“the only way you could get access to this new tech was by renting it”
Is this true for things besides TPUs? What other hardware components are not available on servers you can buy rather than rent?
I think the author is referring to access to the technology used by the hyperscalers. Amazon and Google (and Facebook, etc.) have developed their own hardware that’s tightly integrated with custom software, enabling things like SDN from the hypervisor all the way down to the NIC. None of them sell this technology directly to consumers so the only way to gain access to it is via rental.
The networking equipment at the hyperscalers is highly customized… NICs that manage VPCs or equivalents natively, software-defined router/switches that continuously optimize links over time. Lots of regular companies would love to have that kind of gear!