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Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) recently printed a new AI chipset, the Cloud AI 100, for cloud facts middle servers. The business claims that the chip can be over 50 times greater powerful than its properly-conclusion Snapdragon 855 mobile chipset, and may be optimized for making decisions in accordance with voice and photograph consciousness.
Qualcomm will show extra details earlier than it sends out the primary samples later this yr, and should launch the chips commercially in 2020. This seems like a method for Qualcomm to diversify its business faraway from smartphones, however traders should still don't forget that it already tried -- and failed -- to crack the records core market before.
Two IT gurus stroll through a knowledge core.
photograph supply: Getty photographs.
In late 2017, Qualcomm launched its Centriq information center chips. The initial benchmarks indicated that the ARM-primarily based chips could be practicable alternate options to Intel's standard (NASDAQ: INTC) Xeon CPUs, and tech giants like Microsoft started checking out Qualcomm's chips in its facts centers. It also offered chips for a server three way partnership in China.
For a while, it gave the look of Qualcomm could dent Intel's close-monopoly in records core CPUs. however remaining may also Qualcomm's statistics middle applied sciences chief Anand Chandrasekher, who previously worked at Intel, all of sudden resigned.
several rounds of layoffs subsequently reduced the dimension of the records middle unit from 1,000 employees to about 50 via the end of 2018. Qualcomm insisted that its statistics middle business wasn't lifeless yet, nevertheless it definitely seemed like a failed test.
Qualcomm's records center company flopped for three elementary factors: Intel's Xeons had been nevertheless the business normal for servers, AMD's Epyc chips were considered superior alternate options (on account that they used the identical x86 structure as Xeons as an alternative of the Centriq's ARM architecture), and Broadcom's adversarial takeover effort forced Qualcomm to reduce costs from non-core projects like records middle chips.
several parties -- including ARM's guardian company SoftBank, Singapore's Temasek Holdings, former Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, and former Intel executive Renee James -- all regarded purchasing Qualcomm's records middle unit. however, none of these talks panned out, and the unit appeared destined to wither away.
Servers in an information core.
image source: Getty photos.
The Centriq chip's harsh trajectory can also not always be repeated. the important thing difference between the Cloud AI 100 and the Centriq is that or not it's a discrete AI accelerator instead of a CPU geared toward changing Xeons. AI accelerators -- which consist of GPUs, FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), and custom ASICs (application-certain built-in circuits) -- are add-in boards that work alongside CPUs.
AI accelerators can also be applied to specific AI initiatives. NVIDIA's (NASDAQ: NVDA) GPUs, as an instance, can velocity up deep getting to know calculations at facts facilities. Programmable chips like Intel or Xilinx's FPGAs can be personalized for selected AI tasks, while ASICs are created for specific initiatives but can't be reprogrammed.
Qualcomm hasn't published a good deal in regards to the Cloud AI one hundred's design, however AnandTech referred to that the accelerator's dedicated focal point on AI "inference" initiatives like voice and image processing suggests that it can be an ASIC accelerator.
information middle customers will probably stick with one category of accelerator instead of purchasing all three, so Qualcomm should be competing against NVIDIA, Intel, Xilinx, and even Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google during this market. Google's TPUs (tensor processing units), which have been launched three years ago, are arguably the most normal ASIC accelerators.
Launching an AI accelerator instead of one other CPU is a wise circulation, on the grounds that this is still a nascent market with a number of room for growth. research and Markets estimates that the world facts center accelerator market will develop from $ billion in 2018 to $ billion via 2023.
The market additionally seems undecided regarding the usage of GPUs, FPGAs, ASICs, or more effective CPUs for AI acceleration tasks. hence, Qualcomm's Cloud AI a hundred probably won't instantly trigger issues for the Centriq. If it be a hit, it may diversify Qualcomm's business faraway from its cellular business, which faces slow smartphone revenue, competitors from rival chipmakers, and ongoing complaints and probes over its licensing expenses.
youngsters, Qualcomm will possible deserve to stick to this assignment for years earlier than it bears fruit. If Qualcomm would not in advance starve this enterprise, because it did with the Centriq, it might finally diversify its enterprise and widen its moat in opposition t Intel and NVIDIA.
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Suzanne Frey, an government at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley idiot's board of administrators. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley fool's board of administrators. Leo sun has no position in any of the stocks outlined. The Motley fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Microsoft, and NVIDIA. The Motley idiot owns shares of Qualcomm. The Motley fool recommends Broadcom Ltd and Xilinx. The Motley idiot has a disclosure policy.