HPE's Hotard hits the hot seat at Intel's datacenter and AI biz

Outsider brought in to rule crucial unit will play key part in AI strategy

Intel has hired Justin Hotard to head up its Data Center and AI (DCAI) Group, poaching the exec from HPE where he lead its High Performance Computing business.

The Santa Clara chipmaker said Hotard would begin work as executive vice president and general manager of the DCAI Group at the start of February. He will report directly to CEO Pat Gelsinger to drive Intel’s portfolio of datacenter products, which includes the Xeon processor and accelerator lineup.

He is also expected to play a key part in the chip giant's AI strategy, or as Intel puts it, "driving the company's mission to bring AI everywhere."

Hotard succeeds Sandra Rivera, who became chief executive officer of the Programmable Solutions Group at the start of January, which is now a standalone business that Intel said it would spin out last October in order to attempt to compete more aggressively in the FPGA market.

The appointment of an outsider to take charge of such a vital part of Intel’s business must raise an eyebrow or two, as it would seem to cast doubt over the company's confidence in its own execs.

On the other hand, it could be seen as an endorsement of HPE's approach, with that company's HPC and AI business reporting revenue of $1.18 billion for the quarter ending October 31 last year, up from $862 million a year earlier.

Intel is likely hoping that Hotard can bring some of that success back to its DCAI Group, which reported a revenue decline of 10 percent to $3.8 billion in its own Q3 2023 results.

The company is facing stiffer competition from rivals, as The Register detailed in a recent article and in an interview with Lisa Spelman, corporate vice president and general manager of Xeon products at Intel.

With AMD and Arm-based processor rivals jockeying for a larger piece of the datacenter market and Nvidia dominating AI processing, Intel will have to up its game after recent missteps that saw delays to its Sapphire Rapids Xeon chips and the ditching of its Rialto Bridge GPUs.

Hotard previously served as president and managing director of HPE Japan, and led HPE’s Compute Global Business Unit, overseeing R&D for the server portfolio. Before joining HPE in 2015, he was president of NCR Small Business and also served at Symbol Technologies and Motorola.

HPE will no doubt miss Hotard's expertise: the company talked him up in a "get to know" article just a few months ago, in which he declared: "I'm someone who's constantly looking ahead at what's next." Perhaps HPE should have paid more attention to what he was looking at next. ®

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