Intel Corp has announced the acquisition of Israel-based artificial intelligence (AI) firm Habana Labs for about $2 billion.

Habana Labs is said to be a developer of programmable deep learning accelerators for the data centre, a key growth area for the chip giant as PC sales stagnate.

And it is also fair to say that artificial intelligence has been a focus for Intel for a number of years now. Indeed, in 2016 the chipmaker acquired AI specialist Nervana Systems, as part of its strategy of growing its AI technology to create a platform on which intelligent systems and applications can be built upon.

AI purchase

In 2017 it was revealed that Intel had invested over $1 billion in AI startups, and in that same year it also splashed out a hefty £12.3 billion on driverless car specialist Mobileye.

After that, it relocated its AI driverless car division to Israel.

Now the Habana Labs acquisition will “strengthen Intel’s artificial intelligence (AI) portfolio and accelerates its efforts in the nascent, fast-growing AI silicon market, which Intel expects to be greater than $25 billion by 2024.”

“This acquisition advances our AI strategy, which is to provide customers with solutions to fit every performance need – from the intelligent edge to the data centre,” said Navin Shenoy, executive VP and general manager of the Data Platforms Group at Intel.

“More specifically, Habana turbo-charges our AI offerings for the data centre with a high-performance training processor family and a standards-based programming environment to address evolving AI workloads,” Shenoy added.

Intel said that in 2019, it expects to generate over $3.5 billion in AI-driven revenue, up more than 20 percent year-over-year.

Independent unit

Going forward, it seems that Habana will remain an independent business unit and will continue to be led by its current management team. But Habana will report to Intel’s Data Platforms Group, home to Intel’s data centre class AI technologies.

The chip giant said that Habana chairman Avigdor Willenz has agreed to serve as a senior adviser to the business unit as well as to Intel. Habana will continue to be based in Israel, and Intel Capital was an previous investor in Habana.

“We have been fortunate to get to know and collaborate with Intel given its investment in Habana, and we’re thrilled to be officially joining the team,” said David Dahan, CEO of Habana. “Intel has created a world-class AI team and capability. We are excited to partner with Intel to accelerate and scale our business. Together, we will deliver our customers more AI innovation, faster.”

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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