Intel Corp, the American tech behemoth, is witnessing skyrocketing demand for its AI-centric chips from clients in China. Mainland companies are keen to bolster their prowess in technology similar to ChatGPT, as indicated by a report from Taiwanese outlet DigiTimes.
Since their introduction in July, sales of Intel’s Gaudi2 processors have surged. These processors are specifically tailored to align with US export restrictions but are adept at meeting the growing AI chip requirements of Chinese clients. The robust sales figures have reportedly led Intel to enhance its orders with the renowned supplier, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). Neither Intel, which hasn’t publicly discussed its recent sales in China, nor TSMC have provided comments on this matter.
During a recent conference, Intel’s CFO, David Zinsner, pointed out that due to certain processors facing supply limitations, there’s been an uptick in customers gravitating towards Intel’s Gaudi chips. This aligns with the growing trend among Chinese tech entities pushing to develop their own expansive language models. Such models form the bedrock for intelligent chatbots reminiscent of the Microsoft-affiliated OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
China’s tech landscape underwent a significant shift in August when the country greenlit the first set of domestic large language models (LLMs). Notable among these are Baidu’s Ernie Bot, SenseTime’s SenseChat, and offerings from state-supported start-up Zhipu AI and Baichuan. The latter has ties to Tencent Holdings and is a brainchild of Sogou co-founder, Wang Xiaochuan. With the world’s most extensive internet user base, this development empowers Chinese firms to present their chatbots globally, thereby vying for a chunk of the rapidly growing generative AI domain.
By May, data indicated that China was home to approximately 79 LLMs, each possessing over a billion parameters. These parameters offer insights into the model’s intricacy and size, as noted in a study by China’s governmental research entity, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information.
Yet, this technological surge in China hasn’t been without challenges. The US has put stringent barriers on China’s acquisition of advanced chips, like Nvidia’s A100 and H100 processors, which are instrumental in training LLMs. Consequently, this chip scarcity has birthed a shadow market for illicit chips within China. In the context of global sales, last year saw China emerging as the dominant player in the semiconductor arena, accounting for nearly a third of worldwide sales, as per data from the Semiconductor Industry Association.
Intel, which recorded that 27% of its entire revenue last year emanated from China, astutely introduced the Gaudi2 post Nvidia’s launch of its modified A800 and H800. Crucially, these models, like Intel’s offering, don’t fall under US export bans.
At the Gaudi2’s grand unveiling in China, Intel’s Executive VP, Sandra Rivera, spotlighted the chip’s intent. Designed to smoothen the entry pathway, the chip aims to amplify the capacities of clients in mainland China. It facilitates deploying AI across diverse platforms, from cloud to smart-edge technologies, ensuring that China remains at the forefront of the AI revolution.