Intel's China-optimized AI processors purportedly move closer to launch — mysterious Gaudi2C chips show up in new Linux drivers

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel has added support for an unannounced Gaudi2C accelerator for artificial intelligence workloads to its Linux drivers, reports Phoronix. The difference between the Gaudi2C and the original Gaudi2 is unknown, though it's likely that we are dealing with a specialized version of the unit — possibly a 'limited' variant to meet the U.S. export restrictions on hardware destined for China.

The Linux updates provide little information about the Gaudi2C device, only revealing that it shares its core identity with the Gaudi2. That's the default AI accelerator that Intel sells to a widespread customer base in the U.S., Europe, and many other markets. The Gaudi2C is distinguished by a PCI revision ID of '3' and follows identical driver code paths as both the Gaudi2 and Gaudi2B variants.

The latter is likely the Gaudi 2 HL-225B variant with cut-down number of links that Intel introduced for Chinese market in July, 2024. Meanwhile, since the unit features the same performance level as the regular version, Intel can no longer sell it to Chinese entities due to export rules imposed in mid-November. As a result, Intel now needs to offer another cut-down version of Gaudi2 tailored for China. It's possible the Gaudi2C is exactly that variant, or perhaps it's a model for other markets and/or workloads.

It's noteworthy that Intel's updates to the Linux kernel 6.8 primarily concentrate on the Habana Labs driver for Gaudi. These updates include user-space API changes and various bug fixes. The Gaudi2 driver has evolved from being "pretty much stable" to "very stable," showcasing Intel's focus on consistent improvement and reliability in its hardware support, notes Phoronix.

Intel's Gaudi2 accelerators for AI workloads are gradually gaining popularity, particularly among clients who run inference workloads, Intel has stated multiple times at recent events. At present the company is finalizing its Gaudi3 accelerator that is set to quadruple the BF16 performance compared to Gaudi2 sometime next year. Curiously (we've looked!), we can't seem to find any detailed specifications listing the current Gaudi2 TFLOPS, but Intel's Gaudi2 benchmarks look pretty impressive.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.