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Intel to acquire AI firm Nervana Systems

Chip maker Intel is to acquire artificial intelligence firm Nervana Systems in a bid to take AI to the next level based on its Xeon and Phi processors

Intel is to acquire artificial intelligence (AI) firm Nervana Systems in a deal reportedly worth more than $400m.

The acquisition is aimed at expanding Intel’s capabilities in the field of AI by tapping into Nervana’s intellectual property and expertise on deep learning algorithms.

“We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimise the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry standard frameworks,” said Diane Bryant, executive vice-president and general manager of the datacentre group at Intel.

“Nervana’s Engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO (total cost of ownership) of our Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors,” she said.

Naveen Rao, CEO and co-founder of Nervana, said with the acquisition, Intel is formally committing to pushing the forefront of AI technologies.  

“Nervana intends to continue all existing development efforts, including the Nervana Neon deep learning framework, Nervana deep learning platform and the Nervana Engine deep learning hardware,” he said.

Although Nervana’s technology and expertise will be incorporated into Intel’s portfolio to take AI to the “next level”, Rao said Nervana will continue to operate out of its San Diego Headquarters and will retain its talent, brand and “startup mentality”.

AI emerges as top trend for security and big firms

News of the acquisition comes just a week after Apple announced it latest AI acquisition with the purchase of machine-leaning company Turi in a deal reportedly worth $200m.

The shift to AI is emerging as a firm trend among companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Toyota and many others seeking to tailor-make and optimise services automatically, according to financial markets news site Seeking Alpha.

AI is also increasingly becoming a focus of cyber security suppliers seeking to automate responses to lighten the load on security teams and enable organisations to respond to attacks at internet speed.

Bryant said AI is central to the opportunity to derive value from the millions of terabytes of data generated by billions of smart, connected computing devices.

“AI is all around us, from the commonplace such as talk-to-text, photo tagging and fraud detection to the cutting edge of precision medicine, injury prediction and autonomous cars,” she said.

“Encompassing compute methods such as advanced data analytics, computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning, artificial intelligence is transforming the way businesses operate and how people engage with the world.”

Read more about artificial intelligence

According to Bryant, Intel processors power more than 97% of servers deployed to support machine learning workloads, with the Intel Xeon processor E5 family being the most widely deployed processor for deep learning inference.

“While less than 10% of servers worldwide were deployed in support of machine learning last year, the capabilities and insights it enables makes machine learning the fastest growing form of AI,” she said.

Bryant said Intel believes that by bringing together its engineers and the Nervan team, they will be able to advance the industry faster than would have otherwise been possible. She said further announcements around AI will be made at the Intel Developer Forum 2016 in San Francisco in August.

Read more on Chips and processor hardware

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