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Intel Drops NNP-T and NNP-I

February 18, 2020

Author: Linley Gwennap

As we predicted, Intel has terminated the Nervana NNP-T accelerator for AI training in favor of its newly acquired Habana Gaudi chip. The company also ended its NNP-I program; instead, Habana will supply its Goya chip for inference. Intel will continue to provide NNP-I chips to existing customers but immediately axed the NNP-T, implying that chip had no active customers.

Intel claimed the NNP-T would deliver greater efficiency and scaling than the V100 but never published MLPerf benchmarks or any other verifiable data to substantiate these claims. Although the company introduced Baidu as its NNP-T “development partner” in 2018, the lack of ongoing customer interest confirms that the second-generation design failed to deliver any meaningful benefit over Nvidia’s GPUs.

Just a few weeks after announcing NNP-T production, Intel was already in “advanced talks” to acquire Habana. The company was the lead investor in Habana and sat on its board, so Intel was familiar with the Gaudi chip and its customer progress. Gaudi will double the V100’s power efficiency, according to Habana, and is already sampling. Given the NNP-T’s shortcomings, Intel was willing to pay five times Nervana’s price for Habana.

The NNP-I is a much better design than the NNP-T that unfortunately got thrown out with the bath water. The chip fits into a tiny M.2 module that draws 12W and posted industry-leading power efficiency for ResNet-50. Intel didn’t want to add Goya without cutting back, so it is dropping NNP-I support. Presumably, the company’s OpenVino inference software platform will gain Goya support.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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