Intel Buys AI Chip Firm Habana Labs

7 Jan 2020 by Technology

Intel Corporation acquired Habana Labs, an Israel-based developer of programmable deep learning accelerators for the data center. The deal is worth approximately $2 billion. Prior to this transaction, Intel Capital, the chipmaker’s venture capital arm, was an investor in Habana.

“We have been fortunate to get to know and collaborate with Intel given its investment in Habana, and we’re thrilled to be officially joining the team,” said David Dahan, CEO of Habana. “Intel has created a world-class AI team and capability. We are excited to partner with Intel to accelerate and scale our business. Together, we will deliver our customers more AI innovation, faster.”

With the acquisition, Intel aims to advance its AI Strategy and strengthen its portfolio of AI accelerators for the data center. In 2019, Intel expects to generate over $3.5 billion in AI-driven revenue, up more than 20 percent year-over-year. The company is confident that along with Habana it can "accelerate the delivery of best-in-class AI products for the data center, addressing customers’ evolving needs."

“This acquisition advances our AI strategy, which is to provide customers with solutions to fit every performance need – from the intelligent edge to the data center. More specifically, Habana turbo-charges our AI offerings for the data center with a high-performance training processor family and a standards-based programming environment to address evolving AI workloads,” said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Data Platforms Group at Intel.

Habana offers two silicon products targeting workloads in AI and machine learning: the Gaudi AI Training Processor and the Goya AI Inference Processor. The later was unveiled in June and is now commercially available. Habana’s Gaudi AI Training Processor is currently sampling with select hyperscale customers. According to Intel, large-node training systems based on Gaudi are expected to deliver up to a 4x increase in throughput versus systems built with the equivalent number of GPUs.

Intel informed that Habana would remain an independent business unit. The AI chip firm will report to Intel’s Data Platforms Group, home to Intel’s broad portfolio of data center class AI technologies. The current management team itself will lead Habana and will continue to keep its home base in Israel. Habana chairman Avigdor Willenz will serve as a senior adviser to the business unit as well as to Intel.

The chipmaker has been stepping up its game in the AI industry in the last few years. In 2016, Intel acquired San Mateo-based Movidius, which designs specialized low-power processor chips for computer vision. Intel also bought, a startup developing a platform-agnostic AI model suite, and Nervana Systems, a designer of accelerator chips for data centers.

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