Intel Breaks Up Graphics Group, Raja Koduri Moves Back to Chief Architect Role

Intel
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel announced today that it would split its AXG graphics group to separately address the gaming and data center markets by placing it under two other business units. Raja Koduri, currently the Executive Vice President of the AXG business unit, will return to his previous role as an Intel Chief Architect:

Discrete graphics and accelerated computing are critical growth engines for Intel. With our flagship products now in production, we are evolving our structure to accelerate and scale their impact and drive go-to-market strategies with a unified voice to customers. This includes our consumer graphics teams joining our client computing group, and our accelerated computing teams joining our datacenter and AI group. In addition, Raja Koduri will return to the Intel Chief Architect role to focus on our growing efforts across CPU, GPU and AI, and accelerating high priority technical programs.”

We spoke with Intel, and the company assures us that it remains fully committed to its existing roadmap of Arc consumer discrete GPUs, meaning it intends to launch the second-gen Battlemage and third-gen Celestial gaming GPUs as planned. Those GPUs will join the recently launched Alchemist series, which will also continue to be supported.

Intel’s Raja Koduri led AXG but will now return to his previous role as an Intel Chief Architect. Koduri will work on high-performance technical programs with an eye on driving the integration of GPU, CPU, and AI architectures, a key initiative considering products like Falcon Shores and Intel’s Zettascale ambitions.

Koduri assumed his current position as leader of AXG last year, but the new role sounds similar to his original position when he arrived at Intel in 2017 after a five-year stint at AMD (and a short hiatus). As Koduri shared on Twitter yesterday, he is currently recovering from an unplanned back surgery in India and will remain there for a month before he returns to work.

The new alignment places the consumer-focused portion of the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit under Intel’s Client Compute Group (CCG). Intel’s CCG is responsible for developing consumer computing platforms around the company’s CPU products. Lisa Pearce, most known for her work leading the GPU teams’ software and driver divisions, will lead the AXG unit that slots in under CCG. Pearce will report to Michelle Johnston Holthaus, the current head of CCG.

The teams responsible for data center and supercomputing GPUs, like the Ponte Vecchio and Rialto Bridge products, will move to the Data Center and AI (DCAI) business unit. The GPU SoC and IP design teams will also fall under the DCAI umbrella, but they will continue to support the client graphics team. Jeff McVeigh, currently the VP & GM of the Super Compute Group, will serve as the interim leader of this AXG team as Intel searches for a permanent leader. McVeigh will report to the current head of DCAI, Sandra Rivera.

In Q1 of this year, Intel reorganized its financial reporting into six business units. Despite the hierarchical adjustments, AXG will continue to report its revenue as one of the six Intel business units in the upcoming January earnings call.

Naturally, this realignment of the GPU group will raise concerns that Intel plans to sunset its consumer gaming GPU business. The bar for a new GPU maker is high — Intel is the first new discrete GPU player in 25 years — and it’s no secret that the Arc gaming GPUs arrived to market later than expected, so they face a tough competitive environment that finds them trailing Nvidia and AMD’s products and unable to take a place among the best GPUs. Much of that disparity has been blamed on lackluster launch-day drivers, but that has improved in recent months. The market conditions also aren’t favorable because of a GPU oversupply that comes after several years of crypto-driven shortages.

These factors have all contributed to a recent wave of speculation that claimed Intel would axe the consumer GPU division. Still, the company tells us it remains fully committed to its existing and future lineup of gaming graphics cards. In addition, Pat Gelsinger has communicated a long-term desire to develop GPUs, recently saying, “When I left Intel 12 years ago, it was the only major 'not done' on my list of things that I wanted to finish. Well, I’m back, and we are now going to get it done” during his announcement of the launch of the company’s Arc gaming GPUs.

Intel says its consumer GPU teams are now fully engaged in getting Battlemage finished and released. Considering the delays with Alchemist, we could potentially see Arc B-series (Battlemage) release as early as 2023.

However, Intel's Tom Petersen has avoided giving any firm release details, stating that it "learned its lesson" with the initial Arc rollout. While the Arc A770, A750, and A380 had a rough launch, things have improved, but, at best, they still compete with products that came out two years ago. There’s plenty of speculation that Battlemage could be the make-or-break point for Intel's consumer GPU division, and it's reasonable to think it could be tough for Intel to justify continued investment if it doesn’t reach an inflection point in the near future.

Despite the seeming uncertainty surrounding Intel’s gaming GPU business, there's no doubt that the company’s data center and HPC-geared GPUs will remain a key strategic asset to address the AI market. Data centers are the land of high margins, and supercomputers have been opting for increased numbers of GPUs over CPUs for some time. As such, Intel needs a competitive data center GPU solution to compete with the likes of Nvidia and AMD, and the underlying IP to power future architectures like Falcon Shores.

Paul Alcorn
Deputy Managing Editor

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • -Fran-
    I hate to say it, but Tom from MLID wasn't wrong. At least, not yet. Splitting a division is not a good sign, no matter how they try to spin it and try make everyone drink the koolaid. Credit's due when it is.

    As for the news itself... Well, as long as Intel keeps bringing GPUs with some sort of cadence and can compete, I think we all benefit. So that's good. As for the split, as mentioned above, well, whatever they need to do to keep the division afloat, I guess? I can't help but think this is starting to feel like a "division write-off". I hope I'm wrong and so is Tom (from MLID).

    Regards.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    Intel is setting up roadmap for selling off consumer graphics.

    Raja is smart, but a poor leader/manager.
    Reply
  • tommo1982
    Intel GPU's are fine. What they need is 120-150W card. A750 and A770 are too expensive and over my power budget. A380 is no better than my RX570. Intel needs to work on the drivers and a card between A750 and A380.
    Reply
  • Co BIY
    Are the needs/requirements of discrete consumer graphics and datacenter/AI accelerators converging or diverging ?

    I can see that having a big effect on whether Intel finds it worthwhile to stay in the consumer space. If the development and production of discrete can no longer ride the coattails of the commercial space then the whole market segment may disappear.


    I think that Intel won't be that effective in changing the graphics marketplace unless they are using their own manufacturing processes and bringing their enormous production capabilities to bear behind the product. That would seem to be their competitive advantage and a way to profitability.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    Sadly that comes up against opportunity cost. They can make more CPUs at a known profit margin, or make GPUs at break even or losses.

    I did my part. I put up with my A380 everyday. Now if I can just get it to stop giving me internet connectivity notifications, I will be happy. If the WiFi drops out for so little time that I don't notice it, I really don't need to be told it has reconnected.

    Going to dig through the registry later and see if I can't kill it off, nothing else has seemed to work.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Eximo said:
    Sadly that comes up against opportunity cost. They can make more CPUs at a known profit margin, or make GPUs at break even or losses.
    But..economics of scale?! If they make a larger number of GPUs they will be cheaper as a whole to produce so they would make money from them?!
    Also the market for CPUs is not infinite, there are only so many CPUs being bought each year.
    Let alone that FTC laws probably forbid them from flooding the market with enough CPUs to cover 100% of the need.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    digitalgriffin said:
    Raja is smart, but a poor leader/manager.
    What makes you say that? Look how good things ended up for RTG! Now AXG is following in it's footsteps. :sneaky:

    I'm not sure anyone would by the consumer graphics division, though, or if Intel would sell it. I mean, Intel will for sure keep doing integrated graphics. Maybe this will eventually not be such a huge cost sink. Maybe. But without the Intel resources and the R&D happening for data center, I don't see that Intel's consumer GPUs would be worth much. You'd maybe get the jump start plus Battlemage, but unlike Intel, whatever company bought this probably wouldn't have as many cross licensing agreements.
    Reply
  • cyrusfox
    -Fran- said:
    I hate to say it, but Tom from MLID wasn't wrong.
    Neither can anyone claim he is right yet. Let me know when they exit discrete Consumer space. I see Tom continuing to argue that Intel isn't competing at the high end and thus they have given up...

    It won't be too much longer to find out what the future looks like for Intel graphics. Especially with GPU annual cadence. Will we see Celestial in 2024? Druid in 2025? Battlemage from the rumors seems to be coming 2023. Hopefully all future Intel GPUs benefit from the current driver optimization work and I expect they can feed these newer GPU's better than GCN Radeons HD 5850 which Alchemist Arc currently matches(Link)... Thats the big issue not many are talking about.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    TerryLaze said:
    But..economics of scale?! If they make a larger number of GPUs they will be cheaper as a whole to produce so they would make money from them?!
    Also the market for CPUs is not infinite, there are only so many CPUs being bought each year.
    Let alone that FTC laws probably forbid them from flooding the market with enough CPUs to cover 100% of the need.

    Considering these are already mass produced, I'm not sure there is much margin left to gain from producing more. See EVGA.

    More fab time they consume, more opportunity cost as well, that doesn't just go away. And when purchasing it, even worse, fab can charge more because they have more customers than capacity.

    The market for CPUs may not be infinite, but that represents their highest technology fabs, and they are already full. Just as TSMC is not having any trouble keeping 7/6/5nm nodes pumping 24/7. If it were still competitive, Intel could use their older 14nm fabs to make GPUs, but they would also be pretty costly since a lot of other Intel products are made there.

    I don't think the FTC would get involved unless Intel did severe undercutting to kill their competitors. Simply making more of something won't hurt AMD directly. As long as the alternative is there, it isn't a monopoly. (Not to mention that I would argue there are options outside of x86) It also wouldn't displace existing orders and fabrication over night.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    -Fran- said:
    I hate to say it, but Tom from MLID wasn't wrong. At least, not yet. Splitting a division is not a good sign, no matter how they try to spin it and try make everyone drink the koolaid.
    They split it to merge them back into more market-focused units. Intel's consumer graphics division isn't going away anytime soon since Intel needs them for their IGPs regardless of what happens to discrete.
    Reply