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Microsoft unveiled a flurry of generative AI announcements yesterday at its annual Ignite 2023 conference in Seattle, but among the biggest news is its new commitment to open source generative AI, even in the face of the success of its multibillion-dollar partnership with closely held companies. . -OpenAI, leader in source generation artificial intelligence.
The Redmond, Washington-based company has become a leader in AI generation thanks to its early and prescient backing of the Sam Altman-led startup and the integration of OpenAI’s GPT and DALL-E models into AI products. Microsoft (Bing Chat, er, Bing’s Copilot and Microsoft Image Creator, respectively).
Bringing Llama and Mistral to Azure
But at Ignite over the past two days, Microsoft also took larger steps to bolster its support for rival open source AI models, such as Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Inc. (another former Microsoft investment), which has become in the de facto Manager of open source Generative AI with its Llama models.
Llama-as-a-service is now available for businesses to use, tweak and deploy directly on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, as well as rival open source Mistral 7B model from well-funded French startup of the same name. The move was applauded by Meta Platforms AI pioneer Yann LeCun on X (formerly Twitter).
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However, because open source models are, by definition, free to use and are deployed for enterprise applications (licensing permitting), Microsoft’s decision to offer such models on its Azure platform, where the Paid Azure OpenAI has already been available for most of the year. year, means you may actually be costing your own investment/OpenAI ally some revenue. If your company is looking to implement AI and you see a model almost as capable as OpenAI’s GPT-3.5/4 Turbo, but it costs nothing or much less to implement and use API calls, why wouldn’t you use the cheaper option?
Will Microsoft’s new Phi-2 AI model be completely open source for commercial applications?
Microsoft also announced the release of its new Phi-2 AI model, an upgrade from Phi-1.5, but with 2.7 billion parameters used to train it, on the smaller side of text-to-text generative AI models, giving it allows you to run efficiently even on machines without much graphics processing unit (GPU) power (GPU shortage has been a constant challenge in the era of generative AI and turned GPU leader Nvidia into a billion-dollar company of dollars).
Phi-2 itself is not yet open source for commercial use; rather, it is available for research purposes only. However, Microsoft’s senior research director Sebastien Bubeck hinted at X that the license may change if it sees significant enough usage and demand.
Microsoft’s embrace of open source AI at Ignite 2023 this week is notable in light of the fact that CEO Satya Nadella took the time to appear at OpenAI’s first developer conference, DevDay, last week alongside Altman, and the two seemed very friendly and complimentary on stage. . Altman even said that he was excited to work on AGI (artificial generalized intelligence), that is, AI as capable as humans, together with Microsoft.
However, reports have emerged in media such as Information suggesting that Microsoft is internally looking to move away from its reliance on OpenAI for AI services and products, given the high costs of using the company’s closed, resource-intensive models. Of course, there’s also the fact that OpenAI remains a separate company with its own agenda and goals, which may not always align with those of Microsoft.
Furthermore, it is simply smart business as the world’s second-largest cloud provider, through Microsoft Azure, to offer enterprise customers a range of AI models, from open source to higher-performing closed source ones. It’s what cloud competitor Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also doing, and presumably what Google Cloud will also do at some point. Offering a range of open and closed source AI models and related tools to customers makes sense and will likely be a topic in play as the AI cloud wars continue.
However, it’s impossible not to see Microsoft’s embrace of open source AI this week at Ignite as a move away from its full embrace of OpenAI. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s evidence of cracks in the relationship, it certainly seems like Microsoft is hedging its bets, or “playing both sides a little,” to use the language of a popular Always sunny in Philadelphia meme.
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