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Microsoft is doubling down on their stake in OpenAI with another multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment in the AI research think tank. Under the new wing of this partnership, Microsoft will use OpenAI’s know-how to build out their Azure supercomputing cluster while remaining its sole cloud services provider. In addition, the Redmond giant will integrate OpenAI’s models like ChatGPT, GPT-3.5, DALL-E and more into their consumer and enterprise products. The duo will also collaborate on developing safe and responsible AI by sharing their knowledge with each other.
This follows the tech giant’s previous investments into OpenAI to spur its AI research efforts. Microsoft first invested $1 billion into OpenAI in 2019 to encourage its research into building artificial general intelligence. With time, Microsoft began to see more value in this partnership, formalising a working relationship in 2021 that allowed them to work more closely with OpenAI. Recently, Microsoft also announced an additional investment of $10 billion in OpenAI. This partnership allowed it to commercialise its technologies without creating paid tiers for API access, which has long been its business model. The company’s CEO, Sam Altman, stated,
“Microsoft shares our values, and we are excited to continue our independent research and work toward creating advanced AI that benefits everyone.”
The biggest gain for Microsoft out of this partnership was the Azure supercomputing cluster. Developed in partnership with OpenAI, this cluster focused on building infrastructure for AI training and inferencing workloads. OpenAI utilises this architecture for training all its models and Microsoft offers this service as part of Azure. Working with Microsoft also enables OpenAI to deploy their powerful models on Azure as part of the Azure OpenAI service.
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This offering, aimed squarely at enterprise and developer users, allows OpenAI to release its models to the wider world safely and accurately. To date, the Azure OpenAI service is only offered on a waitlist basis, as Microsoft evaluates the requirement of customers on a case-by-case basis.
Speaking on the partnership, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated,
“In this next phase of our partnership with OpenAI, we will deliver the best AI infrastructure, models, and toolchain for customers to safely and responsibly build and run their applications on Azure.”
A few weeks ago, reports emerged that OpenAI was on the market for a valuation of $29 billion. This prompted further rumours that Microsoft was willing to invest a sizeable sum of money for a 49% stake in the company. Reports also claimed that top leadership at Microsoft was considering integrating OpenAI’s products into the Office 365 Suite and Bing. While Microsoft’s investment in the latest leg of their partnership has yet to be revealed, OpenAI made sure to specify that they will remain a capped-profit company governed by the OpenAI non-profit foundation.