Monday, May 20, 2019

Chips: "Xilinx refines AI chips strategy: It’s not just the neural network"

The author of this piece, , used to run Barron's 'Tech Trader' and 'Tech Trader Daily' columns. When he assumed those chores after Eric Savitz left we greeted him and wished him well: "Barron's and Journo Tiernan Ray are Class Acts " but he had some gargantuan shoes to fill and I wasn't sure Barron's would remain one of our sources for tech.

And then someone pointed out that Mr. Ray was getting answers out of NVIDIA's Jenson Huang that were head and shoulders above anything the NVDA CEO would tell anyone else and I started watching for it and son-of-a-gun it was like being a fly on the wall. Tiernan knows this stuff and the tech guys recognize it.

Here he is at ZD Net, May 15, 2019 
Xilinx hopes to take a big chunk of the market for semiconductors that process machine learning inference tasks by convincing developers it's not only about the neural network performance. It's about the entire application. 
Chip maker Xilinx on Tuesday held its annual "analyst day" event in New York, where it told Wall Street's bean counters what to expect from the stock. During the event the company fleshed out a little more how it will go after a vibrant market for data center chips, especially those for machine learning.

That market is expected to rise to $6.1 billion by 2024 from $1.8 billion in 2020. 
The focus for Xilinx is a raft of new platform products that take its capabilities beyond the so-called field-programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs, that it has sold for decades. That requires selling developers of AI applications on the notion there's more than just the neural network itself that needs to be sped up in computers.

Data center is a small part of Xilinx's overall revenue, at $232 million in the fiscal year ended in March, out of a total of $3.1 billion in company revenue. However, it is the fastest-growing part of the company, rising 46% last year. The company yesterday said data center revenue growth is expected to accelerate, rising in a range of 55% to 65% this fiscal year, versus the compounded annual growth of 42% in the period 2017 through 2019.
Xilinx expects to gain ground in machine learning inference by virtue of "tiles," compute blocks that connect to one 
another over a high-speed memory bus, inside the "AI Engines" portion of its "Versal" programmable chips.
To do so, Xilinx is moving past its heritage in FPGAs, to something more complex. FPGAs contain a kind of vast field of logic gates that can be re-arranged, so they have the prospect of being tuned to a task and therefore being of higher performance and greater energy efficiency.

Also by Mr. Ray, commentary on the AI company co-founded by Eon Musk:
OpenAI has an inane text bot, and I still have a writing job