Intel to acquire machine learning startup Nervana Systems

Nervana's engine and silicon expertise will enhance the deep-learning performance of Intel's Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.

Intel is acquiring the deep learning startup Nervana Systems, Intel Executive Vice President Diane Bryant announced in a blog post Tuesday. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The two-year-old, San Diego-based company has a fully-optimized software and hardware stack for deep learning, Bryant noted.

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"Their IP and expertise in accelerating deep learning algorithms will expand Intel's capabilities in the field of AI," she said.

Intel plans to use Nervana's software expertise to advance the Intel Math Kernel Library, Bryant said. Its engine and silicon expertise will bolster Intel's artificial intelligence portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance of Intel's Xeon and Xeon Phi processors. Intel processors already power more than 97 percent of servers deployed to support machine learning, and the Xeon processor E5 family is the most widely used for deep learning.

"We believe that bringing together the Intel engineers who create the Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors with the talented Nervana Systems' team, we will be able to advance the industry faster than would have otherwise been possible," Bryant wrote.

Nervana, for its part, said that it intends to retain its talent, brand and "start-up mentality", as well as its existing development efforts. That includes the Nervana Neon deep-learning framework, Nervana deep-learning platform, and the Nervana Engine deep-learning hardware.

"We'll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural," Nervana CEO and co-founder Naveen Rao wrote. "The semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity's crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world. Nervana's AI expertise combined with Intel's capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realize our vision and create something truly special."

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