Microsoft and OpenAI, a hot new artificial intelligence startup co-founded by Elon Musk, first began cozying up to each other in 2016. That year, OpenAI began to buy cloud services from Microsoft, dubbing the company’s Azure business the startup’s “primary” cloud provider. In July 2019, OpenAI got even tighter with Microsoft, saying the tech giant “will become our exclusive cloud provider” and taking a $1 billion investment from the company.
There’s just one wrinkle: OpenAI is also a very substantial customer of one of Microsoft’s top competitors, Google Cloud, spending tens of millions of dollars a year with that provider. OpenAI has ranked among Google Cloud’s top 10 commercial customers since at least 2018, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.