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Samsung invests in ML chip startup NeuReality

Coining the term hardware-based 'AI hypervisor' has to be worth several million, dontcha think?

The venture capital arm of Samsung has cut a check to help Israeli inference chip designer NeuReality bring its silicon dreams a step closer to reality.

NeuReality announced Monday it has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Samsung Ventures, adding to the $8 million in seed funding it secured last year to help it get started.

As The Next Platform wrote in 2021, NeuReality is hoping to stand out with an ambitious system-on-chip design that uses what the upstart refers to as a hardware-based "AI hypervisor."

This is said to be capable of routing inference requests from the network to acceleration engines in the SoC all in hardware with minimal intervention by a host CPU processor. With this approach, NeuReality thinks it can capture higher efficiencies than rival datacenter inference accelerators; to us, it sounds like another network-connected IPU.

"We see substantial and immediate need for higher efficiency and easy-to-deploy inference solutions for datacenters and on-premises use cases, and this is why we are investing in NeuReality," Ori Kirshner, head of Samsung Ventures in Israel, is quoted as saying.

NeuReality, founded in 2018, has not taped out its first SoC design, the NR1, though the biz has a prototype system that consists of 16 Xilinx Versal FPGA cards, which are now part of AMD's AI-centric product portfolio.

The upstart's "disaggregation, data movement and processing technologies improve computation flows, compute-storage flows, and in-storage compute – all of which are critical for the ability to adopt and grow AI solutions," Kirshner added.

Like Nvidia and other AI chip designers, NeuReality is thinking about the problem holistically, bundling its silicon with custom-made software and tools that aim to simplify the deployment of inference applications.

Hardware and, er, "AI hypervisors" aside, what Samsung Ventures might find most compelling is the startup's team.

Founding CEO Moshe Tanach was previously director of engineering at Marvell Technology and Intel, and he also helped design 4G base station products at a company that was acquired by Qualcomm. The two other founders, Tzvika Shmueli and Yossi Kasus, possess silicon and networking bona fides, too, having come from networking chip vendor Mellanox Technologies, which Nvidia acquired in 2020.

Samsung Ventures has bold ambitions when it comes to the datacenter, with a $356 billion initiative to invest in areas including chip design and production, biotech, and AI by 2026.

"The investment from Samsung Ventures is a big vote of confidence in NeuReality's technology. The funds will help us take the company to the next level and take our NR1 SoC to production," Tanach said. ®

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