Intel offers customized AI processors to China, backed by major Chinese AI server providers

Amanda Liang, Taipei; Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

As the US seeks to tighten export controls on AI chips to China, Intel held a press conference in Beijing on July 11, announcing the launch of the deep learning processor Habana Gaudi 2 in the Chinese market. This processor can be used to accelerate AI training and inference tasks. Chinese AI server giants, such as Inspur, New H3C, and xFusion, are expected to release server products featuring the Gaudi 2 processor.

According to Chinese media, Intel's Gaudi 2 was already introduced in the European and American markets in May 2022. Habana also collaborated with American company Supermicro to launch the Supermicro Gaudi 2 AI training server system in the second half of 2022.

A customized version of the AI processor for the Chinese market is also planned in order to meet regulatory requirements. Chen Baoli, vice president of Intel Data Center and AI Group and general manager of China. Chen mentioned that during the period of introducing Gaudi 2 to China, Intel also optimized the software-level iterative computing capability to address the current trend of large language models (LLM).

According to data from China-based Pacific Securities, Inspur alone held a 37% market share in the Chinese AI server market in 2022, while New H3C had 8%, and with the joint efforts of xFusion, they are promoting Intel's customized AI processor. This shows that Intel's Gaudi 2 is making every effort to compete in the Chinese market, aiming to provide an alternative option to Nvidia.

However, although Intel's Gaudi 2 has been introduced in the European and American markets for over a year, there have been no reports of large-scale adoption. Meanwhile, Intel might be able to addess the current gap in AI computing power in China.

According to Sandra L. Rivera, Intel's executive vice president and general manager of the Data Center and AI Group, Gaudi 2 is the most efficient product in Intel's product portfolio for LLM workloads. Intel will also further update its data center product roadmap and plans to integrate high-performance AI chips with GPUs to launch a more comprehensive next-generation GPU product by 2025.

Habana was originally an Israeli startup chip company established in 2016. Its products have entered major Chinese internet companies. After Intel's acquisition of Habana for US$2 billion in December 2019, it obtained the Gaudi accelerator product. Prior to the acquisition, Habana's Gaudi processor was already familiar to major Chinese internet and cloud service providers.