-the-art AI systems for code in an open and responsible manner with the support of the open‑scientific AI research community.” The licensed source code includes 80 programming languages.

The companies say that training the LLM on licensed source code resolves legal issues related to generative AI engines that produce unattributed code in response to natural language queries.

GitHub, for example, already faces a class action lawsuit over its Copilot AI coding assistant.

The other advantage of StarCoder is that it is free to use, in contrast to other tools such as Amazon CodeWhisperer, Copilot and Bard AI.

However, the companies said that unlike traditional open-source software released without use-case restrictions, StarCoder’s license includes restrictions that apply to modifications of the model and applications using the model, including restrictions on distributing malicious code.

The supporting source code for the model has been made available on BigCode Project’s GitHub page.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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