Big Techs Develop Ultra Accelerator Link, Nvidia Absent

Big Techs Develop Ultra Accelerator Link without Nvidia

June 1, 2024In a significant move to reshape the landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) data centers, several major technology firms have announced the development of a new industry standard for networking. This initiative, however, notably excludes Nvidia, the dominant player in the AI chip market. The new standard, named the “Ultra Accelerator Link,” aims to establish an open communication protocol between AI accelerators, which are crucial for processing the vast amounts of data required for AI tasks.

Key Points

Several major tech firms including AMD, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, HPE and Broadcom have collaborated to develop a new industry standard called “Ultra Accelerator Link” (UALink) for AI networking in data centers.
UALink aims to be an open standard for high-speed communication between AI accelerators, enabling the connection of up to 1,024 accelerators within an AI computing pod.
Notably absent from this UALink consortium is Nvidia, the current dominant player with around 80% market share in the AI chip market. Many of the UALink members are looking to reduce their reliance on Nvidia's proprietary solutions.
The UALink 1.0 specification is expected to be available in Q3 2024 to companies that join the UALink Consortium, which will also be incorporated in Q3 2024.

The consortium behind this new standard includes some of the biggest names in technology: Meta, Microsoft, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Broadcom, Alphabet-owned Google, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Intel. These companies are united in their effort to reduce their reliance on Nvidia, which currently holds an estimated 80% share of the AI chip market. Nvidia's networking business is a key component of its dominance, providing the essential infrastructure that supports its AI capabilities.

Nvidia's absence from this initiative is a strategic move by the participating companies. By developing an open standard, these tech giants aim to foster a more competitive environment in the AI hardware market. This could potentially lower costs and increase innovation, as companies would no longer be tied to Nvidia's proprietary solutions. A spokesperson for Nvidia declined to comment on the development, and Marvell Technologies, another significant player in the networking and custom chip market, is also not part of the group.

Nvidia's AI chip

The “Ultra Accelerator Link” is designed to standardize the interface for AI and Machine Learning, High-Performance Computing (HPC), and Cloud applications. This standardization is critical for the next generation of AI data centers and implementations. By creating a common framework, the participating companies hope to streamline the development and deployment of AI technologies, making them more accessible and efficient.

The announcement has generated significant interest and speculation within the tech industry. Analysts suggest that this move could lead to a more fragmented market in the short term, but ultimately result in a more robust and diverse ecosystem for AI hardware. The open standard could also encourage smaller players to enter the market, further driving innovation and competition.

This development comes at a time when AI is becoming increasingly central to various industries, from healthcare to finance to entertainment. The demand for more powerful and efficient AI hardware is growing rapidly, and the establishment of an open standard could accelerate the pace of advancements in this field. The participating companies are betting that by working together, they can create a more dynamic and competitive market that benefits everyone.

Looking ahead, the success of the “Ultra Accelerator Link” will depend on its adoption by other players in the industry. If the standard gains widespread acceptance, it could significantly alter the competitive dynamics of the AI hardware market. However, if it fails to gain traction, Nvidia's dominance could remain unchallenged.

The development of the “Ultra Accelerator Link” represents a bold and strategic move by some of the biggest names in technology. By creating an open standard for AI networking, these companies are challenging Nvidia's dominance and aiming to foster a more competitive and innovative market. The success of this initiative will have far-reaching implications for the future of AI and the tech industry as a whole.

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