Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

Microsoft will unveil its Cobalt 100 chips and AMD's MI300X accelerators in Azure at the Build conference, and real-time data streaming features.

: Microsoft will publicly preview its Cobalt 100 chips at the Build conference, promising 40% better performance over other ARM chips. AMD’s MI300X accelerators will also be available to Azure clients, as Microsoft seeks cost-effective alternatives to Nvidia GPUs. The event will introduce new pricing for running large language models and features for real-time data streaming in Fabric.

Microsoft is launching its custom Cobalt 100 chips, which will be available for public preview at their Build conference next week. These 64-bit ARM-based chips, boasting 128 cores, are set to offer 40% better performance compared to other ARM chips on the market, according to Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive VP for Cloud and AI. Leading companies like Adobe and Snowflake have already started using these new chips, highlighting a substantial endorsement for their capabilities. These chips mark a meaningful effort by Microsoft to parallel Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Graviton chips, which have enjoyed a lead in the developer community for several years now.

In parallel, Microsoft is making AMD's MI300X accelerators available to Azure clients. Despite AMD trailing Nvidia in the AI space for some time, there is growing demand for their accelerators as cloud providers look for alternatives to Nvidia's pricier options. AMD has made significant strides recently by offering improved software support for their systems, making these chips a valuable addition to Microsoft's Azure offerings. Guthrie mentioned that these new GPUs are the most cost-effective option available for Azure’s OpenAI services, signaling a cost-benefit advantage for developers and enterprises alike.

Microsoft is also planning to introduce some notable software upgrades. At the Build conference, they will unveil reduced pricing for accessing and running large language models, although specific details on the new pricing structure are yet to be disclosed. Microsoft’s data analytics platform, Fabric, is set to receive a real-time intelligence system facilitating real-time data streaming with native integration for Apache Kafka and support for major cloud data-streaming services like AWS Kinesis and Google Pub/Sub. Additionally, the platform will now support Snowflake's Iceberg format, enhancing interoperability between Snowflake and Fabric users. Copilot, Microsoft’s AI assistant, will gain new features enabling developers to manage Azure resources using natural language, promising a more integrated and intuitive development experience within the Azure ecosystem.