Intel Ramps Up AI Investment With Formation Of Artificial Intelligence Products Group

Intel is deepening its investments in artificial intelligence and scaling up its research efforts around AI, announcing on Thursday a new Artificial Intelligence Products Group.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's AI organization will align resources including engineering, labs, software and other products to build out its AI portfolio under vice president and general manager Naveen Rao.

"As a data company, it is imperative that we deliver solutions that create, use and analyze the massive amounts of data that are generated each and every minute. That is why AI is so important to Intel. It is also why we are announcing that Intel is aligning its AI efforts," said Rao in a blog post.

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Intel will also create an applied AI research lab to explore architectural and algorithmic approaches for future generations of artificial intelligence. That research will include a range of products from the data center to edge devices, all designed to enable Intel and its customers to innovate faster, according to Intel.

Intel has made strides over the past year to tighten its focus around artificial intelligence through building out its stack of hardware and software offerings.

Months after acquiring Nervana Systems in August, the company in November launched the Nervana platform, which includes comprehensive "deep learning" solutions.

At the same time 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, code-named "Lake Crest," will be tested in the first half of 2017 and be available to customers later in the year. Intel also introduced a new product, code-named "Knights Crest," which will tightly integrate its Intel Xeon processors with technology from Nervana Systems.

Rao, who was the CEO of Nervana Systems, said AI is the next step for companies like Intel to build new products. "I believe this new organization will have a huge impact, not only for Intel, but upon the entire evolving AI space."

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 sees the huge potential in AI and [is] moving mountains to take full advantage of it," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a leading tech analyst firm based in Austin, Tex., in an email. "They have acquired Altera, Nervana Systems and other IP, [they] need to connect to their home-grown IP and now it's time to accelerate the delivery of it. That's where today's organization comes into play, a centralized organization, reporting directly to CEO Brian Krzanich, to make that happen. This is classic organizational strategy, accelerating delivery by organizing a cross-product group directly reporting to the CEO.’