Enterprise

Intel just committed to a four-year roadmap for its data center division. Can it deliver?

Intel executives revealed the company’s strategy to regain its dominance in the data center at an event in Dallas, Texas, after years of delays that have allowed competitors to make headway.

An Intel-branded flag waving outside an office building on a sunny day

Intel is going all in on IPUs.

Photo: Intel

Intel executives outlined the company’s data-center strategy for the next year Tuesday, mapping out a four-year plan for its line of infrastructure processors and several new iterations of existing AI chips.

Intel’s foray into what it calls infrastructure processing units (IPUs) follows other efforts by rivals such as Nvidia and AWS: Both recognized that the demands of modern computing require that networking-related tasks run on a dedicated engine that delivers performance beyond what is offered by a CPU or GPU.

For years, cloud computing providers were simply able to buy ever-larger numbers of powerful graphics and processing chips that got more powerful every couple of years. But as it has become more difficult to cram smaller features onto silicon, server designers have looked for other ways to improve performance.

“IPU is a key part of the future data center architecture,” Intel’s head of Ethernet Products Patty Kummrow said in a briefing with reporters ahead of a launch event Tuesday in Dallas, Texas. “We have talked about our data center of the future, [and] we see the IPU as a critical piece to enable all those optimizations and performance performance drivers that our customers see.”

While Nvidia introduced its own data-processing unit in 2020, Intel didn’t immediately embrace the idea, and launched the first iteration of the IPUs last year. Intel designed its first batch of IPUs with Google, and Kummrow cited demand for the chips from financial institutions because of their security requirements. Separating the infrastructure operations from the core computing has made both tasks significantly more efficient, she said.

“We're seeing a lot of demand and applicability for these devices, even beyond the hyperscale data centers all the way out to the edge,” Kummrow said.

That initial IPU project went well enough to prompt Intel to commit to building four generations of IPUs through 2026, and a set of software tools to help run them. The planned products will scale in speed and complexity, and be driven by data-center operator demands for networking performance, Kummrow said.

The Intel IPUs come in two flavors: one that features a programmable chip that customers can update as they see fit, and a second version with a design that’s locked in, created around the purpose-built chip known as an ASIC that Intel designed with Google. Kummrow promised more details about subsequent iterations of the IPU in the future.

“Security and storage are really emerging workloads that are very, very important, and we're really committed to enabling broad adoption for our customers in the cloud service providers, enterprise and beyond that, all the way to the edge,” Kummrow said.

The addition of several generations of IPUs to Intel’s existing portfolio of data-center chips is another sign of CEO Pat Gelsinger’s influence on the company and his multiyear plan to remake the business.

Chip There are two types of new Intel IPUs.Photo: Intel

Prior to Gelsinger’s appointment to the top boss spot, Intel insisted that its CPUs were sufficiently powerful to meet the needs of the modern data-center customer. Committing to at least four years of IPUs indicates the company’s increasing willingness to admit its processors aren’t enough on their own for today’s data centers.

Separately Tuesday, Intel’s Habana AI unit said that it was releasing a new version of its Goya inference and Gaudi training chips. Intel plans to make them with its seven-nanometer manufacturing tech, which will allow Habana to significantly increase their performance by bolstering the subsystems in the accelerators, including adding ethernet integration onto the devices, among other improvements.

“With Gaudi 2, we are leaping all the way to seven nanometer, and we use that to really upgrade all the major subsystems inside that accelerator,” Habana COO Eitan Medina said.

Intel also said it planned to launch a new generation of data-center graphics chips in the third quarter of this year, which are called Arctic Sound-M and include a hardware video encoder.

Intel’s overall data-center business grew at a healthy clip in the first quarter, with revenue rising 22% to $6 billion — though it missed Wall Street expectations. Despite the strong growth and a strong overall market, however, executives noted that supply issues continue to hamper Intel’s ability to fulfill all the orders coming in from cloud computing companies. The company also continues to lose share to rivals such as AMD, according to Jefferies.

Policy

Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Policy

The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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