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Microsoft Takes on Nvidia with Development of New AI Chip: Athena

Microsoft Accelerates Development of Athena AI Chip After ChatGPT Success

19 April 2023

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Kunal Tyagi

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  • Microsoft is creating its own AI processor dubbed Athena for inference assistance and training massive language models.

  • A small team of Microsoft and OpenAI employees is testing the chip.

  • In addition to cutting expenses for its AI programs, Microsoft expects the chip will outperform those it now purchases from other manufacturers, such as Nvidia.

The Information claims that Microsoft has been working on its own artificial intelligence chip since 2019. A small team of Microsoft and OpenAI employees is testing the chip, code-named "Athena," to see how well it performs while training large-language models and providing inference for generative AI systems like the one used in ChatGPT. Microsoft anticipates that the chip will outperform those it now purchases from other suppliers, such as the industry leader in semiconductor design, Nvidia.


Microsoft is making the change in order to lower expenditures associated with its AI programs, lessen its reliance on Nvidia, and steer clear of exorbitant prices. According to the article, Microsoft is quickening the distribution of Athena in response to ChatGPT's success. The Windows manufacturer earlier this year released Bing AI, its own AI-powered search engine, in an effort to compete with Google and take use of its cooperation with OpenAI.


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The business apparently has a roadmap for the chips that includes numerous future generations and is also aiming to make its AI chips more broadly available inside Microsoft and OpenAI as early as next year. It's uncertain when Microsoft will start offering these chips to Azure cloud users.


In an effort to save costs, other major tech firms like Amazon and Google also produce their own AI processors. Nevertheless, Nvidia presently holds a monopoly on the market for such chips, and predictions show that for the commercialization of ChatGPT, OpenAI will need more than 30,000 of Nvidia's A100 GPUs. Microsoft is considering an internal strategy as Nvidia pushes to develop as many AI processors as possible to keep up with rising demand.


In conclusion, Microsoft is working on its own AI processor, Athena, which will power the technology underpinning AI chatbots like ChatGPT. A small team from Microsoft and OpenAI is testing the chip to see how well it performs while building big language models and enabling inference. Microsoft is hoping that the chip would outperform those it now purchases from other suppliers, such as Nvidia, and help it save time and money on its expensive AI initiatives. Microsoft is speeding up the implementation of Athena in response to ChatGPT's success, and the corporation is said to have a roadmap for the chips that includes many potential future iterations. Nvidia presently controls the market for such chips, despite the fact that other major tech firms like Amazon and Google also produce their own internal AI processors to reduce costs.


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