Brain Trust: Solution Providers With A Track Record Of Delivering Complex Solutions Are Poised To Profit From AI's Potential


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Intel has been looking to invest in the new data-driven technologies of the future, and artificial intelligence ­fits nicely into its existing data center lineup.

Lisa Spelman, vice president and general manager of Intel Xeon products and data center marketing, thinks that artificial intelligence soon will be built into every application — and Intel will be at the forefront of that movement.

"Intel has been in this space for a while but we've hit this inflection point over the past few years that has made that vision come to life," she said. "You can take these massive data sets and it doesn't take a day to look through them, you can get much more acceptable and meaningful usages. That's what has driven putting AI at the forefront in the last few years."

[Related: Intel Solutions Summit 2017]

To that end, Intel in March launched its Artificial Intelligence Products Group. Headed by Vice President and General Manager Naveen Rao, the group will align resources including engineering, labs, software and other products to build out its artificial intelligence portfolio.

On the product front, Intel has been building up its lineup around artificial intelligence applications. Months after acquiring artificial intelligence company Nervana Systems in August, the chip maker in November launched the Nervana platform, which includes comprehensive "deep learning" solutions.

"Intel's been involved in this space for a long time … and one of the things we've come to realize in the last two years is that there won't be a one-size-­fits-all answer to AI, which is why we acquired Nervana and put together the portfolio of products and Nervana platform," said Spelman.

At Intel Solutions Summit, the company will introduce the Intel Deep Learning Inference Accelerator, an integrated hardware and software offering to accelerate convolutional neural networks. The offering, which can be used in various applications such as surveillance, advanced driver assistance systems and ­ financial services, will be available in mid-2017.

Intel's portfolio also includes specialized products such as Intel's Xeon Phi data center chip targeting artificial intelligence workloads, to Xeon chips with FPGA (­ eld programmable gate array) accelerators for artificial intelligence applications.

Artificial intelligence technology can be used in a variety of ways to solve business problems, said Spelman. For instance, data analytics firm FarmLogs uses it to improve crop yield so farmers can make better use of their resources. The company uses software algorithms powered by high-end computing technology, including Xeon processors, to analyze information from publicly available data and from sensors placed on farm equipment, which send real-time ­field data to the internet. "The applications are out there, but customers need that type of localized service and support," she said.

For the channel, Spelman stressed that increased adoption of artificial intelligence applications will open opportunities for partners to "make this an additive branch of their business where they can develop expertise" and offer their technical knowledge for customers, particularly in high-performance computing.

"One of the amazing things about our channel and the systems integrators is their depth of knowledge in high-performance computing. They have such a rich history in providing super-complex HPC solutions," said Spelman. "When I look at our channel, they can take that deep HPC knowledge and transition and help drive some of that into expanded opportunities in the AI space, and really become solution providers for AI, helping their customers on that journey, because customers don't have that depth of knowledge in architecting the systems and frameworks."

Looking forward, Intel will continue to build out its product road map. The company recently unveiled its ­first silicon optimized for neural networks to deliver high performance for deep learning, as well as compute density at a high-bandwidth interconnect. This silicon, code-named Lake Crest, will be available to customers later in the year. On the heels of Lake Crest, Intel also introduced a new product, code-named Knights Crest, which will tightly integrate its Xeon processors with technology from Nervana Systems.

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