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Intel gobbles AI chip biz Nervana for $350m

Chipzilla wants upstart's algorithms

Intel is knuckling down its efforts into artificial intelligence by buying Nervana Systems, a startup company that specializes in deep learning. The deal is, we're told, worth $350m.

Chipzilla's server-grade processors, the Xeon and Xeon Phi, power a lot of the world's deep learning training, and it's the algorithms from Nervana it wants.

Nervana has "fully-optimized software and hardware stack for deep learning" that will be used to make Intel's processors run more efficiently on its Math Kernel Library – a compilation of mathematical processing routines that are used to make calculations in science and engineering more efficient.

The upstart is planning to produce, at a cost of $28m, a 28nm TSMC-fabbed chip in the first quarter of 2017 that has a tensor-based architecture, has no floating-point math unit, and performs machine-learning tasks in hardware. You can read loads more background on the technology over on our sister site, The Next Platform.

"With this deal, we can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing. We'll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural," said Naveen Rao, CEO and co-founder of Nervana.

Rao says Nervana intends to continue all existing development efforts, including:

  • Nervana Neon, a Python-based software that describes deep learning models.
  • Nervana Engine, a hardware integrated circuit coming in 2017.
  • Nervana Cloud, a full-stack platform.

AI is the latest trend for tech companies. This week, Apple also announced it had bought Turi, an AI start up in machine learning. ®

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