South Korean Search giant Naver pivots away from Nvidia – Samsung will supply $752 million in AI chips instead

Naver building in South Korea
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Naver, owner of South Korea's largest search platform and various related services (some AI-powered), has decided to order its next $752 million in AI chips from Samsung rather than Nvidia. This news, as reported by KED Global, follows Naver's October 2023 pivot from Nvidia GPUs to Intel CPUs, and shows that Naver is doing all it can to reduce its reliance on Nvidia, the current leader in the AI hardware space.

Reportedly, Samsung's Mach-1 AI chips are going to be used with Naver's servers for its AI map service, Naver Place. Samsung's Mach-1 AI chips were revealed earlier this week to be set for an early 2025 launch, though this partnership suggests Naver will be getting them before anyone else. 

By supplying up to two million Mach-1 AI accelerators to Naver by the end of the year, Samsung could net up to a full $752 million. News of the Naver-Samsung deal has also caught the ear of other major tech companies, including the likes of Microsoft and Meta, according to KED Global.

By making these changes, it seems that Naver hopes to maximize its performance per dollar to remain competitive with its AI-powered map service. As long as the Samsung Mach-1 chips perform closely enough to the previous Nvidia H100 chips being used, their dramatically lower price ("a tenth of Nvidia's" says an unnamed industry source) and better power efficiency should make this a winning choice. Of course, it's probably also a good PR story for the nation and both companies to have South Korea's largest company providing the next-gen silicon for South Korea's largest search provider.

Previously, we've seen that even Intel CPUs can serve as a viable platform for certain AI workloads. Since Naver has already utilized Intel CPUs for its Naver Map software, it makes sense that the company isn't all-in on Nvidia. Samsung's Mach-1 is an AI accelerator with an SoC design that combines Samsung's own processors and LPDDR memory chips, which supposedly reduces bottlenecks and power consumption, according to industry sources mentioned in KED's reporting.

While this news seems promising for Samsung, only time will tell whether or not ITs Mach-1 AI chips are a valid replacement for Nvidia's H100 AI accelerators. In any case, it seems that big companies looking to deploy massive amounts of AI hardware are yearning for more alternatives to Nvidia's near-monopoly— and a recent ban on CUDA translation layers clearly isn't going to win over new fans for Nvidia.

Freelance News Writer
  • dalek1234
    I wonder if they are considering MI300. Not mentioned here, but if you are trying to move away from Nvidia, MI300 a good replacement and it's cheaper.
    Reply
  • edzieba
    Mach-1 is designed for Inference acceleration. Nvidia's x100 chips are designed for Training acceleration.
    Whilst both under the umbrella of "AI", both are different workloads. You can do inference on H100s if you want (if all you have is a hammer...), but they're overbuilt for that, so if you're building out inference capacity for the models you've trained then they're a poor choice compared to cheaper options. On the other hand, inference accelerators - like Mach-1, MTIA, the 'AI cores' in AMD, Intel and ARM CPUs, etc - are a terrible choice if you want to train models.
    Reply
  • M0rtis
    Looks like everyone is scrambling to get a slice of Nvidia's pie or to get out from under their thumb. I doubt they will have any serious competition for the next 3-4 years atleast.
    Reply
  • JTWrenn
    The fact that the first big orderer that went to Samsung is also a South Korean company makes me think this was likely more an inside trade thing than anything else. Close companies often do things like this, and South Korea is very insular when it comes to the large corps. Kind of makes sense.

    That being said the "if performance is as good as expected" part is a little weird. You made an order this large without knowing that?
    Reply
  • watzupken
    M0rtis said:
    Looks like everyone is scrambling to get a slice of Nvidia's pie or to get out from under their thumb. I doubt they will have any serious competition for the next 3-4 years atleast.
    It is not healthy to have 1 company that monopolized the market. And clearly, Nvidia is not shy to abuse their position by charging whatever they want.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    JTWrenn said:
    The fact that the first big orderer that went to Samsung is also a South Korean company makes me think this was likely more an inside trade thing than anything else. Close companies often do things like this, and South Korea is very insular when it comes to the large corps. Kind of makes sense.

    That being said the "if performance is as good as expected" part is a little weird. You made an order this large without knowing that?
    This is increasingly becoming the case. Every nation is trying to not rely on one another. The point is if you rely on a US tech company and you don't play ball with them, that "privilege" may be removed and you are left in limbo.

    To your second point, there must be some testing/ proof of concept to validate that the product is performing within expectation and for them to make that statement. In any case, Samsung is a known and reputable brand, so I think it is fair for local Korean companie to also buy from Samsung.
    Reply
  • renz496
    dalek1234 said:
    I wonder if they are considering MI300. Not mentioned here, but if you are trying to move away from Nvidia, MI300 a good replacement and it's cheaper.
    Probably not. This move most likely to prioritize SK own company and as other commenter said to be less reliant on foreign company like USA.
    Reply
  • JTWrenn
    watzupken said:
    This is increasingly becoming the case. Every nation is trying to not rely on one another. The point is if you rely on a US tech company and you don't play ball with them, that "privilege" may be removed and you are left in limbo.

    To your second point, there must be some testing/ proof of concept to validate that the product is performing within expectation and for them to make that statement. In any case, Samsung is a known and reputable brand, so I think it is fair for local Korean companie to also buy from Samsung.
    Oh nothing wrong with it, just something that I think we should take as a bit of a grain of salt in comparing actual performance because of all the other reasons to go local.
    Reply