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Pat Gelsinger: Intel Will Be ‘More Ecosystem-Friendly’ Than Nvidia

In his exclusive interview with CRN, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger talks about how Intel’s recent reorganization will give more attention to Intel’s “under-focused” graphics and network businesses, 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.

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Can you elaborate on how the organizational changes with the Data Platform Groups and the formation of the new software and graphics groups will “accelerate” Intel’s execution and innovation? 

As you think about it, for the most part, these three areas were all under the old Data Center Group, and in the middle of it are the cloud and data center, which hey, this is competitive now. There is no confusion on [Datacenter and AI Group Leader] Sandra [Rivera‘s] part. It is cloud, enterprise, data center, deliver the greatest Xeon product line to go be successful in that space, deepen the relationship with the cloud vendors. She has a very, very focused remit of what her assignment is.

Now, when you think about the networking side of it. Unquestionably, we‘ve started to have some very, very nice positions. The IoTG business for us, very successful as you saw [in] the last couple of quarters, very substantial growth rates. We’re the unquestioned leader in areas like ORAN and VRAN for 5G infrastructure and get a very good uptake for that. Our SmartNIC program — the Tofino, Barefoot assets — are starting to get traction, and it‘s simply a rounder inside of the data center business. And I had the opportunity to put maybe one of the most respected leadership innovators driving our network business in Nick McKeown. He’s my neighbor. I kept cajoling him as we took long walks in the woods together: “Quit telling people how to fix the networking industry, come and do it.” If you [had to] pick a more respected leader in networking today, you’ll be hard pressed to find somebody that has more respect, more honors, more recognition than Nick. So I have an under-focused asset because as part of this big thing now with one of the world’s great leaders in this space, wow. These are good, solid business assets for his leadership there, so I’m very excited about that.

On the other side, we simply have not been focused enough on areas like high-performance computing, where we really [need] to let our technology shine in that sense. So moving those [graphics and HPC assets] over to Raja [Koduri], there is a high affinity. GPUs get used in two places predominantly, one in AI training centers inside of cloud, the other is in high-performance computing, so I brought that together under Raja, so he has the integrated graphics, discrete graphics, GPU and HPC assignment. And this is who he is. If you talk to him for more than three minutes, he just drips with these thoughts and ideas. So again, it really was taking two areas that were not getting as much focus inside of the company, bringing key leaders in place who are passionately focused on what we think are just great business opportunities for us.

And then the third play is what we‘ve done with Greg Lavender. And now I have a highly respected software leader running thousands of people that are doing industry-standard software, core reference platform being pulled under a very respected software leader. And some of that was under Raja, some of that was under the Data Center [Group] before, so we’ve now created essentially four organizations that have very, very world-class leaders, specific market assignments in front of them, a good set of assets, and I think we’re going to see pretty tremendous results that come from it. I couldn’t be happier with how it’s taking shape already.

An Intel spokesperson told CRN in August that the RealSense business was being wound down . Looking at Intel's product portfolio, obviously it's changed a lot over the years, and there have been expansions and divestments before you joined as CEO. What is your philosophy for managing Intel's product portfolio when you're making decisions like you did with RealSense? 

What you‘ve seen me do is, I now have six business units, plus one, which I’ll describe in a second. You have the data center business, the client [PC] business, the network [and edge] business, the foundry business, the graphics and HPC business, the autonomy and Mobileye business. Those are my six business units. We’re exiting the NAND business, so that‘s the plus one with the SK Hynix deal.

Simply put, to each of those business leaders, they have a clear market focus. And if the assets fit one of those six business units, then I want to invest in it. If it doesn‘t, then I don’t. Right? And then how do I move out of it? It’s sort of one by one, we’re just going to rationalize everything into those business units. An example would be silicon photonics: Hey, [it’s] going pretty [well], and it’s pretty foundational for where we see the next generation of networking going, so that’s part of the network and edge business unit. You’re going to see us double down in that area. [It] feels pretty good in that respect. Where others, like the RealSense decision: Hey, there [are] some good assets that we can harvest, but it doesn’t fit one of those six business units that I’ve laid out. So we’ll simply be rationalizing all of our assets, all of our investments, all of our resources against those six business unit focuses.

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