The world's tech giants are expanding and hiring more and more developers in the arms race for data center chips. Intel's AI chip development group, based on the $2 billion acquisition of Israeli startup Habana Labs in December 2019, and Nervana Systems, has announced that it is hiring 400 developers, most of them in Israel but also in the US, Poland and India.
This announcement comes just three weeks after Nvidia announced that it is hiring 600 chip developers in Israel. AI chips are one of the most important components of the future Internet infrastructure, in which smart and autonomous components will enable smart cities to connect everything through G5 fiber optic networks.
Since Intel acquired Habana Labs, the company's work force has already grown from 180 to 800. After the latest expansion the number of employees at Habana Labs will pass the 1,000 threshold.
At the start of 2021, Intel Israel had 13,950 employees including 7,000 in development centers, 4,850 in production fabs and 2,100 at Mobileye, Moovit, and Habana Labs.
Habana Labs chief business officer Eitan Medina told "Globes," that the company is hiring nearly 400 people and expanding quickly. "We are expanding our physical infrastructure and moving to a new three-floor building in Caesarea and a new three-floor location in Tel Aviv. All this is mainly so that we can speed up software development in everything related in urgent support for AI, infrastructures, models, support for all kinds of software packages and of course continuing the processers that we are strenuously moving ahead with." Habana Labs was founded by Avigdor Willenz, founder of chipmaker Galileo, which was sold to Marvell in 2000 for $2.7 billion. He went on to found Annapurna Labs, sold to Amazon in 2015 for $370 million, where today Amazon is developing its AI chips for data centers.
At the end of 2020, Intel and Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced a strategic partnership on AI chips. Habana's chips reportedly have a 40% better cost-performance ration than Nividia's AI chips, Intel's main rival in the sector. Medina said, "AWS controls more than half the world's market for AI in the cloud. They are the largest and significantly the largest. This is a very important opportunity for Intel and Habana Labs processors for AI."
Habana Labs is in the forefront of Intel's efforts to produce AI chips for data centers. Intel is competing in this sector against the five cloud computing giants - Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. These huge data centers are rapidly replacing the small servers in smaller data centers within corporations.
Habana's is not resting on its laurels with its Gaudi and Goya chips and just a better performance of tens of percentage points over its rivals. Medina said, "While Gaudi and Goya, the processors that we have launched and are already deployed in data centers, were produced with 16 nanometer technology, we are already working strenuously on 7 nanometer version that will soon be ready." Medina reports that Intel-Habana, "has business progress and expanding ecosystem and continued expansion in research activities, especially in Israel."
Medina said that the fact that even in 16 nanometer production Intel-Habana's processors have a performance advantage over Nvidia, "shows the architectural advantage. If even with the Gaudi processor produced by16 nanometer, Amazon has announced that it improves the cost-performance ratio in a relatively significant way to the new 7 nanometer GPU processor, then you can imagine that our second generation, produced to the 7 nanometer, will be very attractive. We haven't released dates but it will happen soon."
Habana's chips are not only designed for data center servers but also private cloud servers. Here the competition between the chip companies is more about prestige with the giants proud of their collaborations with research institutes and companies employing AI developers. So Intel for example recently announced collaboration with the supercomputer of SDSC in San Diego, in which it will provide 336 Gaudi processors and 16 Goya processors for building the Voyager supercomputer.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 19, 2021
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