Intel Dives Into Artificial Intelligence With New Nervana Platform, Product Roadmap

Intel has made its official foray into artificial intelligence, on Thursday launching the Nervana platform, which includes comprehensive solutions and a roadmap of future products.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a blog post that the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is making major investments in artificial intelligence through using data analytics, machine learning and deep learning to develop machine intelligence applications.

"Intel is committed to AI and is making major investments across technology, training, resources and R&D to advance AI for business and society," he said. "We have a commitment to our partners, the industry as a whole and our global society to accelerate AI development, deliver end-to-end solutions, and lead the next generation of computing transformations."

[Related: Google And Intel Strengthen Ties To Drive Enterprise Cloud Adoption]

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As part of its platform, the company revealed a product roadmap, including the 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, codenamed "Lake Crest," will be tested in the first half of 2017, and will be available to customers later in the year.

Intel also introduced a new product, codenamed "Knights Crest," which will tightly integrate its Intel Xeon processors with technology from Nervana Systems.

"As a partner, I always like to see Intel involved in emerging markets because I know they will always include their channel as part of the overall strategic plan," said Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel system builder. "Whether it’s creating the market, helping to develop standards, or manufacturing the technologies, resellers benefit far more when Intel is leading."

The company has been actively building its AI platform via acquisitions. It has bought machine learning specialist Saffron, embedded computer vision company Movidius and Nervana Systems, which helps companies accelerate training time as part of the AI development cycle.

"The goal of these acquisitions and investments is to make AI pervasive and accessible. Our goal is to compress the innovation cycle from conception to the deployment of increasingly intelligent, robust and collaborative machines," said Krzanich in a release. "Intel offers crucial technologies to drive the AI revolution, but we must work together as an industry – and as a society – to achieve the ultimate potential of AI."

Intel has always played a role in AI through its Intel Xeon processors and Intel Xeon Phi processors to more workload-optimized accelerators like FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) and the technology innovations acquired from Nervana.

"Intel threw their formal AI strategy axe into the ocean which was very important given the general tech industry sees GPUs as the current driver of AI compute," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a leading tech analyst firm based in Austin, Texas. "If Intel can execute on and deliver what they said they would do today, Intel will be a future player in AI.

"To be clear, Intel is part of almost every AI implementation today as you can't boot a GPU, but in leading-edge installations, GPUs are doing most of the heavy-lifting for deep neural net training."

Intel said it expects the next generation of Intel Xeon Phi processors, codenamed ’Knights Mill," which will deliver up to four times better performance than the previous generation for deep learning, will be available in 2017. The company also announced it is shipping a preliminary version of the next generation of Intel Xeon processors to select cloud service providers.

Intel on Thursday also announced a partnership with Google to integrate their technologies for better better power container management, machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) workloads.