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AI startup Graphcore launches Nvidia competitor

A British chip startup has launched what it claims is the world’s most complex AI chip, the Colossus MK2 or GC200 IPU (intelligence processing unit). Graphcore is positioning its MK2 against Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU for AI applications.

The MK2 and its predecessor MK1 are designed specifically to handle very large machine-learning models. The MK2 processor has 1,472 independent processor cores and 8,832 separate parallel threads, all supported by 900MB of in-processor RAM.

ipu machine for machine intelligence compute Graphcore

Graphcore says the MK2 offers a 9.3-fold improvement in BERT-Large training performance over the MK1, a 8.5-fold improvement in BERT-3Layer inference performance, and a 7.4-fold improvement in EfficientNet-B3 training performance.

BERT, or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a technique for natural language processing pre-training developed by Google for natural language-based searches.

And Graphcore isn’t stopping at just offering a chip. For a relatively new startup (it formed in 2016), Graphcore has built a remarkable ecosystem around its chips. Most chip startups focus on just their silicon, but Graphcore offers a lot more.

It sells the GC200 through its new IPU-Machine M2000, which contains four GC200 chips in a 1U box and delivers 1 petaflop of total compute power, according to the company. Graphcore notes you can get started with a single IPU-Machine M2000 box directly connected to an existing x86 server or add up to a total of eight IPU-Machine M2000s connected to one server. For larger systems, it offers the IPU-POD64, comprising 16 IPU-Machine M2000s built into a standard 19-inch rack.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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