Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Platform customers now have access to microchips made by Graphcore. Graphcore, a British startup founded in 2016, has put the spotlight (and several millions of dollars in investment capital) on its newest baby: Intelligent Processing Unit microchips (IPU), specifically designed to work with AI.
Unlike most AI compatible chips that were designed with a specific programming in mind, Graphcore’s IPUs were designed specifically to support the calculations that assist machines in facial recognition technologies, speech recognition, parse language, car automation, and machine learning. Microsoft’s posted benchmarks for the IPU match or exceed the performance levels of the current top AI chips available, and Graphcore’s code is rumored to perform image-processing tasks several times faster than their opponents. Graphcore’s IPU chip also has memory space to eliminate having to move data on and off the chip for processing.
There are several companies that will be working with the Graphcore chips via Azure. These include Citadel (financial data analytics) and Qwant (European search engine). Investors in the Graphcore include such big names as DeepMind, Uber AI, a UC Berkeley professor, and AI visionary Geoffrey Hinton.