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Intel is embarking on a bold journey in AI to compete with NVIDIA, AMD, and Apple. At Intel Innovation 2023, the company revealed its ambitious roadmap for the next few years, making it clear that they are going all in on AI. This includes their monster 288-core Xeon CPU, based on Emerald Rapids architecture, that’s coming next year.
The announcement on Meteor Lake, set to launch on December 14, was undoubtedly a headline-grabber because as CEO Pat Gelsinger said, the processor will “power-efficient AI acceleration and local inference on the PC”.
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Gelsinger emphasised the company’s commitment to engineering excellence and showcased its efforts to democratise AI with the “AI PC” concept. This innovation is made possible by Intel’s forthcoming “Meteor Lake” laptop chip, which incorporates new AI data-crunching features. The AI PC concept aims to bring AI capabilities directly to personal computers, allowing users to run generative AI chatbots, like ChatGPT, locally, without relying on cloud data centres.
To showcase the capabilities of the AI PC, Gelsinger, along with RewindAI CEO Dan Siroker, demoed the capabilities of running Rewind on Windows, which was powered by Llama 2 and running entirely on the device. This will also be available on Intel-based MacBooks.
Focusing on developers, Intel has announced the general availability of its Intel Developer Cloud platform, offering developers the opportunity to test and deploy AI and high-performance computing applications with the latest CPUs, GPUs, and AI accelerators. The platform includes access to fifth-generation Xeon Scalable processors, Intel Data Center GPU Max Series, Intel Gaudi2 deep learning processors, and Intel software and tools.
Moreover, developers can utilise the oneAPI programming model to build and optimise AI and high-performance computing workloads. In addition, Intel has revealed Project Strata, a commercial software platform set to launch in 2024, aimed at supporting distributed edge infrastructure and applications with modular building blocks and premium services.
A Three-Pronged Performance Approach
What caught the industry’s attention were the processors in the pipeline such as Arrow Lake, Lunar Lake, and Panther Lake scheduled for 2024 and 2025. These processors represent a significant leap forward in Intel’s pursuit of technological excellence.
Intel is employing a three-pronged approach to benchmark their processors against competitors like Apple and even NVIDIA. This approach includes testing CPUs, GPUs, and NPUs within a fixed power budget.
One of Intel’s key strategies for regaining leadership is its focus on chip manufacturing. Gelsinger announced that Intel’s fabrication facilities would begin producing Panther Lake processors in early 2024. This move comes as part of Intel’s ambitious plan to accelerate its chipmaking progress. The company is investing heavily in advanced manufacturing processes, including extreme ultraviolet light (EUV), to etch finer features onto silicon wafers. This technology allows for the production of smaller, more efficient processors.
While it seems like NVIDIA has dominated this space, Intel is making significant strides in the right direction. The company has also announced that Stability.AI would purchase a Gaudi2-based AI supercomputer with Xeon processors overseeing 4,000 Gaudi2 accelerators.
To contextualise Intel’s focus on AI, we must first acknowledge its competition, particularly with Apple. For years, Intel supplied processors to Apple’s Mac lineup. However, with the introduction of Apple’s M1 and M2 chips, the tech giant decided to part ways with Intel. Apple’s in-house processors have received widespread acclaim for their performance and power efficiency.
However, Intel, not one to back down from a challenge, has made it clear that improving both performance and energy efficiency is a top priority. While specific details about Meteor Lake’s performance remain undisclosed, Intel promises significant advancements in processing, graphics, and AI capabilities. Gelsinger emphasised that these improvements would put Intel’s offerings on par with the best that Apple and other competitors have to offer.
Making big bets
Gelsinger believes that the supercomputer that Intel is building will be the largest in Europe. He even hinted at Gaudi3, which according to him, would be two times faster than Gaudi2. It is expected to be released by the end of 2025. This comes after Intel has already been providing Gaudi2 AI chips for training models. Interestingly, Gaudi2 works 2.4 times faster than the NVIDIA A100, and is almost close to the H100 Hopper GPU.
Intel’s plan to converge its data centre GPU and Gaudi road maps with the Falcon Shores GPU, set to release around the same time, looks like a robust plan. Falcon Shores chips were originally conceived as a fusion of CPU and GPU cores, representing the company’s inaugural venture into the ‘XPU’ architecture for high-performance computing.
“Simply put, our roadmap is extremely robust, and we are executing aggressively to bring this together,” Gelsinger said.