Tech giant Microsoft has been working on a secret AI chip to further boost the development of its AI products. Named after the Greek goddess of wisdom “Athena”, this is among the first moves by Microsoft to make an in-house chip to power its generative AI endeavors, including ChatGPT.
Microsoft AI chip Athena: Overview
According to a recent report by The Information, Microsoft has been working on an AI chip to help train large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and to support inference. The company has been reportedly working on Project Athena since 2019. Microsoft’s move can be understood as a desire to accelerate AI development.
By potentially making this AI chip cheaper and more powerful, it can cut down costs regarding development and operation. For reference, other tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Meta have been producing their in-house AI chips for some time now.
Currently, AI chips needed for projects like ChatGPT are mainly supplied by NVIDIA. The company’s GPUs like the A100, P100, and H100 are popular options when it comes to machine learning. But with the rise in popularity of AI, it’s no wonder these GPUs are getting more and more expensive.
Since Microsoft is planning to go all in on AI with Github Copilot, Office Copilot, Bing, and other projects, they would want to cut down on processing costs as much as possible. Microsoft’s goal with Athena is not to replace NVIDIA’s GPUs but to simply reduce its dependency, while also improving efficiency in cost and power.
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The said AI chip is currently not in the development phase, but has rather entered the testing stage already. According to the report, a handful of Microsoft and OpenAI employees have their hands on the Athena AI chip and have been testing it for a while.
As mentioned in the same report, the company has also developed a roadmap for the chip, with timelines for future generations of Athena. They will roll out the chip on a larger scale to OpenAI and Microsoft employees early next year. As for others, it’s not clear if or when Microsoft will launch this “secret” AI chip for public use.
Microsoft AI chip Athena: Conclusion
As aforementioned, Microsoft is looking to further strengthen its leadership in the AI space with this move. Its 49% stake investment in OpenAI has hit the home run for the company. And with the new Bing, Office, and Github Copilot, we can see that Microsoft has big plans ahead in this field. These products are bound to be massively popular and Microsoft trying to cut away from its NVIDIA dependency will only help accelerate this growth.
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