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January 17, 2023updated 13 Mar 2023 8:57am

Microsoft plans full access to OpenAI’s ChatGPT on its Azure cloud service

General availability of the Azure OpenAI Service was announced on Monday. The groundbreaking chatbot will soon be part of it.

By Matthew Gooding

The full power of ChatGPT, the ground-breaking chatbot based on OpenAI‘s GPT-3.5 large language artificial intelligence model, will soon be available on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform as part of a suite of AI tools, the company has revealed. Microsoft was an early backer of OpenAI, and could be ready to increase its investment in the company following the success of ChatGPT as it looks to gain an edge over its public cloud rivals.

Microsoft has announced the general availability of the Azure OpenAI Service. (Photo by Ascannio/Shutterstock)

Microsoft announced the general availability of its Azure OpenAI Service late on Monday. The programme has been in preview since November 2021, and MSFT says the latest development will enable more businesses to access OpenAI’s advanced AI models, which include GPT-3.5, the company’s AI programming assistant Codex, and DALL•E 2, which generates images based on a simple text prompt.

“Customers will also be able to access ChatGPT—a fine-tuned version of GPT-3.5 that has been trained and runs inference on Azure AI infrastructure – through Azure OpenAI Service soon,” Eric Boyd, the company’s corporate vice president for AI said, without putting a timeline on when this might happen.

Microsoft expands Azure OpenAI service – ChatGPT coming soon?

Microsoft has been gradually adding more options to the Azure OpenAI service over the past year as OpenAI has fine-tuned its products. Boyd said the general availability of the service was a natural next step.

“We debuted Azure OpenAI Service in November 2021 to enable customers to tap into the power of large-scale generative AI models,” he said.

“Since then, one of the most exciting things we’ve seen is the breadth of use cases Azure OpenAI Service has enabled our customers—from generating content that helps better match shoppers with the right purchases to summarizing customer service tickets, freeing up time for employees to focus on more critical tasks.”

The Microsoft press release names three businesses – AI company MoveWorks (which already specialises in chatbots to help enterprise organisations), TV news network Al Jazeera, and KPMG – as early adopts of the Azure OpenAI Service.

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The tools have been helping KPMG sort tax data more efficiently, said Brett Weaver, partner and tax ESG Leader at the Big Four accountancy firm. “KPMG is using Azure OpenAI Service to help companies realise significant efficiencies in their tax ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives,” Weaver explained. “Companies are moving to make their total tax contributions publicly available.

“With much of these tax payments buried in IT systems outside of finance, massive data volumes, and incomplete data attributes, Azure OpenAI Service finds the data relationships to predict tax payments and tax type – making it much easier to validate accuracy and categorise payments by country and tax type.”

Will ChatGPT give Microsoft Azure the edge in the cloud wars with AWS?

Microsoft will be hoping news of the general availability of the Azure OpenAI Service will bring a deluge of new users to Azure. The company’s cloud platform is the second largest in the highly competitive public cloud market, trailing some distance behind Amazon’s all-conquering AWS.

The company has been a supporter of OpenAI since 2019, when it made a $1bn investment in the business. Reports last week suggested MSFT could be set to increase this stake by an additional $10bn as part of a bumper funding round OpenAI is embarking on ahead of the release of GPT-4, its next large language model which is likely to have billions more parameters and open up a new array of possibilities.

Though AWS has AI programmes of its own, Microsoft's partnership with OpenAI could become a major selling point for Azure and see it narrow the gap on its rival.

Read more: OpenAI’s ChatGPT is giving the rest of the world AI FOMO

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