Microsoft has made artificial intelligence (AI) a cornerstone of its ‘digital transformation’ vision and now it wants Azure to become the cloud platform of choice for AI development through a new partnership with OpenAI – a non-profit organisation founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and others.
OpenAI will use Azure as its primary cloud platform to create AI tools and further its research and the two organisations will work together to advance the field.
Microsoft says this is not only because of its commitment to AI but because of Azure’s high performance computing (HPC), big data and intelligence capabilities but because of its commitment to open source.
“Azure has impressed us by building hardware configurations optimized for deep learning — they offer K80 GPUs with InfiniBand interconnects at scale,” said greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever and Sam Altman, Musk’s co-founders at OpenAI. “We’re also excited by their roadmap, which should soon bring Pascal GPUs onto their cloud.
“In the coming months we will use thousands to tens of thousands of these machines to increase both the number of experiments we run and the size of the models we train.”
Microsoft recently merged its research, Cortana and Bing divisions into an AI unit comprising 5,000 staff and led by veteran executive Harry Shum. It’s the fourth major division at Microsoft alongside its Windows, Office and Azure departments and will work to bring AI into a wider range of products and services.
“Thanks to cloud computing power, more advanced algorithms and the availability of massive amounts of data, the AI field has exploded – allowing computer scientists to create technology many of us only dreamed about just a few years ago,” said Shum.
“At Microsoft, we believe everyone deserves to be able to take advantage of these breakthroughs, in both their work and personal lives. In short, we are committed to democratising AI and making it accessible to everyone.”
Microsoft will also make it easier to develop AI-powered Bots on the Microsoft Bot Framework and deploy them on Azure. The Azure Bot service is billed as an “industry first” and allows customers to scale using the platform and only pay for the resources they use.
“Our news today builds on other recent Azure releases designed to power AI advances. More than 50,000 developers are already building bots with the Microsoft Bot Framework, and companies such as Lowe’s, Uber, DutchCrafters and AllRecipes.com are using Cortana Intelligence and Azure to transform their businesses.
“We’ve made major strides in artificial intelligence just in the past five years, achieving milestones many people who have devoted their lives to the field wouldn’t have thought possible. Now, we have the opportunity to help our partners and customers use these breakthroughs to achieve their goals.