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Microsoft adding data centre capacity to meet AI demand

Written by Thu 25 Apr 2024

Image Credit: Reuters

Microsoft plans to more than double its existing data centre capacity this year to meet a sharp spike in expected demand driven by cross-industry artificial intelligence (AI) adoption, according to an internal document viewed by Business Insider.

Artificial intelligence applications require far more computing power than non-AI applications. For example, “fully implementing AI in search tools, like Google, could increase electricity demand tenfold.”

The increase in electricity demand in AI data centres must also take into account the need for compute power to manage AI training functions.

According to a leaked presentation from Microsoft, the company is preparing to double new-build capacity in the second half of 2024 and aims for threefold growth in the first half of 2025.

The report shows that since July 2023, Microsoft has added 500MW of data centre capacity to its portfolio, bringing total Azure capacity to more than 5 GW. In 2024, the company plans to add 1GW; followed by another 1.5GW in the first half of 2025.

This drive for added capacity includes recent investments announced by Microsoft, including new facilities in South Africa and Brazil, and the expansion of many existing service areas in Europe. It likely also includes the recently announced £80 billion ($100 billion) investment in a ‘Stargate’ data centre project in conjunction with Open AI.

The leaked presentation also referred to the need to acquire GPU chips to train and run AI applications. the presentation noted the company’s GPU footprint has expanded, supporting live AI clusters in 98 locations globally.

The Stargate data centre announcement included information about creating a system that would support integrations with a variety of GPUs, so that the company would not be limited to securing chips from a single provider or required to ramp up production of Microsoft’s ARM-based GPUs. This seems wise in the face of the recent GPU chip shortage that limited the availability of silicon chips globally.

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Written by Thu 25 Apr 2024

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