Contesting An ‘Uncontested’ Nvidia
Intel is making a major, unprecedented push into the graphics space that is putting the chipmaker in more direct competition with Nvidia than ever before, and CEO Pat Gelsinger said one way the company will stand out is by being “much more ecosystem-friendly.”
In his exclusive interview for CRN’s October cover story, Gelsinger framed this support for ecosystems around Intel’s growing portfolio of discrete GPU and AI accelerator products in a few ways.
For one, he said, he doesn’t want to compete with OEM and channel partners by selling purpose-built appliances in the same way that Nvidia does with its DGX lineup of systems for AI, though he didn’t dismiss the idea of building appliances to serve as a blueprint for the wider ecosystem.
“I may need to do some appliances early on to help kickstart the industry, but I‘m going to do it in a way that even when I’m building appliances, it’s sort of like, yeah, yeah, go take my appliance but then get me out of the appliance business,” he said.
Nvidia declined to comment.
Gelsinger also sees Intel being more ecosystem-friendly than Nvidia when it comes to the software that support the underlying components. For Intel, this is centered around oneAPI, a set of toolkits that lets developers use a single programming model for different types of architectures. This includes Intel’s silicon products like CPUs, GPUs and FPGAs as well as products from competitors, like Nvidia’s GPUs.
“Nvidia has become too proprietary, and that‘s widely seen in the industry, and so we’re going to fill out that stack with oneAPI but do it in a way that’s much more favorable and open to the industry and their innovations,” he said.
It’s a tall order to take on Nvidia, which dominates the market for client and server GPUs as it continues to report double-digit growth and record revenues.
But Gelsinger said creating a new, viable alternative to Nvidia is an important mission to him. In fact, he sees Nvidia’s dominance in AI as a bigger threat than the one posed by British chip designer Arm and the new wave of server CPUs it’s enabling.
“The architectural disruption that I‘m more concerned about in the data center is the AI one, not the Arm one, and in that sense, hey, [Intel’s] products are starting to come forward to put pressure on, I’ll say, an uncontested Nvidia,” he said. “Well, they’re going to get contested going forward, because we’re bringing leadership products into that segment.”
In his interview with CRN, Gelsinger talked about how Intel’s recent reorganization will give more attention to Intel’s “under-focused” graphics and network businesses, why he decided to wind down the RealSense business, how Intel plans to win market share from Nvidia and why Intel is looking at building new paid software services and purpose-built systems in the future.