Chipmaker Intel today announced that it has acquired Nervana, a startup that has been developing artificial intelligence software and hardware. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but a source familiar with the matter told VentureBeat Intel paid more than $350 million.
“Nervana’s Engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO of our Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors,” Diane Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group, said in a blog post.
While Intel has a running business in high-performance computing (HPC), it has taken a back seat to Nvidia, another HPC supplier, when it comes to creating chips for deep learning, a trendy type of artificial intelligence that involves training artificial neural networks on lots of data and then getting them to make inferences on new data. Google has deployed competing chips named tensor processing units (TPUs) that can handle Google’s TensorFlow open source deep learning framework. It’s unclear if Google has joined with Intel in that affair. In any case, this move represents a clear signal that Intel is determined to gain ground in the world of A.I.
Today’s deal follows Salesforce’s acquisition of MetaMind, another prominent deep learning startup. Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter have also picked up deep learning talent through acquisitions.
Nervana started in 2014 and is based in San Diego, California. Nervana closed a $20.5 million funding round last year. Investors include Allen & Co., AME Cloud Ventures, CME Ventures, Data Collective, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Global Playground, and Lux Capital.
Nervana open-sourced its Neon deep learning software last year. Intel intends to use Nervana’s knowledge in software to improve the Intel Math Kernel Library (MKL), Bryant wrote. Currently Nvidia’s CUDA library is popular for neural network training on GPUs.
“We will continue to operate out of our San Diego Headquarters and will retain our talent, brand, and start-up mentality,” Nervana cofounder and CEO Naveen Rao wrote in the company’s own blog post.
Nervana was one of my five deep learning startups to watch in 2015.
Update at 2:14 p.m. Pacific with financial detail on the deal.