To put an end to rumors that Microsoft was working on a proprietary chip, the Redmond-based tech giant unveiled its own AI chip at the annual Ignite Conference. The Maia AI Accelerator, which competes with Nvidia’s AI graphics processing units, and the Cobalt CPU are both custom-designed processors and integrated systems.
The Microsoft Azure Maia AI Accelerator is designed for AI tasks and generative AI, whereas the Microsoft Azure Cobalt CPU is an Arm-based processor designed to execute general-purpose compute workloads on the Microsoft Cloud.
According to Microsoft, the chips are the final piece in the company’s puzzle to deliver infrastructure systems that have been designed from the ground up and can be optimized with internal and customer workloads in mind, including everything from silicon choices, software, and servers to racks and cooling systems.
“Microsoft is building the infrastructure to support AI innovation, and we are reimagining every aspect of our datacenters to meet the needs of our customers,” Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud + AI Group, stated. “At the scale we operate, it’s important for us to optimize and integrate every layer of the infrastructure stack to maximize performance, diversify our supply chain and give customers infrastructure choice.”
The processors, which will be available in Microsoft datacenters early next year, will first power the company’s services such as Microsoft Copilot and Azure OpenAI Service. According to Microsoft, they will join an expanding spectrum of industry partners’ products to assist fulfill the exploding demand for efficient, scalable, and sustainable computational capacity, as well as the needs of customers eager to take advantage of the newest cloud and AI innovations.
Microsoft has been working on the chips in secret (or not so secretly, as the rumour mill was abuzz with the revelation) for years. There was a facility full of machines painstakingly working and testing the silicon at the company’s Redmond campus.