Microsoft Investing $1B In OpenAI To Advance AI In Azure Cloud

'AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,' Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says.


Microsoft is investing $1 billion in San Francisco’s OpenAI to jointly build new artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputing technologies for its Microsoft Azure cloud.

The multiyear partnership will help fuel OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence (AGI). OpenAI will run its services on Microsoft Azure, which will be its preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies.

AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella said in a statement. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

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Microsoft and OpenAI will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of “unprecedented scale” that will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology and adhere to the two companies’ “shared principles on ethics and trust.”

“This will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way and is a critical reason the companies chose to partner together,” the companies said in a statement. “OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for artificial general intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multidisciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, more personalized healthcare and education.”

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Y Combinator chairman Sam Altman cofounded OpenAI as a nonprofit in 2015 in part because of Musk’s concerns about the potential dangers of AI, which he once referred to as humanity's "biggest existential threat.”

Musk left OpenAI’s board in 2018 and acknowledged in Twitter posts in February that he parted ways with the company to focus on “solving a painfully large number of engineering & manufacturing problems at Tesla (especially) & SpaceX” and because “Tesla was competing for some of same people as OpenAI & I didn’t agree with some of what OpenAI team wanted to do.”

Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, which this year created a for-profit company that it referred to as “capped profit” entity.

“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” Altman said in a statement today. “Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely, and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

Microsoft’s Open AI investment underscores its commitment to AI commercialization and provides a boost to adoption of its Azure platform, according to James Townsend, president of InfoStrat, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft Gold Partner that specializes in solutions for government, government contractors and commercial customers.

“OpenAI needs funding now and likely for many years before artificial general intelligence will be implemented for commercial purposes,” Townsend said. “Microsoft partners like InfoStrat will be poised to follow Microsoft in adapting artificial intelligence to suit the requirements of the customers and industries that they serve with Microsoft solutions.”

The value of Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI will be its core competency in bringing technical innovation to scale in a way that enterprises can consume, said Jim VanderMey, chief innovation officer at OST, a technology consulting company, Microsoft Gold Partner and a Microsoft Direct Cloud Solution Provider with a headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Creating AGI that can solve problems broader than the currently narrow problem spaces of machine learning and very specific models will enable pushing the boundaries in areas of complex human problems, and I think that Microsoft under Satya brings great strength to bear that OpenAI should be able to leverage through this investment,” VanderMey said. “It will be aspirational for many of our customers, but the timeline to create the technology is long, so we would expect places of future intersection when our clients will be able to leverage this technology as their data and platforms level-up to OpenAI’s capabilities.”

The investment helps put Microsoft near the forefront of solving some of the toughest problems facing the world today, said Dirk Arends, president of Virtual Systems, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider offering hosted infrastructure solutions.

“The opportunity for Microsoft partners is to participate alongside Microsoft in the dialogue and take a more active role in those advancements in healthcare, climate change and more,” Arends said.

The tangible values of the partnership will be a little farther out, he said.

“While today it’s valuable to participate in the discussion with Microsoft, the real tangible values will come when that discussion and product-testing turns into hardened solutions that will be used to solve these complex problems,” Arends said. “That will have a visible bottom-line impact on Microsoft and some branches of its partner network as that unfolds. We’ll also see a softer impact…when Microsoft and its partners move closer to the front of the line of problem solvers using their resources to have a positive impact on these global problems, and other like-minded companies partner with us.”

The other benefit to Microsoft partners might be having access to what OpenAI is already doing, Arends added.