Do not take the Intel portfolio for granted. Not for one second. Sure, Intel products are present everywhere in our digitalised world. But this company is way more than silicon, hardware, and software.
Not long ago, Intel introduced customisable silicon (such a win for their customers) and rapid-deployment options like Intel® Select Solutions pre-verified configurations of hardware and software. Now, the conversation has turned to the built-in AI acceleration on the newest 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors; quite the incredible AI-infused, data-intensive digital solution.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Lisa Spelman, Corporate Vice President, Data Platforms Group, General Manager Xeon and Memory Group at Intel Corporation who has an incredibly comprehensive view over the whole data-centric story. She is not only native to Portland, she’s also practically native to Intel, having worked for and managed dozens of different aspects of the company throughout her career. You’ll find a link at the end of this post to my podcast conversation with her.
Our conversation started off paying homage to the global Intel base. As a company, they recognised the gravity of the pandemic early on and immediately began work on high-performance computing infrastructure for genome sequencing of the virus, partnering with labs in China to get, as Lisa put it, a “head start on understanding what we’re dealing with.” Intel has since dug in, in every way possible, from a $50 USD million pandemic technology fund to helping virtual ICUs scale, to sponsoring employee innovations designed to combat the virus and protect communities.
And even though most of Intel’s 100,000+ employee base is still working from home, they’ve managed to launch new tech significant enough that it is changing the way organisations do business.
As Lisa explained, “When you look at the different challenges behind each use case, it comes down to, I have a movement challenge. I have a storage challenge. I have a processing challenge.” Technology should not be holding back enterprise, cloud service providers or network infrastructure customers. “We fundamentally see that every workload across that data pipeline is going to have artificial intelligence either built into the application or fundamentally as a cornerstone of the service being delivered by our customers.”
“We have to add artificial intelligence, acceleration and capabilities into our processor products.” She said. And so, they did. During the pandemic.
For the full launch details, follow the links at the end of the post. The highlights include:
● 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors with built-in AI acceleration and bfloat16 instruction support
● Intel® Stratix® 10 FX FPGAs
● Next-generation high capacity SSDs with 3D NAND technology
● Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit
As Lisa was talking, I kept thinking about how we used to have to offload memory processing to faster components – and now, they’re bringing all that right back into the core platform. They don’t have to move the data on and off the chip to do the analytics. This is such a significant pivot, it’s going to change the way we approach data processing and analytics, particularly as we move toward the edge.
Lisa agrees. “Artificial intelligence as a component of workloads is becoming pervasive.” Even projects that aren’t AI-centric still have AI capability built-in to improve performance. So, “having your hardware foundation capable of artificial intelligence acceleration gives you fundamentally better performance and some future-proofing for the next couple of years,” Lisa says.
The launch itself is practically a portfolio – it’s not one thing or a cluster of things, it’s new capabilities, some of which get very specific, down to the sub-vertical. But the recurring theme is accelerating AI workloads, managing vast data quantities, and better enabling edge compute.
Built-in AI accelerated 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors
Bfloat16 on the new 3rd Gen Xeon processors adjust the numerical format to provide the same ranges as FP32, but with half the bits, while maintaining similar accuracy in AI workloads. They cut the data movement and storage in half. And what it does for the Intel® Optane™ persistent memory? Twenty-five percent higher bandwidth for data analytics. Think about my other podcasts with Intel partners Siemens and Honeywell, where breakthroughs have happened on the prior gen Optane, and just imagine what will happen now.
Intel has enabled the 3rd Gen Xeon processor with artificial intelligence capabilities. To say this is a game changer is to grossly underestimate how much this will change the way we can now make everyday functions work. It also changes the who. Intel is enabling people without PhDs in AI or ML to leverage these capabilities; they just need to know how to call the APIs or use the libraries that Intel has built.
Now think about the “where.” “People sometimes mistakenly think of the edge as very low-end compute,” Lisa says. “But there’s a lot of pretty heavy compute happening at the edge… and we see opportunity for expansion.” Faster compute with lower latency and faster persistent memory will allow more processes to run with greater assurance of success. Things like autonomous vehicles that won’t get green-lit until they can pass safety tests with 9.9999 degrees of reliability.
Of course, the compute isn’t all moving to the edge – I see a fun challenge ahead of keeping enough intelligence at the edge where the devices and data are but at the same time bringing back relevant data where it can be used centrally by other systems and tools.
I want to thank Lisa, her team and all the folks at Intel for making this interview possible. Please tune in to the conversation at the link below and use the other resources to learn more about the technology and innovations we discussed.
- [#podcast] Conversations With Dez – with Lisa Spelman, VP & GM Xeon Products & Data Center Marketing, Intel
- [#podcast] Conversations with Dez: Tim Baker, Global Director of Marketing & Product Management of Commercial Security Products at Honeywell
- [#podcast] Conversations with Dez: Peter Shen, VP Business Development Digital Health, Siemens Healthineers