Intel may buy another AI chip developer, Habana Labs

Intel's potential buy of Habana Labs in Israel raises the question of what Intel does with its existing AI developer team acquired with the purchase of Nervana in 2016. (Habana Labs)

Intel is in advanced talks to buy AI chip developer Habana Labs for as much as $2 billion, according to an unnamed source that spoke to Calcalist.

Habana Labs is based in Israel. Intel bought Mobileye, a company focused on autonomous driving also based in Israel, in 2017 for $15 billion.

Intel wouldn’t comment on the possible transaction, and Habana Labs did not respond to a request to comment.

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The company was founded in 2016 to develop processor platforms for training deep neural networks and inference deployment. The company has offices in Tel-Aviv, San Jose, Beijing and Gdansk, Poland, and employs 150 people.

In June, the company launched the Habana Gaudi AI Training processor, claiming it will deliver 4 times the throughput of systems built with the same number of GPUs.

A year ago, the company secured series B financing from Intel Capital and others for $75 million. That brought to $120 million what the company had raised since inception. At the time, the company said it was using the $75 million to proceed on new products, including next generation 7nm AI processors.

Habana would likely compete against Nervana, purchased by Intel in 2016 for about $400 million. Intel also acquired Movidius that year, another AI chip startup.

Nervana recently launched NNP-T and NNP-I chips, which appear to compete with Habana’s Gaudi and Goya chips in the training and inference deployment.

Assuming the deal goes ahead, Intel may decide to bring both Nervana and Habana chips to market, or retain the Nervana AI software if it chooses to shelve the Nervana hardware in favor of Habana chips, analysts told EE Times.

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