Intel today announced that it acquired Habana Labs for $2 billion to "accelerate the delivery of best-in-class [artificial intelligence] products for the data center."
This acquisition happened relatively early in Habana Labs' existence. The company emerged from stealth in September 2018 with a new chip, Goya, made specifically for deep learning inference workflows. Goya was said to offer improved performance over the GPUs many companies relied on for their AI work.
Intel said in the announcement that Habana has another chip, the Gaudi AI Training Processor, that is "currently sampling with select hyperscale customers." Training systems based on Gaudi are "expected to deliver up to a 4x increase in throughput versus systems built with the equivalent number of GPUs," the company said.
The acquisition doesn't come as a complete surprise--reports indicated that Intel was interested in buying Habana Labs earlier this month. Intel's acquired other AI companies in recent years, too, including the likes of Movidius and Nervana. This acquisition is a continued investment in AI, not a sudden pivot into the sector.
That sector continues to grow. Intel said that it expects to generate "over $3.5 billion in AI-driven revenue, up more than 20% year-over-year," in 2019. It also predicted that the "nascent, fast-growing AI silicon market" targeted by Habana Labs will be worth "greater than $25 billion by 2024." So a $2 billion acquisition makes sense.
Here's what the company said this deal means for Habana Labs:
Habana will remain an independent business unit and will continue to be led by its current management team. Habana will report to Intel’s Data Platforms Group, home to Intel’s broad portfolio of data center class AI technologies. This combination gives Habana access to Intel AI capabilities, including significant resources built over the last three years with deep expertise in AI software, algorithms and research that will help Habana scale and accelerate. [...] Habana chairman Avigdor Willenz has agreed to serve as a senior adviser to the business unit as well as to Intel. Habana will continue to be based in Israel where Intel also has a significant presence and long history of investment.