OpenAI Explores Custom AI Chips, Considers Acquisition
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, is reportedly exploring the possibility of developing its own artificial intelligence chips and has even considered acquiring a chip company, according to sources familiar with the matter. While no final decision has been made, OpenAI has been discussing various options to address the shortage of expensive AI chips it relies on.
One possible solution is for OpenAI to build its own AI chip or collaborate more closely with chipmakers like Nvidia. Another option is to diversify its suppliers beyond Nvidia, which currently dominates the market for AI chips with over 80% market share. OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman has highlighted the urgent need to acquire more AI chips due to the scarcity and high costs associated with running the hardware required for the company’s efforts and products.
Running ChatGPT is an expensive undertaking for OpenAI, with each query costing approximately 4 cents. According to analyst Stacy Rasgon, if ChatGPT were to scale to one-tenth the size of Google search, it would require an initial investment of around $48.1 billion worth of GPUs, followed by $16 billion worth of chips annually to sustain operations.
Joining the ranks of tech giants like Google and Amazon, OpenAI aspires to take control over designing the chips that form the backbone of its business. However, developing its own AI chips would be a significant strategic initiative and a substantial investment, potentially costing hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Even if OpenAI decides to pursue a custom chip, it would likely take several years to develop, leaving the company dependent on commercial providers like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices in the meantime. Building custom processors has proven challenging for some big tech companies; for example, Meta has encountered issues with its AI chips and is now developing a newer chip that caters to various AI workloads.
While Microsoft, one of OpenAI’s main backers, is reportedly developing a custom AI chip that OpenAI is testing, this could lead to further divergence between the two companies.
The demand for specialized AI chips has surged since the launch of ChatGPT. These AI accelerators are essential for training and running the latest generative AI technologies. Currently, Nvidia is one of the few chipmakers that produce AI chips suitable for these tasks, thus dominating the market.
As OpenAI continues to explore options for securing a stable supply of AI chips, the company’s decision will have significant implications for the future of AI development and the competitive landscape within the industry.