Microsoft is working by itself synthetic intelligence chip, internally known as “Athena,” and has been engaged on the venture since 2019, in response to a report from The Info (opens in new tab). The preliminary model of the chip is deliberate to make use of Taiwan Semiconductor’s (TSMC) 5-nanometer course of, although there’ll doubtless be a number of generations of chips as a part of the venture.
The Info means that Microsoft’s aim is at the very least partly to save cash on shopping for chips from suppliers like Nvidia.
Microsoft has poured billions into OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, to advance in a fast-growing race to make merchandise utilizing synthetic intelligence and large-language fashions (LLMs). The Athena chips are reportedly designed to coach LLMs and related software program, together with inferring from information the fashions purchase in coaching.
The chips, in response to The Info‘s sources, are presently getting used amongst a small subset of workers at Microsoft and OpenAI. Microsoft might doubtlessly make the chips extra extensively obtainable “as early as subsequent yr,” however it’s unclear whether or not the chip might be opened as much as Azure prospects.
Many who’re coaching LLMs, whether or not regionally or within the cloud, have defaulted to Nvidia’s choices, together with highly effective graphics playing cards which have confirmed to be the go-to for any firm with out its personal chips. Dylan Patel of the resarch agency SemiAnalysis instructed The Info that “Athena, if aggressive, might cut back the associated fee per chip by a 3rd in comparison with Nvidia’s choices.” If Microsoft goes so as to add AI capabilities past Bing Chat to its Workplace merchandise and GitHub, it might save a ton.
That is to not say Microsoft sees Athena as changing Nvidia fully. In March, the 2 firms partnered on Nvidia’s DGX Cloud (opens in new tab) particularly for AI supercomputing and the Nvidia Omniverse cloud, each utilizing Azure and help for Microsoft 365. Although the report suggests Athena may very well be a “sensitive topic,” Microsoft reportedly does not see its chip as a “broad alternative for Nvidia’s merchandise.”
If Microsoft extra extensively produces the Athena chips subsequent yr, it would now not be on TSMC’s cutting-edge nodes. However it’s no shock to see that Microsoft, with its multi-billion funding in OpenAI and early (often reckless) entry into chat bots in Bing Search and past, is on the lookout for methods to additional growth.