Intel adds more AI brains with Nervana Systems acquisition

Intel announced its intention to acquire Nervana Systems on Tuesday for around $400 million, adding another artificial intelligence startup to its portfolio.

Nervana Systems has been in business for two years, offering a full-stack, cloud-based machine learning platform, called Nervana Cloud. It also built a framework for AI, called Neon, which uses the Python language and provides a set of libraries for AI developers.

See Also: Intel readies chip to rival NVIDIA for machine learning

In 2017, the team plans to launch the Nervana Engine, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). Both sides say the Nervana Engine is still an active project.

Intel making its data centers smarter

Intel is giving Nervana a lot of space to work: the startup will retain all of its talent and brands and continue to operate out of its San Diego headquarters, according to co-founder and CEO, Naveen Rao.

“We’ve always been a mission driven company,” said Rao. “Even though we won’t be a startup any longer, our mission hasn’t changed: we are here to make a dent in the world of computation. With this deal, we can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing.”

“We’ll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural,” he added.

Nervana Systems raised $24 million during its two years, receiving investment from Pierre Omidyar’s group and Steve Jurvetson.

Intel vice president and general manager of Data Center Group, Diane Bryant, said: “Nervana’s Engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and total cost of ownership of our Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.”

“We believe that bringing together the Intel engineers who create the Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi processors with the talented Nervana Systems’ team, we will be able to advance the industry faster than would have otherwise been possible,” she added.

It is a smart move for Intel, scooping up more talent in what could be one of the most competitive industries for enterprise. Nervana Systems also brings a full-stack platform solution, which Intel can integrate with its processors to boost performance above Nvidia, AMD, and other competitors in the AI space.

Update: Several publications are reporting an acquisition price of between $350 million – $400 million; report has been updated to reflect that. 

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