In the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence (AI), innovation never stands still. As businesses seek to leverage AI capabilities, Microsoft Azure has long been recognized as a leader in the field with its Azure Cognitive Services. However, a new player has entered the game with OpenAI services on Azure, raising the question: Is AI on Azure old news? For those of us who have been longtime adopters of the Azure platform ecosystem, we might be convinced to say so. In this blog post, we will explore the distinctions between Azure Cognitive Services and OpenAI services on Azure, shedding light on the exciting advancements that OpenAI brings to the table.

  • Azure Cognitive Services: The Foundation of AI on Azure Cognitive Services have been the cornerstone of AI on Azure for years. This suite of pre-built AI services provides developers with the tools to effortlessly incorporate AI capabilities into their applications. With services spanning computer vision, text analytics, speech recognition, and more, Azure Cognitive Services have empowered countless organizations to unlock the power of AI without the need for in-depth AI expertise.
  • OpenAI on Azure: The New Kid on the Block Enter OpenAI services on Azure, a recent addition to the Azure ecosystem. OpenAI, renowned for their state-of-the-art language models, brings a new level of sophistication to AI on Azure. OpenAI services provide access to powerful language models like GPT-3, which excel in generating human-like text and performing complex language processing tasks. These models offer unparalleled capabilities in areas such as text completion, translation, summarization, and question-answering.

Focus and Offerings: Distinct Paths

Cognitive Services and OpenAI on Azure have distinct focuses and offerings. Azure Cognitive Services offer a broad range of AI capabilities, providing pre-built solutions for vision, speech, language, and search tasks. These services are ideal for organizations seeking out-of-the-box AI functionality with minimal customization.

On the other hand, OpenAI services on Azure center around advanced language processing capabilities. OpenAI models, like GPT-3, are designed to generate high-quality text and perform sophisticated language-based tasks. The focus is on empowering developers with powerful tools to tackle complex language challenges.

Customizability and Training: A Differentiator

The power to Customize Azure Cognitive Services come with predefined functionalities and limited customization options. Organizations can leverage the pre-trained models and tune them to some extent, but the training process and underlying models are managed by Microsoft. This allows for straightforward integration into applications but with less control over fine-grained customization.

OpenAI services, on the other hand, offer developers the ability to train and fine-tune models like GPT-4 with their own data. This level of customization empowers organizations to tailor the models to their specific use cases and achieve more control over the output and behavior of the AI system.


Looking Ahead: Make the right choice

While Azure Cognitive Services have been transforming businesses with AI capabilities for years, the addition of OpenAI services on Azure signals a new chapter in AI innovation. OpenAI's cutting-edge language models offer powerful tools for organizations aiming to revolutionize language processing tasks and develop groundbreaking applications. It’s important as a consumer of AI services to understand when to choose between the options. Cognitive Services’ “out of the box” is a great way to dip into many AI components before attempting to train a custom model or adapt OpenAI. Consider the following requirements:

Effort to Integrate

Azure Cognitive Services is a collection of pre-built AI services designed to address specific tasks such as vision, speech, language, and search. It provides developers with APIs and SDKs to easily incorporate AI capabilities into their applications without requiring in-depth knowledge of AI algorithms or models.

OpenAI on Azure, on the other hand, focus on providing access to OpenAI's powerful language models, such as GPT-4. These models are designed for generating human-like text and performing natural language understanding tasks at a sophisticated level. Are you prepared to integrate with the API to tune & transform models and heavily embed an application into the environment? More complex middleware, backend and orchestration/scaling may be necessary here. SDKs and integrations are evolving daily, so prepare for continuous change.

Functional Capabilities

Azure Cognitive Services: Computer vision, text analytics, speech recognition, natural language processing, and search functionality are the out of the box offerings, meaning easier integration into applications with minimal effort. Anything outside of this offering portfolio may be better suited to open-source application integrations & model training.

OpenAI models with GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 excel in generating text that resembles human language and can perform language-based tasks like text completion, translation, summarization, and question-answering. These models are particularly well-suited for complex language processing tasks.

Licensing and Pricing

Azure Cognitive Services follow Azure's standard pricing model, where users pay based on factors such as API usage, data processing, and tiered pricing options. Each service within Azure Cognitive Services has its own pricing structure based on the specific functionality and usage.

OpenAI on Azure has its own separate licensing and pricing structure, which is determined by OpenAI. The pricing model may differ from Azure Cognitive Services and is typically based on factors such as API usage, compute resources, and any specific terms set by OpenAI. As adoption and integration grows, expect that this will change. Microsoft has a history of providing economies of scale benefits to users of its popular services, so the price of this service today may come down in the future. It is too soon to tell, but cost to use may be throttled by tokens/API metering as the highly popular service is tested across the web for R&D purposes. Production-grade bets on this service may not yet be viable on a global scale.

AI on Azure – so it is old news!

Conclusion: Far from old news. Azure Cognitive Services has been the go-to solution for organizations seeking to leverage AI capabilities in their applications since it’s general availability in February, 2016. However, with the introduction of OpenAI services on Azure, a new wave of innovation has arrived. OpenAI brings state-of-the-art language models like GPT-3 to the table, offering unparalleled language processing capabilities.

The choice between Azure Cognitive Services and OpenAI services on Azure depends on specific AI requirements. Azure Cognitive Services excel in providing pre-built AI functionalities, while OpenAI services cater to organizations seeking powerful language models with customization capabilities.

It’s important to remember that hundreds, if not thousands, of open-source libraries and models exist for AI use-cases beyond the platform service offerings mentioned in our blog post. If a specific offering functionality in Cognitive Services or OpenAI doesn’t sound like it provides immediate value to your business, then look to the open-source world for opportunity. Whether leveraging PaaS or growing a public model, exciting opportunities to gain competitive edge are waiting for your organization.

As AI continues to shape the future, Azure remains at the forefront of innovation, offering a rich ecosystem of AI services that empower organizations to transform their businesses. Eastwall is betting that the latest innovation with OpenAI will fuel rapid growth and a new platform-as-a-service offering functionality in the form of other various out-of-the-box services.

Finding the right models & tools with a trusted partner is key. Eastwall offers 3-day AI innovation sessions where we demonstrate hands-on-keyboard examples of how to leverage Cognitive Services & OpenAI, then work through proof-of-value implementations with your team. Ready to figure out what AI opportunity is available for your team? We help design, build and operate innovative cloud solutions on the Azure platform. Please contact us for a free consultation on how our AI ideation & hackathon sessions can help transform your business.

(PS - this blog post was not written with AI, though it was proofread by a popular LLM for errors!)

tagList [ai, azure]

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