Startup spotlight: Habana Labs’ AI chips

By William Smith
AI is perhaps the most overused buzzword of all, bandied about so much as to dilute its power. Tel Aviv’s Habana Labs, however, resists that by profes...

AI is perhaps the most overused buzzword of all, bandied about so much as to dilute its power. Tel Aviv’s Habana Labs, however, resists that by professing a narrow focus on providing artificially intelligent processors for data centres.

Founded in 2016, the Israeli company has just received a huge vote of confidence from US-based semiconductor giant Intel, who have acquired the company for a cool $2bn. Providing reasoning for its purchase, the company cited the fast growing market for AI silicon, which it expects to be worth over $25bn by 2024.

Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Data Platforms Group at Intel said: “This acquisition advances our AI strategy, which is to provide customers with solutions to fit every performance need – from the intelligent edge to the data center. More specifically, Habana turbo-charges our AI offerings for the data center with a high-performance training processor family and a standards-based programming environment to address evolving AI workloads.”

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Intel has bolstered its own AI capabilities with the purchase. One of the company’s offerings for data centres, its Xeon Scalable processors, already features “Deep Learning Boost” technology, which it says improves the speed of making inferences from data. Habana’s Goya technology is purpose-built for the same task, capable, the company says, of processing 15,453 images per second. Its other product, Gaudi is said to offer a 4x increase in training throughput compared to equivalent GPU-based systems.

“We have been fortunate to get to know and collaborate with Intel given its investment in Habana, and we’re thrilled to be officially joining the team,” said David Dahan, CEO of Habana. “Intel has created a world-class AI team and capability. We are excited to partner with Intel to accelerate and scale our business. Together, we will deliver our customers more AI innovation, faster.”

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