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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.

When you announced that your new graphics business unit would be called the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, it brought to mind what Nvidia is doing with DGX , its line of purpose-built AI systems that run on the chipmaker’s GPUs. I know Intel has traditionally sold servers at lower levels of integration, but does Intel have any interest in building its own purpose-built systems for accelerated computing like Nvidia does with DGX?  

Will we do some systems offers? Well, we already are with what we‘re doing with Habana Labs as we’re bringing those offerings to the marketplace. Will we do more? Probably so in that respect. But if we go back to the answer to the earlier question, I largely want to be an enabler of the ecosystem, not a competitor to the ecosystem. And historically, if you go way back in time, one of the programs I ran very early on after taking over the [Digital] Enterprise Group at Intel was the industry-standard server definition. Well, the industry-standard server became the platform for Xeon, became the building block for every data center, became the building block for the cloud, and we wouldn’t have the cloud today had we not done the industry-standard server definition.

And in the early days of that, we delivered servers: here‘s the box, here’s the reference design, here’s the BIOS, here’s the APIs, here’s the toolkit to go with it. And today, we don’t deliver servers [like Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise does]. We have a vibrant set of industry partners that deliver the platforms [while Intel sells white-box server systems].

What are we doing in OpenRAN [for 5G infrastructure]? Again, we‘ve gotten highly prescriptive with the definition of what the platform is, building it out, what’s required for 5G, how do you do massive MIMO acceleration and quality of service and all these other type of things that go into it. And should I deliver that as an Intel-branded product or not? Well, for the most part, we’re enabling our ecosystem to do that. Again, we go and standardize it.

So when I think about things like DGX, my general philosophy is do the same thing. Define the system, build the system, get the early market going but then enable a rich ecosystem to do it. And I think ultimately that is the partner-friendly thing to do in that regard. Some of it’s OEM-friendly. Some of it’s partner-friendly as well. But I think in that regard, you‘ll see our strategy contrast with what Nvidia is doing to be much more ecosystem-friendly in our approach.

So you would see such offerings as more of a reference design as opposed to an appliance? 

Yeah. Now that doesn‘t mean to get the reference design ball established, hey, 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. Because those are areas that we see the breadth and innovative aspects of the ecosystem do. Do I think I’m ever going to do the high-end training system appliance for the Chinese market? No, I don’t, at that level, and I’m going to lean on my partners in that respect. Do I think this is an area that Dell or [Hewlett Packard Enterprise] is going to be a good leader in over time? Yeah, I do, and I have to enable and help them do that.

 
Learn More: CPUs-GPUs
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