Microsoft's Satya Nadella says any startup can now use the supercomputer that Elon Musk's team uses

Microsoft chief Satya Nadella in Sydney, Australia on Nov 16, 2016. (Source: Tony Yoo, Business Insider)

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella says his own story — growing up in India and eventually leading one of the biggest companies in the world — is a perfect demonstration of technology’s ability to empower people.

“I am a product of the democratising technology of Microsoft, reaching me where I was growing up. My entire story is a reflection of this company doing what it does — to bring technology to all corners of the world.”

Nadella revealed at the Microsoft Australia Developer Conference in Sydney that this “democratisation” would continue into the artificial intelligence age, with the company’s launch of Azure N-Series virtual machines — giving access to supercomputing power to the smallest startups and programmers.

The N-series is already used by Elon Musk’s non-profit artificial intelligence organisation OpenAI and will be open for public use in early December.

The technology allows any customer to “run the most compute intensive workloads in the cloud, like AI research, complex rendering and neural network training”, according to Microsoft.

In his first trip to Australia as chief executive, Nadella told the packed crowd that AI and machine learning technologies had well and truly become “mainstream” by showing off some local examples — including Cricket Australia, Webjet and the Department of Human Services.

He spoke of a lifelong ambition fulfilled when he walked onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday and how the Cricket Australia deal showed that AI was no longer just for consumer gimmicks and specialist internet apps.

“I know today is not the best day to talk about cricket in Australia… but I was glad to see (at the MCG) how Cricket Australia plans on using machine learning,” he said.

“Cricket is one of the richest sports when it comes to data. But how do you harness the power of that data? How do you even start having an informed conversation about performance of teams, performance of players? Cricket Australia is using the same technologies that industrial companies and healthcare companies do.”

Microsoft also announced the launch of a public preview for Azure Bot services, with Nadella saying that the new services accompanied with field-programmable gate array support and Azure Functions serverless computing brings the power to develop AI to anyone who wants it.

“We are building the world’s first AI supercomputer by building in support for field-programmable gate arrays,” he said. “This means it’s now available to every developer out there… a supercomputer that is available to every developer.”

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