Intel unveils Gaudi 3 AI chip as Nvidia competition heats up

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Pat Gelsinger, CEO Intel, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16th, 2024. Adam Galici | CNBC
Intel on Tuesday unveiled its latest artificial intelligence chip, called Gaudi 3, as chipmakers rush to produce semiconductors that can train and deploy big AI models, such as the one underpinning OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
Intel says the new Gaudi 3 chip is over twice as power-efficient as and can run AI models one-and-a-half times faster than Nvidia’s H100 GPU. It also comes in different configurations like a bundle of eight Gaudi 3 chips on one motherboard or a card that can slot into existing systems.
Intel tested the chip on models like Meta’s open-source Llama and the Abu Dhabi-backed Falcon. It said Gaudi 3 can help train or deploy models, including Stable Diffusion or OpenAI’s Whisper model for speech recognition.
Intel says its chips use less power than Nvidia’s.
Nvidia has an estimated 80% of the AI chip market with its graphics processors, known as GPUs, which have been the high-end chip of choice for AI builders over the past year.
Intel said that the new Gaudi 3 chips would be available to customers in the third quarter, and companies including Dell, HP, and Supermicro will build systems with the chips. Intel didn’t provide a price range for Gaudi 3.
“We do expect it to be highly competitive” with Nvidia’s latest chips, said Das Kamhout, vice president of Xeon software at Intel, on a call with reporters. “From our competitive pricing, our distinctive open integrated network on chip, we’re using industry-standard Ethernet. We believe it’s a strong offering.”
The data center AI market is also expected to grow as cloud providers and businesses build infrastructure to deploy AI software, suggesting there is room for other competitors even if Nvidia continues to make the vast majority of AI chips.
Running generative AI and buying Nvidia GPUs can be expensive, and companies are looking for additional suppliers to help bring costs down.
The AI boom has more than tripled Nvidia’s stock over the past year. Intel’s stock is only up 18% over the same time period.
AMD is also looking to expand and sell more AI chips for servers. Last year, it introduced a new data center GPU called the MI300X, which already counts Meta and Microsoft as customers.
Earlier this year, Nvidia revealed its B100 and B200 GPUs, which are the successors to the H100 and also promise performance gains. Those chips are expected to start shipping later this year.
Nvidia has been so successful thanks to a powerful suite of proprietary software called CUDA that enables AI scientists to access all the hardware features in a GPU. Intel is teaming up with other chip and software giants, including Google, Qualcomm, and Arm to build open software that isn’t proprietary and could enable software companies to easily switch chip providers.
“We are working with the software ecosystem to build open reference software, as well as building blocks that allow you to stitch together a solution that you need, rather than be forced into buying a solution,” Sachin Katti, senior vice president of Intel’s networking group, said on a call with reporters.
Gaudi 3 is built on a five nanometer process, a relatively recent manufacturing technique, suggesting that the company is using an outside foundry to manufacture the chips. In addition to designing Gaudi 3, Intel also plans to manufacture AI chips, potentially for outside companies, at a new Ohio factory expected to open in 2027 or 2028, CEO Patrick Gelsinger told reporters last month.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger announced the launch of the company’s new artificial intelligence chip, Gaudi 3. This chip is designed to meet the increasing demand for semiconductors that can effectively train and deploy large AI models. The Gaudi 3 chip boasts over twice the power efficiency compared to Nvidia’s H100 GPU and is capable of running AI models one-and-a-half times faster. It comes in various configurations, such as a bundle of eight chips on one motherboard or a card for existing systems.

Intel tested the Gaudi 3 chip on models like Meta’s Llama and the Abu Dhabi-backed Falcon, demonstrating its ability to support training and deploying AI models like Stable Diffusion and OpenAI’s Whisper for speech recognition. The company claims that its chips use less power than Nvidia’s GPUs, giving them a competitive edge in the AI chip market. While Nvidia currently holds an estimated 80% market share in AI chips, the growth of the data center AI market suggests that there is room for other competitors.

The Gaudi 3 chips are set to be available to customers in the third quarter, with companies like Dell, HP, and Supermicro planning to build systems with the new technology. Intel aims to offer competitive pricing compared to Nvidia’s latest chips, highlighting unique features like an integrated network on chip using industry-standard Ethernet. The rise of the AI industry has led companies to seek additional suppliers to help lower costs associated with running AI models, especially as Nvidia’s stock has soared over the past year.

AMD is also entering the AI chip market with its MI300X data center GPU, which has already attracted customers like Meta and Microsoft. Nvidia, on the other hand, recently unveiled its B100 and B200 GPUs as successors to the H100, promising performance gains for users. The company’s success can be attributed to its proprietary software, CUDA, which allows AI scientists to access hardware features within the GPU. In contrast, Intel is collaborating with chip and software giants like Google, Qualcomm, and Arm to develop open software that could allow for more flexibility in choosing chip providers.

The Gaudi 3 chip is manufactured using a five nanometer process, indicating that Intel may be working with an outside foundry for production. In addition to designing AI chips like Gaudi 3, Intel plans to manufacture chips for external companies at a new factory in Ohio, set to open in the coming years. This move reflects Intel’s commitment to expanding its presence in the AI chip market and ensuring a competitive offering for customers seeking advanced AI solutions.

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