The rumors are true: Microsoft has built its own custom AI chip that can be used to train large language models and potentially avoid a costly reliance on Nvidia. Microsoft has also built its own Arm-based CPU for cloud workloads. Both custom silicon chips are designed to power its Azure data centers and ready the company and its enterprise customers for a future full of AI.
Microsoft’s Azure Maia AI chip and Arm-powered Azure Cobalt CPU are arriving in 2024, on the back of a surge in demand this year for Nvidia’s H100 GPUs that are widely used to train and operate generative image tools and large language models. There’s such high demand for these GPUs that some have even fetched more than $40,000 on eBay.
Amazon and Google, the two other major cloud providers, are already using all kinds of custom, in-house silicon in their datacentres, so it’s not exactly surprising Microsoft is following in their footsteps.