The opportunity is significant, according to Intel's Bryant. The vendor's Xeon E5 chip is the most widely used processor in systems for deep learning inference, and the latest Xeon Phi 7200 "Knights Landing" chips—which offer up to 72 cores—bring the scalability and performance needed for training, she wrote.
"While less than 10% of servers worldwide were deployed in support of machine learning last year, the capabilities and insights it enables makes machine learning the fastest growing form of AI," Bryant wrote.
For Nervana, the deal means that the company can merge its growing AI and deep learning technologies with the resources of the world's top chip maker, according to co-founder and CEO Naveen Rao.
"With this deal, we can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing," Rao wrote in a post on the Nervana blog. "We'll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural. The semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity's crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world. Nervana's AI expertise combined with Intel's capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realize our vision and create something truly special."
According to Rao, the company will keep its brand and workforce, and will continue to operate out of its San Diego headquarters.
Intel has been the dominant chip maker in both the PC market and the data center. However, while the data center business continues to grow, the global PC space has been contracting for several years, and Intel officials are working to reduce the company's reliance on PCs and expanding into new growth areas, including the IoT and AI. Intel also has turned away from efforts in the mobile device space after several years of fruitless efforts to make inroads into a space dominated by ARM and its partners.