Deep learning startup Nervana has become Intel's latest acquisition target, in a deal that signals the microprocessor company's move deeper into the territory of artificial intelligence.
While Intel has yet to release official figures, a source familiar with the acquisition says the agreement could be worth more than $400 million, Recode reports.
The Next Revolution In Computing?
Nervana is known for its advancement of A.I. through a combination of neuroscience, computer engineering and machine learning. The startup believes A.I. "will be the foundation of the next revolution in computing" as it rivals human performance — and Intel shares this belief.
In fact, machine learning may prove to be even more revolutionary than cloud computing. Jason Waxman, VP for Intel, predicts people will soon be moving from devices that simply connect to the internet to devices that connect and talk with each other.
Artificial Intelligence On A Chip
One of Intel's challenges so far has been to bring A.I. on to its chips, in data centers and the mass market. With Nervana's suite of technology soon becoming part of Intel's portfolio, the chipmaker can now venture into creating more stable and more powerful processors that run A.I. on board. Some 97 percent of servers that currently support machine learning workloads, for example, is already powered by Intel processors.
"The Intel Xeon processor E5 family is the most widely deployed processor for deep learning inference," notes Diane Bryant, EVP and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group. On the other hand, the Xeon Phi processor offers the "scalable performance needed for deep learning training."
In purchasing Nervana, Intel will be able to leverage Nervana's Engine and silicon expertise as it sharpens the Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors' deep learning abilities even further.
"Nervana intends to continue all existing development efforts, including the Nervana Neon deep learning framework, Nervana deep learning platform, and the Nervana Engine deep learning hardware," says Naveen Rao, CEO and cofounder of Nervana.
Nervana Is Pushing The Envelope
Rao's team of 48 will be retained, becoming an integral part of Intel's Data Center Group, but it will continue to operate from its original headquarters in San Diego. Also worth noting is the fact that Nervana will hold on to its brand even after the acquisition.
The startup is barely three years old, but investors have already been keen at lending support for the A.I. company. In 2015, the startup was able to pull up $25 million through venture funding.
"We pushed the performance envelope in deep learning and will soon have a revolutionary new architecture to push it even further," Rao adds.