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Everyone knows why NVIDIA is on the top of the market in generative AI when there are competitors like Intel and AMD who are also making strides. Now the behemoth Intel is going all in into the AI hardware segment, and it might have just cracked it.
Intel is planning to onboard another version of AI accelerator superchip, Falcon Shores 2, by 2026. “We have a simplified roadmap as we bring together our GPU and our accelerators into a single offering,” CEO Pat Gelsinger said.
The recently released Intel Xeon Max 9480 combines 56 cores and is not a standard DDR5 memory, but a 64 GB HBM2e, which is on par with the ones used in GPUs and AI accelerators. Interestingly, Intel believes that these GPUs would be mostly used for inference based tasks, and not actually training AI models.
More leaks about the upcoming 14th Gen Meteor Lake processor also suggest that the CPU might have a DDR5 memory, which is also similar to Apple’s M2 chip design. Moreover, it is also expected that AI will play a major role in the Meteor Lake CPUs. Much is awaited at the upcoming Intel Innovation 2023 event on September 19.
All roads lead to AI
While Intel navigates its strategic adjustments, it’s noteworthy that NVIDIA has also taken a substantial leap by venturing into the CPU market with the GH200 supercomputer. This expansion into CPUs complements NVIDIA’s existing prowess in GPUs and AI technologies, while venturing into the CPU market.
Furthermore, Intel’s 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. Nonetheless, a few months ago, Intel astounded the industry by opting for a GPU-only approach and deferring the chip’s release until 2025. The company’s voyage into the realm of AI and GPUs has encountered a series of twists and turns.
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 coming close to the H100 Hopper GPU.
On the flip side, Intel’s decision to decelerate its GPU release cadence could potentially place it at a disadvantage against more advanced architectures like NVIDIA Grace Superchips and AMD’s Instinct MI300, both slated for launch in 2023. This strategic choice may hinder Intel’s competitiveness in the HPC market.
Intel is convinced with two AI markets
One that deals with the infrastructure, for which the company has the Habana Labs Gaudi. The other is for inference, which according to Intel can be adequately done on a CPU like Xeon.
This seemed like an almost good approach until NVIDIA jumped onto the same wagon. At NVIDIA’s recent financial call, Jensen Huang said that the company plans to introduce L40S, a GPU that is specifically designed for fine-tuning and inference. Given that people are already using NVIDIA H100s for training, shifting to Intel’s Xeon processors might be a big leap to make.
Amid these strategic shifts, in May Intel had announced a strategic collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to facilitate generative AI. This partnership aimed to harness Intel’s AI hardware and software to craft tailor-made generative AI solutions for enterprises, all while ensuring the sanctity of data privacy and security.
Cut to August, Anthropic announced its partnership with BCG for bringing responsible generative AI for enterprise clients. But after that, NVIDIA and Microsoft also made an investment in Anthropic, which makes all of this a little confusing. This proves that AI is for everyone to take. This might be a hint that the Google-backed startup might be leveraging Intel supercomputers for building generative AI, which is quite rarely heard given the NVIDIA GPU dominance.
Intel GPUs, NVIDIA CPUs
You read that right. All of these strategic shifts were interpreted as Intel’s departure from direct competition with AMD’s Instinct MI300 and NVIDIA’s Grace Hopper processors, both of which boast a combined CPU+GPU design. NVIDIA went into the CPU business in March and it left people wondering, what else does the GPU giant want to take on Intel with.
On the other hand, Intel has shed light on the reasoning behind this strategic reconfiguration. While the initial plan for Falcon Shores permitted flexible CPU/GPU configurations, Intel emphasised the significance of enabling customers to utilise various CPUs, including those from rivals like AMD and NVIDIA. But given the announcements around Gaudi2, a potential Gaudi3, and NVIDIA venturing into CPUs, Intel might be able to take a bigger slice of the GPU market soon.
The rivalry between Intel and NVIDIA, encompassing both CPUs and GPUs, is poised to intensify, potentially reshaping the landscape of AI and HPC. Intel is the best CPU to buy, and NVIDIA is the best GPU to buy. This is widely believed. But it might take a turn soon given that the conversation about computing has almost shifted around AI.