Azure will be OpenAI’s testing platform in machine learning
Elon Musk’s OpenAI initiative will soon be carrying out many of its future experiments on Microsoft’s Azure N-Series Virtual Machines.
The move will help OpenAI, which Elon Musk and Sam Altman co-chair, cut costs and expand its access to computing power. As Wired notes, it also put OpenAI in line to access new Microsoft chipsets specially designed for AI.
“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,” OpenAI said in a blog post.
In addition to the partnership, Microsoft announced that it will make cloud services available for bot designers through the Azure Bot Service, the first cloud bot-as-a-service (BaaS). BaaS is a new programming field, but as Sarah Downey from Accomplice wrote on Medium in April, “If bots are the next big thing, then whatever makes bot-building easy and cross-platform will be huge,” with the goal of making access universal and giving a customer service-like experience across multiple apps.
Building this infrastructure has the potential to transform how cloud services are built and deployed, since the amount of computing power needed to support a deep learning framework is an order above mobile and IoT demands on these systems. (And, as noted above, requires new hardware.) Microsoft has been a leader in this regard, notes The Financial Times, by offering over a dozen “cognitive services” that encompass language and image processing. Microsoft competes primarily with Amazon, IBM, and of course, Google, in this respect.
“Now we actually have a lot more data, secondly the computing power is just amazing,” Executive Vice President Harry Shum from Microsoft AI said in a video interview, “especially what you can get from the cloud, such as Azure,” alongside the “incredible breakthrough in some aspects of AI, especially deep learning.”
Dr. Shum also outlined Microsoft’s particular focus on developers, consumers – in terms of virtual assistant technology – and enterprises: for HR, customer support, and marketing.
In a separate video interview, OpenAI co-chairman Sam Altman (who is also the president of Y Combinator) said that OpenAI chose Azure because Microsoft was closest to its own vision for “democratizing” AI and had the best hardware and software, and he wanted to work together with Microsoft Research (MSR).