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Intel's Habana starts to chip away at Nvidia in cloud with AWS deal

Steven Scheer
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon Web Services (AWS) is seen during the 4th annual America Digital Latin American Congress of Business and Technology in Santiago

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Intel Corp's Habana Labs business said on Wednesday it would take time to gain market share from Nvidia in cloud and data centre computing but its deal this week with Amazon Web Services (AWS) was a solid first step.

Intel in December bought Israel-based artificial intelligence firm Habana for about $2 billion, seeking to expand its AI portfolio to bolster its data-centre business.

Habana's Gaudi AI training processor, launched in June 2019, has faster processing speeds to compete with similar products from Intel rival Nvidia.

"We have to realise that we're starting from zero and Nvidia is 100%," said Eitan Medina, Habana's chief business officer, who said that having AWS as its first customer was very important.

"The uphill battle or the process of taking market share has to go through convincing end developers to try it out," he told reporters. "We are making the dent at the most important place. We're starting with a very big guy that has the longest experience ... It will take time but I believe we're on the right path."

Medina declined to comment on whether Habana was negotiating other deals.

Habana on Tuesday said its Gaudi processors will power AWS's Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud "instances" for machine learning workloads, in Habana's first deal for its Gaudi chips.

Amazon is seeing growing demand for its cloud tools during the coronavirus pandemic. These chips, Intel said, would give 40% better price performance than current graphics processing.

Medina said that the advantages of Gaudi AI chips were efficiency and allowing for lower capital and operating expenses that in turn could give AWS and others the ability to lower prices for customers for server time.

"We are now starting so it will depend on the combination of how we will execute and how important is it for users to lower their cost and to have alternatives to GPUs (graphics processing units)," Medina said. "Our total available market is 100% of AI."

(Reporting by Steven Scheer. Editing by Jane Merriman)