Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Microsoft Solidifies Multi-year, Multi-billion Investment in OpenAI 

Microsoft announced it has entered a third phase of its long-term partnership with OpenAI, creators of the famed DALL-E 2 and ChatGPT generative AI technologies.

The company first partnered with OpenAI in 2019 and again in 2021 with a $1 billion investment and continues to have an exclusive partnership with the ChatGPT creator to train its AI models in Microsoft’s Azure cloud datacenters. Microsoft did not disclose the precise investment amount this time around, saying only that it has committed to a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment. Earlier reports this month showed it sought to invest $10 billion.

In a press release, Microsoft listed details of the extended partnership. The company said it would increase its investments in the development and deployment of specialized supercomputing systems to accelerate OpenAI’s independent AI research. The company will also continue building out Azure’s AI infrastructure chops. “Microsoft will deploy OpenAI’s models across our consumer and enterprise products and introduce new categories of digital experiences built on OpenAI’s technology,” including Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service, the release stated. This service gives customers wishing to develop AI applications direct access to OpenAI models backed by Azure’s AI capabilities and infrastructure. Microsoft will remain OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider, powering all OpenAI workloads with Azure.

“Since 2016, Microsoft has committed to building Azure into an AI supercomputer for the world, serving as the foundation of our vision to democratize AI as a platform. Through our initial investment and collaboration, Microsoft and OpenAI pushed the frontier of cloud supercomputing technology, announcing our first top-5 supercomputer in 2020, and subsequently constructing multiple AI supercomputing systems at massive scale,” Microsoft’s release said. “OpenAI has used this infrastructure to train its breakthrough models, which are now deployed in Azure to power category-defining AI products like GitHub Copilot, DALL·E 2 and ChatGPT.”

“We’ve worked together to build multiple supercomputing systems powered by Azure, which we use to train all of our models. Azure’s unique architecture design has been crucial in delivering best-in-class performance and scale for our AI training and inference workloads,” OpenAI said in a statement.

There have been reports of Microsoft incorporating ChatGPT into its Bing search engine which has always played second fiddle to Google. The New York Times reported that the company is currently scrambling to respond to this threat, possibly by bringing its own LaMDA large language model into its search functionality. Microsoft also plans to bring GPT capabilities to its Office suite such as text generation and question-and-answering, and there is already a version of an OpenAI model being used in Word, according to The Information.

“We formed our partnership with OpenAI around a shared ambition to responsibly advance cutting-edge AI research and democratize AI as a new technology platform,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “In this next phase of our partnership, developers and organizations across industries will have access to the best AI infrastructure, models, and toolchain with Azure to build and run their applications.”

“The past three years of our partnership have been great,” said Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. “Microsoft shares our values, and we are excited to continue our independent research and work toward creating advanced AI that benefits everyone.”

This article first appeared on sister publication Datanami.

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