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Intel’s acquisition of Habana Labs will supercharge its AI capabilities

Habana Labs chairman Avigdor Willenz

Intel may have given up in the fight to be dominant in the mobile space, with the company divesting its mobile modem business to Apple, but the company isn’t prepared to be beaten when it comes to AI. That’s why the firm has announced the $2 billion acquisition of Israel-based Habana Labs, a company currently developing AI processors for use in data centres. 

Habana Labs has long been rumoured as a target of Intel’s acquisition efforts in the AI space, with the company’s training systems based on Gaudi expected to deliver up to a four times increase in throughput versus systems built with the equivalent number of GPUs. By leveraging that technology, Intel could beat off challenges from Nvidia and AMD, which has so far been dominating in the AI space. 

“This acquisition advances our AI strategy, which is to provide customers with solutions to fit every performance need – from the intelligent edge to the data centre,” said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Data Platforms Group at Intel. 

“More specifically, Habana turbo-charges our AI offerings for the data center with a high-performance training processor family and a standards-based programming environment to address evolving AI workloads.”

Intel has already made significant strides in the development of its own AI-specific silicon, such as the Horse Ridge exascale GPU, but Habana Labs’ tech should supercharge the AI and machine learning capability of Intel’s silicon going forward. The company believes that the AI silicon market will be worth more than $25 billion by 2024, and it wants a significant piece of that pie, having only taken in $3.5 billion in AI-driven revenue in 2019. 

Shenoy continued: “We know that customers are looking for ease of programmability with purpose-built AI solutions, as well as superior, scalable performance on a wide variety of workloads and neural network topologies. That’s why we’re thrilled to have an AI team of Habana’s caliber with a proven track record of execution joining Intel. Our combined IP and expertise will deliver unmatched computing performance and efficiency for AI workloads in the data center.”

Habana will remain an independent business unit and will continue to be led by its current management team. Habana will report to Intel’s Data Platforms Group, home to Intel’s portfolio of data centre-class AI technologies. This combination gives Habana access to Intel AI capabilities, including significant resources built over the last three years with deep expertise in AI software, algorithms and research that will help Habana scale and accelerate.

Habana chairman Avigdor Willenz has agreed to serve as a senior adviser to the business unit as well as to Intel. Habana will continue to be based in Israel. 

“We have been fortunate to get to know and collaborate with Intel given its investment in Habana, and we’re thrilled to be officially joining the team,” said David Dahan, CEO of Habana. 

“Intel has created a world-class AI team and capability. We are excited to partner with Intel to accelerate and scale our business. Together, we will deliver our customers more AI innovation, faster.”

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