AI Everywhere: Intel launches new mobile and server chips to take on AMD and Nvidia

Gelsinger anticipates the AI PC to steal the spotlight in the upcoming year, with Intel's recently revealed Core Ultra processors set to play a crucial role.
18 December 2023

Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, speaks during his presentation at Intel’s AI Everywhere event on Thursday, 14 Dec 2023. (Credit: Intel Corporation).

  • CEO Pat Gelsinger expressed the belief that employing Intel chips for AI services will result in faster, more private and cost-effective AI services.
  • The company’s new Ultra Core chips will allow laptops to use generative AI directly.
  • Intel unveiled a working version of Gaudi 3, a chip aimed at rivaling Nvidia in the data center AI market.

Intel is embarking on a strategic odyssey to reignite growth and reclaim its pioneering role in innovation by joining the advanced AI chip race, alongside the likes of Nvidia and AMD.

The company has begun orchestrating a multifaceted plan, revitalizing and refocusing its efforts towards AI chips, which are clearly where the industry is heading for the foreseeable future.

As competition escalates, especially between formidable rivals like AMD and Nvidia, Intel is aiming to position itself for a three-way head-to-head clash. And to announce its determination to be taken seriously as the third horse in what has been a two-horse race, last week it unveiled a new portfolio of AI chips for PCs and data centers.

AMD recently launched itself at Nvidia’s AI supremacy, showing itself ready to disrupt Nvidia’s long-standing dominance with a formidable new AI chip, the MI300X—an avant-garde GPU designed for the cutting edge of AI. Boasting a performance that eclipses the competition by 1.4 to 1.6 times in the inference market, AMD’s CEO Lisa Su announced the chip as a direct challenge to Nvidia’s hegemony. Nvidia currently owns an 80% market share in AI chips, so AMD’s war-drums set the stage for an exhilarating shake-up in the race to rule the world of AI accelerators.

The new Intel AI chips

Now, Intel has joined the unofficial market war. And yes, it thinks it’s worth its while – AMD predicts the market could soar beyond the US$400 billion mark within the next four years. Intel would be mad not to want a piece of that pie.

The question though is how big a piece it can carve itself, and that will be determiend by a handful of factors, not least sheer processing power, flexibility, and the number and diversity of potential use cases for its chips.

At this year’s AI Everywhere event on December 14, Intel unveiled a constellation of new chips with which it hopes to remake the landscape of AI hardware in its own image. Stepping into the booming AI market with gusto, Intel’s latest offerings include revamped Xeon server chips—marking the chips’ second overhaul in less than a year. These chips are intended to catapult Intel to the forefront of AI innovation by promising heightened performance and memory capabilities while requiring less electricity. 

The spotlight has also fallen on Intel’s Ultra Core chips, which allow laptops and desktops to wield AI prowess directly. And amid Intel’s new lineup, thre’s also the Gaudi 3, which promises to challenge Nvidia’s industry-dominating H100. As AI accelerators, these chips play a pivotal role in birthing chatbots and many swiftly delivering emerging services. Intel has already asserted the superiority of the Gaudi 3 over the H100, setting the stage for a showdown.

But assertions butter no parsnips in the business world, and only head-to-head comparison will eventually prove which company will take what percentage of the market next year.

Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, is betting on the transformative power of AI to breathe new life into the company as it navigates the shadows of past missteps and a PC market lull. But the playing field has never been more intensely packed with money, genius, and determination. Intel’s arch-nemesis, AMD has deftly seized portions of the PC and server market while Intel has been forced to grappled with the unsettling reality of major clients making their chips in-house.

Gelsinger believes Intel's future is in generative AI chips and applications. Source: Pat Gelsinger on X.

Gelsinger wants to get into the AI chips game. Source: Pat Gelsinger on X.

In this tech maelstrom, Nvidia is a formidable titan, dominating SPACE’s data center chip with its AI accelerators. The success of these products has propelled Nvidia’s valuation to US$1.1 trillion, setting the stage for a historic revenue overtake of Intel in 2023, as per industry analysts’ projections. In the throes of this seismic shift, Intel, once the uncontested giant in the chipmaking realm, is now charting a course through a fiercely competitive landscape where the winds of change are blowing at gale force.

Intel has AI chips “for all”

"Today was a tremendously exciting day for @Intel , our partners, and our customers! We unveiled two new AI products – Core Ultra and 5th Gen Xeon – that will change how customers and consumers enable AI solutions in the data center, cloud, network, at the edge, and on the PC." Source: Pat Gelsinger on X.

“Today was a tremendously exciting day for Intel, our partners, and our customers! We unveiled two new AI products – Core Ultra and 5th Gen Xeon – that will change how customers and consumers enable AI solutions in the data center, cloud, network, at the edge, and on the PC.” Source: Pat Gelsinger on X.

At the AI Everywhere event in the heart of New York City, Intel unveiled a portfolio of AI products to enable customers’ AI solutions everywhere — across the data center, cloud, network, edge, and PC.

“Intel is on a mission to bring AI everywhere through exceptionally engineered platforms, secure solutions, and support for open ecosystems. Our AI portfolio gets even stronger with today’s launch of Intel Core Ultra ushering in the age of the AI PC and AI-accelerated 5th Gen Xeon for the enterprise,” Gelsinger said.

Intel’s latest innovation, the Intel Core Ultra, marks a significant architectural shift after four decades, ushering in a new era for AI-powered PCs and applications. The new direction encompasses CPU computing, graphics, power efficiency, and battery life advancements and introduces cutting-edge AI features. Projections suggest that AI PCs will dominate 80% of the market by 2028.

Featuring Intel’s first client on-chip AI accelerator, the neural processing unit (NPU), the Core Ultra achieves 2.5 times better power efficiency for AI acceleration than its predecessor. Partnering with over 100 software vendors, Intel plans to bring hundreds of AI-boosted applications to the PC market, promising a diverse range of creative, productive, and enjoyable experiences. 

The Core Ultra-based AI PCs are available from select US retailers for the holiday season, with plans to expand to over 230 designs worldwide in the next year. Then there’s the newly introduced 5th Gen Intel Xeon processor family, which signifies a substantial advancement in performance and efficiency across data center, cloud, network, and edge computing. 

Can Intel AI chips really take on Nvidia?

Can Intel AI chips really take on Nvidia?

Compared to the previous generation, these processors boast a remarkable 21% average performance gain for general computing, enabling a 36% higher average performance per watt across various customer workloads. Upgrading to the 5th Gen Xeon can result in a 77% reduction in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for customers on a typical five-year refresh cycle.

The rise of the Gaudi 3

Intel claims that Xeon is the only mainstream data center processor with built-in AI acceleration, with the new 5th Gen Xeon delivering up to 42% higher inference and fine-tuning on models as large as 20 billion parameters.

“It’s also the only CPU with a consistent and ever-improving set of MLPerf training and inference benchmark results,” Intel claimed.

During the event, IBM announced that 5th Gen Intel Xeon processors achieved up to 2.7x better query throughput on its platform than previous-generation Xeon processors during testing 10. Google Cloud, which will deploy 5th Gen Xeon next year, noted that Palo Alto Networks experienced a 2x performance boost in its threat detection deep learning models using built-in acceleration in 4th Gen Xeon through Google Cloud.

And indie game studio Gallium Studios turned to Numenta’s AI platform running on Xeon processors to improve inference performance by 6.5x over a GPU-based cloud instance, saving cost and latency in its AI-based game, Proxi11.

Concluding the event, Gelsinger shared an update on the upcoming Intel Gaudi 3, which is set to debut next year. Revealing it for the first time, he showcased the next-generation AI accelerator designed for deep learning and creating large-scale generative AI models. Intel’s Gaudi pipeline has experienced rapid expansion, driven by proven performance advantages and competitive Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) pricing.

 As the demand for generative AI solutions continues to rise, Intel aims to secure a significant share of the accelerator market in 2024, driven by its suite of AI accelerators, led by Gaudi 3.