Microsoft and Arm Partner to Deliver an End-to-End Intelligent Edge Device Toolchain
Published Oct 08 2020 08:00 AM 6,561 Views

Microsoft is in the business of making digital transformation easy, fast, and cost effective for our customers. As we look at the opportunity presented by the rise of AI, it is essential to recognize silicon as a foundational component to the success of all intelligent edge devices, and the services and software that light them up. At the center of our silicon strategy is a commitment to support and partner with a broad and diverse ecosystem of silicon partners, device OEMs, and end customers.


TAM estimates for AI inferencing silicon at the edge are as high as $51.6 billion by 2025 with 70+ specialty AI companies working on a wide variety of chip-related technologies. Silicon diversity in a device ecosystem leads to innovation, heathy competition, and a choice of solutions across the value chain for developers, device makers, and end customers. However, Microsoft AI developer surveys indicate that the #1 reason developers do not try new silicon options is the cost of learning a new toolchain. Developers tell us that it can take more than a year for new silicon to be properly supported with the right optimizations in toolchains. In addition, we hear that many of the available toolchains lack a robust end-to-end experience, requiring developers to stitch together solutions, experimenting along the way. To accelerate growth for this fast-emerging market, vertically-integrated E2E solutions that lower time-to-value for our partners and customers are necessary.


I am delighted to announce that Microsoft and Arm are collaborating to deploy an integrated Azure-based toolchain targeting Arm-based silicon and delivering a unified and streamlined AI experience for developers. Microsoft and Arm have been close partners for many years. This deepened partnership will enable developers to easily target a broad range of Arm-based silicon in AI-enabled devices like intelligent computer-vision-enabled cameras, connected vehicles, AI gateways, and intelligent appliances.


Arm’s leading silicon architecture combined with their broad ecosystem and commitment to optimizing developer experiences will enable this partnership to accelerate AI innovation for IoT devices, delivering better solutions and a better future for end-users. The new wave of AI devices are much closer to where the data is generated, typically near the people working in factories, warehouses, stores, office buildings, and hospitals. These devices need to accommodate that proximity to people—no loud cooling fans, and inconspicuous form factors that are easier to use. Arm-based silicon can enable SoCs (system on chips) that consume little power, generate minimal heat, and can even eliminate the need for loud cooling fans. This is ideal for edge AI devices.


Edge AI workloads and devices need specialized silicon. We see that the adoption of AI will span multiple time-horizons realized in three progressive stages: Connected, Intelligent, and Autonomous. With more devices connected to the cloud, the demand for dashboards to manage and monitor these devices remotely has become a normal course of business. As we progress further into the intelligent horizon, being ready for devices that provide a flood of insights can provide enterprises with significant economic and competitive advantages. These Intelligent devices will disrupt value chains as they become the sensors, monitors and communicators. The autonomous horizon is almost upon us and will be the most disruptive with data-driven workflows executed between machines with little to no human interaction required. Companies slow to adopt this technology may fall so far behind that it becomes economically impossible to catch up.


Microsoft will collaborate with our ecosystem partners to plan across these multiple horizons, focused on customer-driven scenarios that inform both Intelligent Edge device portfolios and the silicon requirements to light them up. Each horizon will include a set of fundamental device capabilities, but as use cases evolve across various industry segments, we will need a broader and more comprehensive view of silicon requirements and coverage to succeed.





In addition to our focus on silicon diversity for intelligent Azure-connected devices, we are also working to address two significant challenges we hear from others in the ecosystem: finding the right devices to meet a customer’s needs, and finding the right audience for their devices and solutions. With over 30 billion active IoT devices in the world with 400 percent growth over the past three years, the industry is moving incredibly fast. Connecting the right audience with the right product will only become more difficult. Our recent announcement of the Azure Certified Device program is intended to help with these challenges. You can find more details at Getting Started with the Azure Certified Device program.


At the heart of this device certification program is a promise to device builders that they can not only get their devices to market quickly, but also more easily differentiate and promote their devices. It’s also a promise to buyers that they can easily find devices that meet their needs, and purchase those devices with confidence that they meet Microsoft standards for certification and are ready to work with Azure.


To support these promises, Microsoft is working closely with the silicon ecosystem to launch an Azure- Ready Silicon program. This program is a forward-looking effort to inform future silicon requirements for the device certification program, ensuring device builders have diverse and differentiated silicon that easily runs on Azure and is readily available. This involves aligning on fundamental silicon capabilities including security, connectivity, and compute—juxtaposed against a spectrum of real customer scenarios, requirements and device categories.


We need to collectively execute against a long-term view to intercept the future requirements for the Intelligent Edge. We know that the best things happen at-scale when people have choice. We are committed to helping foster innovation and diversity within the broader silicon and device ecosystems, and making it easy, fast, and cost-effective for our customers. Our collaboration with Arm to facilitate an end-to-end AI toolchain to simplify development is an important part of this strategy, and we’re very excited to continue tackling these AI and Intelligent Edge challenges together with them.

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