Intel’s Vision Advantage: Chips Are Available Off-the-Shelf

By Agam Shah

April 11, 2024

The chip market is facing a crisis: chip development is now concentrated in the hands of the few.

A confluence of events this week reminded us how few chips are available off the shelf, a concern raised at many recent supercomputing press conferences. This week, Intel reinforced why its chips remain important but also exposed its bureaucratic disadvantage.

Intel unintentionally organized the Vision conference in Phoenix during a week dominated by more significant semiconductor announcements. The other announcements quieted Intel’s thunder, which also served as a reminder of how the legacy chip provider may be teetering on the brink of irrelevance.

In a nutshell, Intel reminded the audience how its historical approach — an open approach — remains one of its biggest advantages. The company’s chips remain available off-the-shelf, alongside ARM’s CPUs and GPUs, and Ampere Computing’s ARM-based CPUs.

In a chip-hungry world, with large non-tech companies repatriating hardware in-house (via data center providers like Equinix) due to security and cost concerns, Intel’s hardware may gain relevance again. But its struggles remain like IBM’s — too bureaucratic with too many layers, and startups and homegrown chips knocking on its door.

Intel’s major announcements at the conference included the Xeon 6 chip, the Gaudi 3 AI chip, and some more details of its Lunar Lake PC chip, which succeeds the Meteor Lake.

Gaudi 3 provides customers open community-based software and Ethernet networking to scale their systems more flexibly. (Source: Intel)

However, three straight days of major semiconductor announcements from other companies took the sparkle from Intel’s splash.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger’s keynote at Vision came on the same day Google announced its Axion CPU and a day after TSMC announced it was receiving up to $6.6 billion in funding from the US government to establish a 2-nm chip plant in Phoenix.

Meta struck Intel with the final dagger on Wednesday when it announced a new version of its AI chip, called MTIA, which “doubles the compute and memory bandwidth” of the original MTIA chip. The new chip provides the hardware Meta needs to train its homegrown AI models without relying on Nvidia GPUs. The original MTIA chip was more of an inferencing hardware for Meta to run its services on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The new Xeon 6 CPUs include Granite Rapids, which is a high-performance (P-cores) chip along the lines of the current Emerald Rapids and Sapphire Rapids. Intel is excited about Granite Rapids as it features a new architecture; the Emerald Rapids is not as exciting as an incremental upgrade over Sapphire Rapids, which has been a success.

Intel Xeon 6 is the new name for Granite Rapids (P-cores) and Sierra Forest (E-cores) processors. (Source: Intel)

Google’s Axion CPU is its first and will be offered as an alternative to Intel’s Xeon chips in the cloud. Axion completes the trifecta of top cloud providers offering their own ARM-based chips as alternatives to Intel’s x86 chips.

The biggest x86 cloud advantage remains access to GPUs. Intel chips are packaged with Nvidia GPUs in all major cloud providers. ARM’s biggest challenge in servers remains software compatibility, and Amazon doesn’t offer GPU access with its Graviton chips.

Meta’s own AI chip raises the question of why anyone would need Intel’s Gaudi 3 chip. Major AI and cloud providers, including Microsoft, OpenAI, and Amazon, are building their own chips. But the problem is that customers have access to that hardware via cloud services.

The Gaudi 3 has some outdated technology. In summary, it has HBM2E memory and supports FP8 and BF16, which is almost a generation behind Nvidia’s GPUs.

Of course, the big elephant in the room remains Nvidia, which has a dominant market share.

Intel has a lot of work to do. The company introduced a new cloud service named Tiber, a repackaged version of the Intel Developer Cloud, which was code-named IDC (not to be confused with the analyst firm). The initial version of Intel Developer Cloud was borderline unusable, a concern I communicated with Intel in multiple sit-down interviews. It was a work-in-progress, Intel executives assured.

The Intel DevCloud offers a number of Intel chips on which to test out the model. Think of DevCloud as having an online laptop with the hardware you choose, but you need to know the configuration. The DevCloud wasn’t easy to use — the pricing was confusing, and the available memory and storage weren’t clearly communicated. It’s like not knowing the full configuration of a laptop before running a model on it, which can’t be calculated in advance of compiling the model and running chatbot queries.

Intel Tiber developer environment requires users to know the hooks of OneAPI, and there are multiple hoops to load the neural network and get code to run. Nvidia is much simpler, partially because CUDA has been tested for a decade — the cuBLAS library makes configuring hardware much easier. Intel’s focus is squarely on getting developers to strip out CUDA code.

Intel realizes the growing competition that could bring its x86 architecture down, and accordingly readjusting operations to a foundry model — where it has much less competition, more revenue opportunity, and a larger opportunity to work with competitors.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industry updates delivered to you every week!

ISC 2024 Takeaways: Love for Top500, Extending HPC Systems, and Media Bashing

May 23, 2024

The ISC High Performance show is typically about time-to-science, but breakout sessions also focused on Europe's tech sovereignty, server infrastructure, storage, throughput, and new computing technologies. This round Read more…

HPC Pioneer Gordon Bell Passed Away

May 22, 2024

Legendary computer scientist Gordon Bell passed away last Friday at his home in Coronado, CA. He was 89. The New York Times has a nice tribute piece. A long-time pioneer with Digital Equipment Corp, he pushed hard for de Read more…

ISC 2024 — A Few Quantum Gems and Slides from a Packed QC Agenda

May 22, 2024

If you were looking for quantum computing content, ISC 2024 was a good place to be last week — there were around 20 quantum computing related sessions. QC even earned a slide in Kathy Yelick’s opening keynote — Bey Read more…

Atos Outlines Plans to Get Acquired, and a Path Forward

May 21, 2024

Atos – via its subsidiary Eviden – is the second major supercomputer maker outside of HPE, while others have largely dropped out. The lack of integrators and Atos' financial turmoil have the HPC market worried. If Atos goes under, HPE will be the only major option for building large-scale systems. Read more…

Core42 Is Building Its 172 Million-core AI Supercomputer in Texas

May 20, 2024

UAE-based Core42 is building an AI supercomputer with 172 million cores which will become operational later this year. The system, Condor Galaxy 3, was announced earlier this year and will have 192 nodes with Cerebras Read more…

Google Announces Sixth-generation AI Chip, a TPU Called Trillium

May 17, 2024

On Tuesday May 14th, Google announced its sixth-generation TPU (tensor processing unit) called Trillium.  The chip, essentially a TPU v6, is the company's latest weapon in the AI battle with GPU maker Nvidia and clou Read more…

ISC 2024 Takeaways: Love for Top500, Extending HPC Systems, and Media Bashing

May 23, 2024

The ISC High Performance show is typically about time-to-science, but breakout sessions also focused on Europe's tech sovereignty, server infrastructure, storag Read more…

ISC 2024 — A Few Quantum Gems and Slides from a Packed QC Agenda

May 22, 2024

If you were looking for quantum computing content, ISC 2024 was a good place to be last week — there were around 20 quantum computing related sessions. QC eve Read more…

Atos Outlines Plans to Get Acquired, and a Path Forward

May 21, 2024

Atos – via its subsidiary Eviden – is the second major supercomputer maker outside of HPE, while others have largely dropped out. The lack of integrators and Atos' financial turmoil have the HPC market worried. If Atos goes under, HPE will be the only major option for building large-scale systems. Read more…

Google Announces Sixth-generation AI Chip, a TPU Called Trillium

May 17, 2024

On Tuesday May 14th, Google announced its sixth-generation TPU (tensor processing unit) called Trillium.  The chip, essentially a TPU v6, is the company's l Read more…

Europe’s Race towards Quantum-HPC Integration and Quantum Advantage

May 16, 2024

What an interesting panel, Quantum Advantage — Where are We and What is Needed? While the panelists looked slightly weary — their’s was, after all, one of Read more…

The Future of AI in Science

May 15, 2024

AI is one of the most transformative and valuable scientific tools ever developed. By harnessing vast amounts of data and computational power, AI systems can un Read more…

Some Reasons Why Aurora Didn’t Take First Place in the Top500 List

May 15, 2024

The makers of the Aurora supercomputer, which is housed at the Argonne National Laboratory, gave some reasons why the system didn't make the top spot on the Top Read more…

ISC 2024 Keynote: High-precision Computing Will Be a Foundation for AI Models

May 15, 2024

Some scientific computing applications cannot sacrifice accuracy and will always require high-precision computing. Therefore, conventional high-performance c Read more…

Synopsys Eats Ansys: Does HPC Get Indigestion?

February 8, 2024

Recently, it was announced that Synopsys is buying HPC tool developer Ansys. Started in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1970 as Swanson Analysis Systems, Inc. (SASI) by John Swanson (and eventually renamed), Ansys serves the CAE (Computer Aided Engineering)/multiphysics engineering simulation market. Read more…

Nvidia H100: Are 550,000 GPUs Enough for This Year?

August 17, 2023

The GPU Squeeze continues to place a premium on Nvidia H100 GPUs. In a recent Financial Times article, Nvidia reports that it expects to ship 550,000 of its lat Read more…

Comparing NVIDIA A100 and NVIDIA L40S: Which GPU is Ideal for AI and Graphics-Intensive Workloads?

October 30, 2023

With long lead times for the NVIDIA H100 and A100 GPUs, many organizations are looking at the new NVIDIA L40S GPU, which it’s a new GPU optimized for AI and g Read more…

Atos Outlines Plans to Get Acquired, and a Path Forward

May 21, 2024

Atos – via its subsidiary Eviden – is the second major supercomputer maker outside of HPE, while others have largely dropped out. The lack of integrators and Atos' financial turmoil have the HPC market worried. If Atos goes under, HPE will be the only major option for building large-scale systems. Read more…

Choosing the Right GPU for LLM Inference and Training

December 11, 2023

Accelerating the training and inference processes of deep learning models is crucial for unleashing their true potential and NVIDIA GPUs have emerged as a game- Read more…

AMD MI3000A

How AMD May Get Across the CUDA Moat

October 5, 2023

When discussing GenAI, the term "GPU" almost always enters the conversation and the topic often moves toward performance and access. Interestingly, the word "GPU" is assumed to mean "Nvidia" products. (As an aside, the popular Nvidia hardware used in GenAI are not technically... Read more…

Nvidia’s New Blackwell GPU Can Train AI Models with Trillions of Parameters

March 18, 2024

Nvidia's latest and fastest GPU, codenamed Blackwell, is here and will underpin the company's AI plans this year. The chip offers performance improvements from Read more…

Some Reasons Why Aurora Didn’t Take First Place in the Top500 List

May 15, 2024

The makers of the Aurora supercomputer, which is housed at the Argonne National Laboratory, gave some reasons why the system didn't make the top spot on the Top Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Shutterstock 1606064203

Meta’s Zuckerberg Puts Its AI Future in the Hands of 600,000 GPUs

January 25, 2024

In under two minutes, Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, laid out the company's AI plans, which included a plan to build an artificial intelligence system with the eq Read more…

Eyes on the Quantum Prize – D-Wave Says its Time is Now

January 30, 2024

Early quantum computing pioneer D-Wave again asserted – that at least for D-Wave – the commercial quantum era has begun. Speaking at its first in-person Ana Read more…

The GenAI Datacenter Squeeze Is Here

February 1, 2024

The immediate effect of the GenAI GPU Squeeze was to reduce availability, either direct purchase or cloud access, increase cost, and push demand through the roof. A secondary issue has been developing over the last several years. Even though your organization secured several racks... Read more…

Shutterstock 1285747942

AMD’s Horsepower-packed MI300X GPU Beats Nvidia’s Upcoming H200

December 7, 2023

AMD and Nvidia are locked in an AI performance battle – much like the gaming GPU performance clash the companies have waged for decades. AMD has claimed it Read more…

The NASA Black Hole Plunge

May 7, 2024

We have all thought about it. No one has done it, but now, thanks to HPC, we see what it looks like. Hold on to your feet because NASA has released videos of wh Read more…

Intel Plans Falcon Shores 2 GPU Supercomputing Chip for 2026  

August 8, 2023

Intel is planning to onboard a new version of the Falcon Shores chip in 2026, which is code-named Falcon Shores 2. The new product was announced by CEO Pat Gel Read more…

GenAI Having Major Impact on Data Culture, Survey Says

February 21, 2024

While 2023 was the year of GenAI, the adoption rates for GenAI did not match expectations. Most organizations are continuing to invest in GenAI but are yet to Read more…

How the Chip Industry is Helping a Battery Company

May 8, 2024

Chip companies, once seen as engineering pure plays, are now at the center of geopolitical intrigue. Chip manufacturing firms, especially TSMC and Intel, have b Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire