Today Intel announced plans to acquire startup Nervana Systems as part of an effort to bolster the company’s artificial intelligence capabilities. Based in San Diego, Nervana will help develop Intel’s artificial intelligence portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance of Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors.
Nervana has a fully-optimized software and hardware stack for deep learning,” said Intel’s Diane Bryant in a blog post. “Their IP and expertise in accelerating deep learning algorithms will expand Intel’s capabilities in the field of AI. We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimize the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry standard frameworks. Nervana’s Engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO of our Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors.”
While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Nervana Co-Founder & CEO Naveen Rao writes that the company benefitted from being an early-mover in the machine learning space:
“Nervana started with the idea that we can engineer better solutions for computation by bringing together computer engineering, neuroscience, and machine learning. Amir Khosrowshahi and I brought this idea to Bruno Olshausen (Amir’s PhD advisor) before founding Nervana. Bruno said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Do it. Do it now! You might already be too late.” This was the catalyst that pushed us over the edge to pursue the idea fully. We’re proud to say that in just 2.5 years, we pushed the performance envelope in deep learning and will soon have a revolutionary new architecture to push it even further.”
Will Nervana be able to continue innovating as part of the world’s largest chipmaker? Rao says indeed it will:
We’ve always been a mission driven company. Even though we won’t be a startup any longer, our mission hasn’t changed: we are here to make a dent in the world of computation. With this deal, we can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing. We’ll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural. The semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity’s crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world. Nervana’s AI expertise combined with Intel’s capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realize our vision and create something truly special.”