Microsoft Cozies Up to Meta on AI, Maps

Perennial No. 2 cloud giant Microsoft has lately been cozying up to Meta (of Facebook fame) in important tech areas like generative AI.

With Microsoft Azure typically slotted firmly behind Amazon's AWS in cloud computing popularity and usage surveys and studies, Redmond might be tightening ties with Meta to get an edge in the most important IT space of our time: AI. A separate maps-related deal with Meta (and AWS ironically) might be seen as Microsoft keeping another cloud rival at bay: Google.

The AI partnership was announced last week at Microsoft's Inspire event, concerning support for Meta's Llama 2 family of large language models (LLMs) on Azure and Windows. Llama 2 (which can be tried online right now) is an LLM claimed to be open source, as opposed to proprietary models like GPT-4 from Microsoft partner OpenAI that are being infused throughout commercial products and services.

That support includes Microsoft being a preferred partner with Meta as it rolls out commercial wares based on the new LLM version.

"This announcement means that Azure customers will be able to easily fine-tune and deploy the 7B-parameter, 13B-parameter, and 70B-parameter Llama 2 models easily and safely on Azure," Microsoft said last week. "In addition, Llama 2 will be optimized to run locally on Windows -- enabling Windows developers to take advantage of Llama 2 by targeting the Direct ML execution provider through the ONNX runtime."

In its own announcement, Meta said:

  • Llama 2 is free for research and commercial use.
  • We're opening access to Llama 2 with the support of a broad set of companies and people across tech, academia, and policy who also believe in an open innovation approach to today's AI technologies.
  • We're committed to building responsibly and are providing resources to help those who use Llama 2 do so too.

In yet another post, Microsoft noted Llama 2 is the latest addition to the Azure AI model catalog, a preview project that aims to serves as a hub of foundation models to help developers and machine learning (ML) professionals more easily discover, evaluate, customize and deploy pre-built large AI models at scale.

[Click on image for larger view.]Azure AI Model Catalog (source: Microsoft).

Windows devs, meanwhile, must go to the Llama 2 ONNX GitHub Request Form.

This space, while dwarfed by AI, is where Google reigns, and this week an organization founded by Microsoft and AWS (but not Google) announced its first open map dataset.

That dataset is described by creator Overture Maps Foundation (OMF) as a collaborative effort to enable current and next-generation interoperable open map products.

"The collaboration is based on the premise that map data needs to be a shared asset to support future applications," a post today (July 26) said. "As the requirements for accuracy, recency, and attribution in maps have grown to meet user needs, the costs and complexities of collecting and maintaining global map data have grown beyond the capability of any single organization."

As to what such an "organization" (or maybe "organizations") could look like, some clues might be found in the CNCB article, "Meta, Microsoft and Amazon team up on maps project to crack Apple-Google duopoly."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.


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