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Intel takes direct aim at Nvidia

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: how Intel plans to strike directly at Nvidia’s data-center business, why the Linux Foundation dropped an SBOM, and this week in enterprise tech moves.

Spin up

It’s not unusual for desktop PC sales to decline sharply in the first quarter of a calendar year, given the usual surge around the holiday shopping season, but according to Mercury Research, normal seasonal patterns and excess inventory led to a 30% drop in desktop PC chip shipments, the worst decline Mercury has ever recorded.

You know what’s cool? $155 billion

GRAPEVINE, Texas — As part of its turnaround plan, Intel placed billions of dollars’ worth of bets on expanding its manufacturing operations, which has received attention from President Biden and federal lawmakers. But the company’s leadership has elected to pursue another, less discussed yet potentially more lucrative opportunity: designing and building the specialized chips that make data centers better at tasks such as AI, video streaming and graphics capabilities.

That effort is being led by veteran chip architect Raja Koduri, who has designed graphics tech for the likes of AMD and Apple. Koduri recently received a promotion to executive vice president of the accelerated computing systems and graphics group, in recognition of the importance of the task ahead for him as well as the role it plays in the company’s plans outlined by CEO Pat Gelsinger.

Koduri spoke with Protocol about Intel’s plans for breaking into the graphics and accelerated computing market.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What exactly is Intel chasing with its graphics and accelerated systems unit?

Accelerated computing and graphics represents a $155 billion [total addressable market] for us by 2026, and we’re taking on a well established giant, Nvidia. It’s also a powerful signal, that, “Hey, Intel is taking it seriously.” Intel had a history of trying to enter these adjacencies, as we used to call them, and not succeeding beyond our CPU core business. Pat has come in and for the first time in the history of Intel, these segments are reporting to the CEO.

What is the size of the opportunity at stake for Intel?

We should look at the overall context of this whole accelerated computing and graphics space. In terms of what’s possible to be accelerated beyond what we have on CPUs, what Nvidia, the market leader, and the rest of us have been able to capture, is less than 10%, maybe even less than that, in terms of the workloads that can be accelerated. So we are in the early stages of acceleration — the market is huge, I say $155 billion TAM, [Nvidia CEO] Jensen [Huang] said $1 trillion TAM.

Alright, so it's potentially a very large amount of business for Intel. How does the company plan to take share?

You’ve got to take a strategy that brings the ecosystem along, it needs to participate in this trillion-dollar TAM. That’s how we made the PC happen, that’s how we made the cloud happen, right? And that’s how I see this whole intelligent era. An open ecosystem, open architecture to this thing is very important, and that is our strategy. That’s the bet we are making in the end, is an ecosystem approach where you bring all your partners along.

How are you deploying your resources to achieve those goals? How do you go about it in general?

There are core technologies, that’s the thing we know for sure. If we have a piece of [intellectual property] that is 5X or 10X better than what we have today and better in measurable, meaningful metrics, such as performance per watt, or performance per dollar, we know, no matter what happens around us, that will be good. So that investment is a no-brainer for me, even if I don’t know exactly what financial impact it’s going to have for the long term.

When you set your target at 1,000X, it becomes super clear what those disruptive technologies will be, that are non-linear. Because 2X in the Moore’s Law world is linear, it is incremental. So if you say 10X — that’s also not a 10-year bet. That’s more of a four-to-six-year bet. And so when things like AI are happening at such a rapid pace, there is also software and algorithmic innovation.

We looked at it and said, if you set your goal as 1,000X, your thinking will be in the right trajectory to pick what is the most important thing.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

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Making SBOMs a thing with developers

If you follow what's going on with open source or cybersecurity, you've probably heard at least a bit about the software bill of materials, or SBOM. If not, just know that its backers think it’s what will save us all when the next apocalyptic open-source vulnerability or supply-chain breach comes around.

The Biden administration has been pushing the idea, along with the Linux Foundation and a subset group, the Open Source Security Foundation. On Thursday the latter two groups announced their master plan for securing the software supply chain as a follow-up to January's White House summit on open-source security.

Unsurprisingly, advancing SBOMs features heavily in the plan, with one initiative focused on making the concept more palatable for developers. For the idea to really catch on, the open-source devs who work early in the supply chain — at the level of libraries and components — must actually get interested in integrating SBOMs, said Brian Behlendorf, general manager of the Open Source Security Foundation.

"They'll only do that if it's a part of the tooling that they use, if it helps them get their code to more people," Behlendorf said during a news conference today. To start, he said, the new effort will involve funding developers to build a reusable library, which will aim to make SBOM adoption easier for developers through integrating with popular dev tools.

The Open Source Software Security Mobilization Plan announced today includes 10 different efforts in all. Others will focus on boosting education around secure software development, establishing a risk assessment dashboard for open-source components and launching an "open source security incident response team." The initial phases of the plan will be funded with $30 million pledged by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Intel, VMware and Ericsson.

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

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Enterprise moves

Over the past week Cloudflare and Dataiku added new executives as DataRobot lost more employees and Apple had a high-profile exit in its AI department.

Carlos Torales Montero is VP and head of Sales for Latin America at Cloudflare. Montero previously held sales leadership roles at Cisco and Avaya.

Abhi Madhugiri joined Dataiku as global VP of Technology Alliances. Madhugiri was formerly senior director of Global Business Development and Alliances for DataRobot.

Ian Goodfellow, head of Apple’s machine-learning department, resigned. Goodfellow previously worked at Google and OpenAI, and has not announced where he is heading next.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Zoom acquired Solvvy, a company that offers a “conversational AI and automation platform for customer support,” for an undisclosed amount as it attempts to find its next big source of growth in contact-center applications.

At its Build conference later this month, Microsoft will talk about a new service called “Project Haven” that will allow edge computing devices running Windows to also run Kubernetes, according to ZDNet.

Snap acquired the team behind KeyDB, an open-source database pitched as “a faster alternative to Redis” that the company will use to improve performance across its apps.

Appian was awarded $2 billion in a trade-secrets theft case filed against Pegasystems, which was found to have paid a contractor to get access to Appian’s systems.

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