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

Dylan Martin

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.

What does Intel need to do to win GPU market share from Nvidia in segments like gaming, AI and high-performance computing? 

Deliver great products. Period. Full stop. Nvidia had essentially a 10x or better performance leadership for a decade. If you have that, a 10x leadership for 10 years, people are going to take advantage of that. And then they got really lucky: AI happens. A 30-year overnight success, and they harvested it really well at that point. So they worked hard, they earned and then they got lucky in that respect.

So what do we have to do? Deliver great products in those segments. [They have to have] compelling features, performance, power at the right price points with the right software capabilities to go with them. And the market‘s hungry for us to deliver them an alternative. We need to then deliver it with unique, differentiated value-add. If [a customer comes] in and says, “Hey, they’re delivering 100 [tera operations per second] and you’re delivering 100 TOPS, why would we want to work with Intel? I already got this one over here.”

Well, we better show up with some differentiation to our strategy. And in the GPU business, we go to the customer and we say, “Well, guess what, we just happen to be the unquestioned leader in integrated graphics. You already qualify all of our stuff all the time for every unit that you‘re going to ship, and we’re going to make it seamless to go from integrated to discrete on the Intel platform. And even better than that, we’re going to make integrated and discrete work together. So if you have three [execution units] worth in the integrated [GPU], then you have 10 EUs worth in the discrete, we’re going to give you 13 EUs worth, and you’re only going to buy 10 EUs worth in the discrete GPU, and you’re going to qualify one product that [works] seamlessly between those two.” Well, that’s pretty differentiated. And that’s just one example.

But you have to deliver great products. They have to be clean, well validated, supported by ISVs, etc., create some differentiation and value and then build on our great channel partners and the programs that we have with them, our strong OEM presence — and we‘re going start to see the market respond very favorably to that. And you go segment by segment. Similarly, in the AI training space, customers, hey, they want an alternative at this point. They’re begging for a good alternative at this point, and we’re going to give them one. And in that, we have our Habana Labs' Gaudi instances now going live on [Amazon Web Services], and we‘re starting to get the first customers turned on. We’ll have more of the HPC GPU solutions [like Ponte Vecchio] coming forward to the marketplace. And over time, I‘ll say, we view those as the breakthroughs as we start to establish those presences, we just got some really cool stuff on the horizon that [will make] people go, “Oh, this thing got some sizzle to it as well.”

Intel oneAPI has been positioned as kind of the answer to what Nvidia has done with CUDA , except instead of dealing with just the GPU, it also interfaces with the CPU and other components. Does oneAPI have what it take to steal mindshare away from CUDA in the developer ecosystem?  

Think about it this way: oneAPI goes much lower in the stack than CUDA does. And CUDA today, it goes higher in the stack than oneAPI does. So to some degree, they‘re overlapping, but they clearly have discrete areas of capabilities between those. And what you’ll see us do is we will take oneAPI to the top of that stack. So we’ll fill it in, and we’re also going to be very aggressively embracing the open standards of the industry, like PyTorch, like oneDNN, other things like that, because deep in the Intel historical philosophy [are] open interfaces, open APIs, open standards from the days of Wi-Fi, PCIe and USB, etc. You will see us be the stalwart for those open ecosystems in the industry. 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.

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