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Data centre processor race heats up with Intel’s 4-year IPU strategy

Thu 19 May 2022

Intel has introduced a four-year strategy to iterate on infrastructure processing unit (IPU) and AI chips, in an effort to recover some ground lost to data centre competitors Nvidia and AMD.


Nvidia’s data centre business is worth more than $10 billion USD per year, more than three times the value of its business in 2019. AMD has been gaining ground as well, doubling data centre revenues every quarter for seven consecutive quarters.


Both Nvidia and AMD recognized early on that the future of the data centre would require processing capabilities beyond the standard GPU and CPU. Nvidia launched its Data Processing Unit (DPU) chips in 2020. AMD decided on a different approach, expanding capabilities through acquisition. With this strategy, AMD acquired FGPA manufacturer Xilnix, and more recently DPU processor company Pensando for a reported $1.9 billion USD.


Intel has committed to building a new iteration of IPU each year from 2022 through 2026, along with the software toolkits required to run them. Intel’s IPUs will be scalable across both speed and complexity of processing. This extends Intel’s reach into data centre, optimizing data processing for large volumes of information used in big data analytics, IoT, AI, and other data-centric applications.


The company used the Arctic Sound reveal to talk about its strategy for the next four years, during which Intel will focus on iterating and improving IPUs and AI chips.


The newly-released Intel IPUs will be available either as a pre-designed chip resembling an ASIC; or as a fully-configurable chip that can be programmed by customers for a bespoke solution. 


Patty Kummrow, head of Ethernet Products for Intel, said at a press event prior to the product launch, “IPU is a key part of the future data centre architecture.”


“We have talked about our data centre of the future, and we see the IPU as a critical piece to enable all those optimizations and performance drivers that our customers see.”


Intel also announced that by the third quarter of this year it will begin selling two versions of a graphics processor, Arctic Sound; the first stand-alone graphics chip sold by the company.


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